By Ahmed Mousa Jiyad.

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

The Fifth Energy Bidding Round: Poor Management, Dubious Contracts and Bad Results – Attracted Unprecedented Opposition

Prominent Iraqi oil experts and professionals drafted and endorsed a unified position’ statement (UPS) addressed to the three Presidencies; of the Republic, of the Cabinet and of the Parliament.

The UPS provides thorough assessment of both the outcome of this bid round and related dubious two model contracts; it opposes and rejects the results and calls upon the Presidencies not to ratify any contracts relating to this bid round. The UPS, written in Arabic, was disseminated widely inside Iraq and was posted on 9 May onwards on many websites.

Most of the 31 Iraqi oil experts who issued, and their names appears in, the UPS have many decades of leading positions and extensive work experience in the petroleum sector.

For nearly ten years, this is the first time that so many well-known and respected petroleum technocrats come together to issue a unified, strong and specific statement. This in fact is a manifestation of their concern on the gravity of the danger that could undermine the national interest by these contracts and those behind them.

UPS came as a culmination of individual and collective efforts and contributions that were provoked by the fact that these contracts offer unprecedented concessions to the IOCs in post 2003 Iraq, especially when the model contracts were posted and analyzed.

In addition to been the Coordinator for UPS, I wrote a series of contributions (in Arabic) and shared them with my very extensive network of contacts as well as posting them on many websites for wider readership.

There was considerable attention to this bid round since it was first perceived by the Ministry of Oil-MoO in July last year (

http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/2017/07/21/important-oil-projects-dubious-non-transparent-contracts/ ) but the recent debate had actually impacted directly by the sequence of events pertaining to the bid round.

Much of the concerns prior to holding the bidding focused primarily on the “secrecy of the contracts”.  MoO announced on 13 April it has prepared two model contracts: The first is for the already discovered and, some, producing oilfields- Development and Production Contract (DPC); and the second is for the exploration blocks- Exploration, Development and Production Contract (EDPC).

The Ministry said it sent the two model contracts together with the Final Tender Protocol-FTP and Bidding Information to the IOCs that bought data package.

But the Ministry broke with its transparent practices, followed by the previous bid rounds, of announcing and posting the model contracts, the FTP and bidding information well ahead of the bid round. This time, it did not. And when I asked why, their answer was it is a matter of “confidentiality”.

That prompted me to not only refuting the confidentiality alibi based on comparative assessment with past practices, but also put that within the environment of secrecy and non-transparency that dominates the ministry since the last ministerial shakeup of August 2016 (see my article in Arabic سرية عقود وزارة النفط ومخالفتها للتوجيهات؛ لماذا ولمصلحة من؟

http://www.akhbaar.org/home/2018/4/243077.html posted on 17 April 2018)

As usual, I posted the above article to my network, including one particular list comprising the three presidencies, senior officers at the Council of Ministers, former oil ministers and most seniors at the ministry of oil. This list witnessed an exchange of lengthy emails between the DG of PCLD at the MoO, Abdul Mahdy Al-Ameedi, and I.

The bidding round finally took place on 26 April. The formal announcement by the MoO was extremely brief and just mentioned a few names of IOCs. One contact posted to me the actual bids on each “area”, by whom, who were the winners, what was the bidding parameter that was announced by the Ministry prior to each bid and other information.

Based on the communicated information it became apparent how dreadful the results were for Iraq. I, again wrote a new article analyzing the process, the legal questions regarding IOCs qualifications, the lack of competition, the outcome of the bidding, among others.

Similar to previous article I disseminated a new article highlighting how disadvantageous the outcomes are for Iraq and, thus, called for immediate and complete rejection of the bid round (جولة التراخيص الاخيرة: نتائجها سيئة جدا ويجب الغائها فورا http://www.akhbaar.org/home/2018/4/243448.html posted on 27 April 2018).

The Ministry was compelled to post the two model contracts two days after convening the bid round; and there was a further shock!

