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Mexico's newest oil refinery to begin crude processing in July

(Reuters) - Mexican state oil company Pemex's newest refinery, which is still under construction in Mexico's southeast, will begin to process crude oil in July 2023, the country's Energy Minister Rocio Nahle said.

Things are "going really well," Nahle told reporters late on Monday after a meeting with the president, noting the refinery would begin processing in July, a year after its official inauguration.

The Olmeca refinery, the cornerstone of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's plan to make the country self-sufficient in gasoline and diesel, was originally slated to come on line early last year.

Meanwhile, the budget for the construction and other infrastructure needed to connect the refinery has more than doubled from an initial $8 billion.

In December, Lopez Obrador said that on July 1, the refinery "will begin to process 170,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil."

The government has said that the refinery, Pemex's eighth, would eventually have capacity to process 340,000 bpd.

Located in Lopez Obrador's home state of Tabasco, the refinery is one of the leftist president's signature public works projects.

But it has faced criticism from opponents as well as energy and environmental experts over costs and timing - especially as rivals around the world are stepping up a transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable sources of energy.

Pemex is seeking to increase its current crude production of around 1.7 MMbpd by increasing its local refining.

After launching a rehabilitation program for its six refineries already operating domestically, under Lopez Obrador, Pemex also acquired Shell's 50.005% stake in a plant in Deer Park refinery in Houston, Texas.

(Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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