From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Will a political deadlock, a lack of government control and spiralling chaos push the war-torn nation over the edge?

Mike Hanna discusses the reasons behind the increasing violence in Iraq recently with guests: Laith Kuba, director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at the National Endowment for Democracy.Laith was the former adviser to the Iraqi prime minister; Brigadier general Mark Kimmitt, a former secretary for political and military affairs and former director for strategy at United States Central Command [CENTOM); and Souad Mekhennet, a columnist at Newsweek. Souad has covered Iraq extensively and authored a book called, “The Children of Jihad “.

The Acting Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (A-SRSG), Mr. Gyorgy Busztin, has condemned in the strongest terms the assassination on 22 July of the Head of the Arab bloc in the Kirkuk Provincial Council and Deputy Chairman of the Provincial Council Security Committee, Sheikh Abdallah Sami Al-Assi, and two of his bodyguards.

Sheikh Al-Assi was a pivotal and well-respected political figure in Kirkuk, who always advocated dialogue and peaceful coexistence in the province. He engaged with UNAMI in the discussions on the way forward for holding Kirkuk elections.

Mr. Busztin extends his sincere condolences to the families of Sheikh Al-Assi and of those who were murdered with him, as well as to the Kirkuk Provincial Council.

(Source: UNAMI)

(Picture: The Government Electoral Office in Kirkuk, Iraq. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Oil Ministry has said that exports of crude oil fell in June for the second consecutive month, due to bad weather at the ports and attacks on northern pipelines.

Shipments dropped to 69.8 million barrels for the month, or 2.33 million barrels a day (bpd), bringing in a total of $6.8 billion in revenue. This is down from the 76.9 million barrels shipped in May and 78.7 million in April, earning $7.48 billion and $7.76 billion, respectively.

The fall was blamed on sabotage of the pipeline network from Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, together with high winds and dust storms that halted tanker loadings at southern terminals (pictured). In addition, the country’s self-governing Kurdish region has stopped exporting since December amid a dispute between Kurdish authorities and the central government.

Continued attacks on the pipeline are expected to lead to further falls in July.

(Source: Bloomberg)

A unit of Talisman Energy Inc., Calgary, has begun a cased-hole test program of the Oligocene reservoir at the Kurdamir-3 well on the Kurdamir block in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Talisman (Block K44) BV drilled the well to 2,895 m about 5 km southwest and downdip of the Kurdamir-2 well in what the block coventurers interpret to be a thicker portion of the Oligocene reservoir. The Kurdamir-3 well penetrated the oil column without encountering the gas cap, said partner WesternZagros Resources Ltd., Calgary.

Talisman recorded oil shows and supportive log data indicative of oil over the majority of the Kurdamir-3 Oligocene section penetrated. The Oligocene comprises a gross interval of 372 m of naturally fractured marlstones and dolomitic limestones including an interpreted 194 m of porous reservoir interval.

By comparison, the Kurdamir-2 well penetrated a gross interval of 300 m of which 140 m comprises the Oligocene porous interval. Coring and wireline logging operations have ended, and the wellbore is cased with a 7-in. production liner in preparation for testing. No evidence of formation water has been detected.

In the first well test at Kurdamir-3, Talisman will perforate the deepest interval between 2,776 and 2,788 m. Based on initial logging results, WesternZagros believes that the lowest known oil could extend 150 m deeper than that proven in Kurdamir-2.

The test program will then move uphole to focus on testing the potential of the porous reservoir section. WesternZagros expects to complete the Oligocene testing program in the second half of August.

Meanwhile, the 184 sq km Kurdamir block 3D seismic survey has been completed in order to define more clearly the areal extent of the Oligocene, Eocene, and Cretaceous reservoirs. Following the completion of seismic operations on Talisman’s neighboring block, the seismic crew will shoot a 3D survey on the northern part of the Garmian block in August.