After reading the DPC model I wrote and communicated a third article specifying the main flaws of the contract, its poor text, shaky premises, wrong price equation and how it favors IOCs against Iraqi interests; it was posted on 4 May and also in Arabic (عاجل للغاية- عقود جولة التراخيص الاخيرة اسوء من نتائجها http://www.akhbaar.org/home/2018/5/243755.html posted on 4 May 2018)

In this last article I reiterated the call to cancel the bid round not only for its disadvantageous results but also due to extremely bad contract models. Moreover, I called the Cabinet to refute the contract for East Baghdad oilfield recently concluded with a Chinese company because this contract has similar structure to those used for this bid round.

The last two articles led to another, but more heated, exchange of emails between Al-Ameedi and I within the same list of high government officials. In this debate I requested a launching of formal investigation to be done collectively by the Independent Integrity Commission, the Parliamentary Integrity Committee, the Inspector General at the Ministry of Oil and the Federal Supreme Board of Audit. The debate was interrupted by the national election and hopefully would be resumed regardless of the election results!!!

Below is the full Arabic text of the unified position by the 31 Iraqi oil experts above mentioned and was posted on http://www.akhbaar.org/home/2018/5/243940.html

 

خبراء النفط في العراق يعارضون ويرفضون نتائج وعقود جولة التراخيص الاخيرة

السيد رئيس الجمهورية المحترم

السادة رئيس وأعضاء مجلس الوزراء المحترمون

السيدات والسادة رئيس وأعضاء البرلمان العراقي المحترمون

السيدات والسادة المستخدمون لوسائل الاعلام والتواصل الاجتماعي المحترمون

 

نحن خبراء النفط العراقيين المذكورة اسماءنا ادناه، وبعد الاطلاع على نتائج جولة التراخيص النفطية الاخيرة (الخامسة) وتحليل العقود الخاصة بها، وحرصا منا على المصلحة الوطنية وللتاريخ نعلن بكل وضوح وقناعة:

معارضتنا التامة ورفضنا المطلق لكل من نتائج وعقود هذه الجولة؛ ونناشد كل من مجلس الوزراء والبرلمان على عدم المصادقة على أي من عقود هذه الجولة وعلى العقد الخاص بحقل شرق بغداد.

 

بعد التقييم المهني والموضوعي للعقود المذكورة والتصريحات المنشورة لمسؤولي وزارة النفط كانت نتيجة التقييم سلبية للغاية لان تلك العقود تمنح امتيازات مالية سخية للشركات النفطية الاجنبية بالضد من مصلحة العراق مما يكلف العراق مليارات من الدولارات كتنازل من عوائده الصافية للشركات.

تتلخص هذه الامتيازات السخية المتنازل عنها للشركات الاجنبية بما يلي:

‌أ-    اعتماد اسعار نفط منخفضة في معادلة سعرية مبسطة جدا وبدائية وغير رصينة تستخدم لاحتساب حصة الشركات من العوائد الصافية لعقود تتراوح مددها بين 20 عام و34 عام؛

‌ب-  اعتماد اسعار مرتفعة للغاز الجاف؛

‌ج-    الغاء آلية ربط ربحية الشركات مع نفقاتها الرسمالية المسترجعة (المعروفة بمعامل آر)؛

‌د-     اعتماد آلية لربط استرداد الكلف الرأسمالية بأسعار النفط لا توفر مطلقا أية حماية او منفعة للعراق؛

‌ه-   عدم تحديد العديد من المتغيرات المهمة لكل حقل وتركها للشركات (مثل انتاج الذروة ومدته؛ الانتاج التجاري؛ تخصيصات صندوق التدريب؛ تخصيصات صندوق البنى التحتية)؛

‌و-     معاملة الحقول المكتشفة على انها رقع استكشافية مما يسبب تجاهلا  لحقيقة إنعدام وجود المخاطر التي تتصف بها عادة الرقع الاستكشافية وليس الحقول المكتشفة.

يتلخص هذا التقييم ونتائجه بما يلي:

اولا: يوجد في العقد عدد “هائل” من الاخطاء المطبعية ربما نتيجة للاستعجال في عقد الجولة قبل الانتخابات. كما وتمت الاشارة الى بعض المفاهيم والمصطلحات المهمة والمعرفة ولكن دون استخدامها مثل “معدل المردود الداخلي” و “اعلان الاكتشاف التجاري”.

ولابد من التأكيد هنا ان من اهم اساسيات العقود، وخاصة ان كانت باللغة الإنكليزية، هو دقة النص ووضوح التعبير وسلامة الصياغة؛ وهذه جميعا تتأثر سلبا وبشكل كبير في حالة وجود وتكرار عدد كبير من الاخطاء وعدم تعريف ما يذكر من مفاهيم، مما يؤدي في النتيجة الى ان يكون العقد سيء من حيث التطبيق وخطر من ناحية النتائج ومكلف للغاية في حالة التحكيم الدولي.

ثانيا: عدم وجود الشريك الحكومي

لم يتضمن هذا العقد الشريك الحكومي مما يعني خسارة في حصة العراق تتراوح بين 5 % (بسبب تخفيض حصة الشريك الحكومي في بعض عقود الجولات السابقة) الى 25 % من “العوائد الصافية”. وهذه تشكل خسائر مالية ضخمة جدا للعراق وعائداً اضافياً للشركات. وهنا لابد من التأكيد ان خسارة حصة الشريك الحكومي لا تعوضها حصة الريع Royalty البالغة 25% لان الموضوعين منفصلين تماما.

ثالثا: انعدام التخصيصات السنوية لصندوق التدريب والتأهيل وصندوق البنى التحتية

تمت الاشارة الى كل من الصندوقين في هذا العقد ولكن بدون تحديد التخصيصات السنوية لكل منهما، بخلاف ما كان معمول به في الجولات السابقة.

 

رابعا: عدم تحديد مستوى انتاج الذروة ومدته   Plateau Production & Period

على خلاف كل العقود لجولات التراخيص السابقة لم يحدد عقد هذه الجولة مستوى انتاج الذروة ومدة استمراريته، بل ترك ذلك لحين تقديم الشركة لخطة التطوير النهائية التي تقدم بعد ثلاث سنوات من دخول العقد حيز التنفيذ.

خامسا: مستوى الانتاج التجاري Commercial Production Rate

يحدد هذا المستوى بداية احتساب مستحقات الشركة من العوائد الصافية وحسب الضوابط المفصلة في العقد. ولكن الغريب انه تم تحديد هذا المستوى وبشكل موحد لكل الحقول المشمولة وبكمية 10 ألف برميل يوميا لكل عقد. ومن الجدير بالذكر ان خمسة من “العقود” من مجموع ستة تمت احالتها، تحتوي على تسعة حقول مكتشفة وقسم منها تم فيها حفر خمسة ابار وبنتائج مشجعة جدا.

 

سادسا: تسعيرة الغاز الجاف

حدد العقد سعر الغاز الجاف بما يعدل 50 % من سعر نفط التصدير التمهيدي (للبرميل المكافئ).

ونرى ان الوزارة هنا ارتكبت أكثر من خطا ستترتب عليها نتائج مالية كبيرة لصالح الشركات الاجنبية ونتائج كارثية على العراق للأسباب التالية:

1-    ان هذه العلاقة بين سعر النفط وسعر الغاز الجاف سبق وان تم استخدامها في عقود جولة التراخيص الرابعة فقط؛ لان تلك الجولة كانت للرقع الاستكشافية فقط ولم يتم استخدامها مطلقا لعقود الحقول المكتشفة كما هي عليه الحال في العقود الحالية. وقد سبق لبعض من الموقعين على هذه الوثيقة ان حذروا ونبهوا الوزارة الى ذلك وعدم إطلاق تسمية “رقع استكشافية” على حقول مكتشفة لسبب جوهري يتعلق باعتبارات مخاطر عدم الاكتشاف وضرورة تغطية هكذا مخاطر.