The North Garmian survey will cover 258 sq km to define more clearly the areal extent of the Oligocene reservoirs. The North Garmian and Kurdamir 3D surveys will be combined to provide contiguous seismic coverage in order to determine whether the Oligocene reservoir is connected as one large structure across the two blocks. The data will be used to decide on future appraisal and development well locations and to refine resource assessments.

Elsewhere on the Garmian block, a crew is rigging up to drill the Baram-1 well with an anticipated spud date in the first half of August. Baram-1 will explore the potential extension of the oil leg discovered in the Oligocene reservoir of the Kurdamir structure onto the northern part of the Garmian block. Drilling time is 5 months to planned total depth of 3,800 m.

WesternZagros said Baram-1 “is the highest impact well of the 2013 drilling program and has the potential to add gross unrisked mean contingent resources of up to 200 million to 300 million bbl of oil equivalent in the Garmian block and, if the structure is shown to extend onto the existing Kurdamir discovery, an additional 500 to 600 MMboe in the Kurdamir block.”

Also on Garmian, the Hasira-1 appraisal and exploratory well is drilling ahead at 1,860 m after setting 20-in. casing at 1,014 m. The next casing point is at 2,050 m. Setting the third intermediate string of casing is planned for 3,900 m, just above the Jeribe reservoir, before drilling to a planned total depth of 4,100 m in the Oligocene reservoir.

WesternZagros plans to complete the well either in the Jeribe or the Oligocene reservoir depending on drilling and test results. Drilling time is estimated at 7 months.

Also on Garmian, WesternZagros drilled two of the planned three wells in the Upper Bakhtiari formation. This shallow, inexpensive well program recovered formation water and oil and gas at subcommercial rates. The wells have been suspended, the third well canceled, and the rig released.

The Upper Bakhtiari program was exploring low-cost oil production potential in the South Garmian area but was not viewed as a high-potential program to add greatly to the Company’s resource estimates.

(Source: Oil & Gas Journal)

By Omar al-Shaher for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Two Iraqi parliamentary committees monitoring fiscal policy in Iraq have held two contradictory positions on the Iraqi currency “reset” project, which would delete three zeros from the currency. There has been much debate about the project’s feasibility and the date of its implementation.

While the parliamentary Economic Committee believes that the deletion of three zeros from the Iraqi currency would strengthen it, the parliamentary Finance Committee fears that this project would open the door to counterfeit operations.

In a statement to Al-Monitor, Mudher Mohammad Saleh, former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, warned against the consequences of such a step if it is not implemented at the appropriate time.

Abdul Abbas Shayya, a member of the Economic Committee in the Iraqi parliament, told Al-Monitor, “Reforming the management of the Iraqi currency now requires the deletion of three zeros. This has been endorsed by the parliamentary Economy and Investment Committee.”

Shayya, an MP for the State of Law Coalition led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, added that the Economic Committee “asked the government and the Central Bank to quickly replace the current Iraqi currency with another that is less [in value] by three zeros.”

“The Iraqi currency is weak, and the money supply has amounted to multi-trillions because of the existence of these useless zeros,” he said. “The country will witness a significant increase in oil revenues, financial earnings and high budgets. Thus, we need to print new banknotes, as estimated by the Central Bank.”

The new US Consul General in the Kurdistan Region, Mr Joseph Pennington, met with the KRG’s Head of Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa as part of his introductory meetings.

He was accompanied by the outgoing Consul General, Mr Paul Sutphin, and the Head of Political/Economic Section at the US Consulate General in Erbil, Mr Stephen Gee.

During their meeting, the two sides discussed the growing relationship between Kurdistan and the United States of America. Minister Mustafa said that the recent announcement of the new consular section in their Consulate General in Erbil would help further strengthen ties.

The US Consulate General in Erbil began issuing visas for tourism, business, work and study on 25th June.

They also touched on ways of expanding existing relations, including political, economic and cultural ties.

Minister Mustafa expressed his appreciation for the personal efforts and contributions of Mr Paul Sutphin in broadening ties between both sides. He assured Mr Pennington the support and assistance of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations to ensure his tenure in Erbil is successful.

(Source: KRG)

By John Lee.

The local government in Diyala has announced the start of construction on a 1.5 billion Iraqi dinar ($1.29 million) project to build eight pedestrian bridges, reports al-Shorfa.

The bridges, located in Baqubah, al-Meqdadiya and al-Khalis, are being built to facilitate movement and prevent accidents.

Local companies are overseeing the project, which is due to be completed within eight months.

(Source: Al-Shorfa)

By Omar al-Shaher for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

MPs from the ruling State of Law Coalition and the Kurdistan Alliance confirmed the presence of positive vibes between the federal government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil regarding the possibility of passing the Oil and Gas Law, which governs the management of oil wealth in the country.

The law is supposed to be passed during the current legislative session, which ends in early 2014. However, the MPs preferred to maintain discretion regarding information on the final draft of the law.

A high-ranking source in the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told Al-Monitor that “Prime Minister Maliki and KRG President Massoud Barzani discussed during the latter’s latest visit to Baghdad an amended draft of the Oil and Gas Law and agreed on showing it to their partners, so that it can soon be passed in the Iraqi parliament, before the current legislative session ends in early 2014.”

However, the federal government and the semi-autonomous KRG disagree on oil and its imports in the northern provinces. While Baghdad demands that the agreements with foreign and local companies on the drilling operations happen with its knowledge and that the region send the export revenues to the federal government, the Kurdistan region wants the federal government to pay the dues of oil companies working for it, before requiring oil revenues to be sent to Baghdad.

The Oil and Gas Draft Law has undergone several amendments since 2011, but it has not received the needed consensus yet.

ABB has won an order worth around $30 million from Zagros Energy to build four new transmission and distribution substations in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, as part of an overall initiative to expand and strengthen the regional power grid. The order was booked in the second quarter.

Demand for reliable power is growing at a rate of 10 to 25 percent per annum, thanks to industrial growth, construction projects and overall economic development. Currently, the Kurdistan power grid supplies around 2,750 megawatts (MW) of electricity with more than 90 percent of the capacity owned and operated by independent power companies.

The increasing demand for electricity means that outages and blackouts are frequent. In the short term, a capacity expansion to approximately 4,000 MW is planned; longer term, the ambition is to reach 10,000 MW, which would open up the possibility of exporting power to neighboring countries.

ABB’s project scope includes the design and supply of the substations and will enable an additional 600 MW of power to the region. The substations are based on GIS technology, which was selected for its compact footprint, since they are to be located in the center of the city.

Two will be connected with 132 kilovolt (kV) underground cables due to the lack of space for overhead lines. Circuit breakers and air-insulated switchgear, control and protection systems, capacitor banks as well as power transformers and other high-voltage equipment, will form part of the key product supplies. The project is scheduled for completion in 2014.

“These substations will go a long way towards helping this developing region meet the increasing demand for electricity,” said Oleg Aleinikov, Head of ABB’s Substations business within the company’s Power Systems division. “They will also strengthen the grid, reduce outages and improve the reliability of power supplies to consumers.”

(Source: ABB)

By John Lee.

Iraq has officially requested the UN Security Council to extend the term of UNAMI in Iraq for another year, reports Aswat al-Iraq.

The request was submitted by Iraqi ambassador Mohammed Ali al-Hakeem to the United Nations.

He requested that UNAMI will have logistic assistance to provide adequate observers for the coming parliamentary election, to be held in the middle of next year.

Ambassador Hakeem also denounced the attacks on the anti-Iranian Camp Liberty residents and praised Albania for granting refugee status to 270 camp residents, as well as the German government for receiving 100 Iranians.

On the current demonstrations, he pointed out that the government is seriously trying to meet the legal demands of the demonstrators according to Iraqi constitution.

(Source: Aswat Al Iraq)