2-    كانت “اجور/مكافئة الخدمة او ربحية الشركة” في جميع عقود الجولة الرابعة (كغيرها من عقود الجولات الثلاث السابقة لها) محددة بعدد ثابت من الدولارات لبرميل النفط (المكافئ)؛ اما في هذه الجولة الخامسة فان ربحية الشركة تكون على اساس “صافي العوائد” كما سيناقش لاحقا. والفرق كبير جدا ولصالح الشركة الاجنبية وخاصة عند ارتفاع اسعار النفط.

3-    تضمنت جميع عقود الجولة الرابعة (كغيرها من عقود الجولات الثلاث السابقة لها) ما يسمى بمعمل-آر    R-factor والذي تنخفض بموجبه ربحية الشركة بتزايد عوائدها على نفقاتها. وتطبيق هذا المعامل من الناحية الفعلية يعني تزايد حصة العراق بعد بلوغ الانتاج مستوى الذروة المتعاقد عليها في الحقل المعني. ولم نجد اي اشارة الى معامل-آر في عقود هذه الجولة مما يعني خسائر مالية كبيرة للغاية يتحملها العراق وتذهب لصالح الشركات الاجنبية.

سابعا: معادلة تحديد “العائد الصافي” وحصة الشركة الاجنبية منه

وهذه تعتبر من أكبر اخطاء الوزارة واكثرها خدمة للشركات الاجنبية واضرارا بمصلحة العراق. وبسبب خطورة هذه المعادلة وافتقارها لأبسط الاسس المهنية والاقتصادية والاحصائية، سنقوم ببيان اخطاء الوزارة وكما يلي:

معدل اسعار النفط العراقي

اعتمدت الوزارة سعر 50 دولار للبرميل “كأساس لسعر النفط” وذلك باعتماد “معدل برنت خلال السنة الماضية وكان بحدود 57 الى 58 دولار مطروح منه 7 دولار”.

اننا نرى ان هذا الرقم وهذه الطريقة تمثل اخطاء فادحة لا تغتفر:

1-    ان مدة هذه العقود تتراوح بين 20 و25 عام بالنسبة لعقود التطوير والانتاج و34 عام بالنسبة لعقود الاستكشاف والتطوير والانتاج. فهل من المنطقي اعتماد معدل سعر النفط لسنة واحدة فقط اساسا لهذه العقود طويلة الامد؟ بالتأكيد ليس منطقيا ولم نقرأ او نسمع مطلقا مثل هذه الطريقة لعقود نفطية تبلغ عوائدها عشرات ان لم يكن مئات المليارات!!!!

2-    تشير المعلومات الرسمية للوزارة ذاتها ان معدل سعر تصدير النفط العراقي منذ تموز 2008 ولغاية نيسان 2018 (اي خلال 118 شهر) كان 74 دولار للبرميل؛ اي 48 % اعلى من السعر المعتمد من قبل الوزارة!!! فلماذا اهملت هذه الاحصائيات الرسمية ولم يسترشد بها؟؟

3-    خلال الفترة اعلاه كان سعر النفط العراقي اقل من 50 دولار في 34 شهرا فقط من مجموع 118 شهر؛ 6 أشهر من تشرين ثاني 2008 والى نيسان 2009، 3 أشهر من كانون ثاني الى اذار 2015 و25 شهرا من آب 2015 الى آب 2017. وهذا يعني ان 28.8% فقط من مجموع الاشهر منذ تموز 2008 كانت اسعار النفط فيها اقل من 50 دولار. فلماذا لم تنتبه الوزارة الى هذه المسالة ولم تستفد منها!!؟؟؟

4-    من اوليات علم الاحصاء والتحليل الاقتصادي وممارسات التقييس   Indexation ان يتم اختيار سعر او سنة “الاساس” بعناية فائقة جدا وبعد اجراء اختبارات عديدة ولابد من تجنب الفترات الغير اعتيادية. وكان عام 2017 غير اعتيادي بدليل اتفاق الاوبك الذي وضع حدا لانهيار اسعار النفط التي بدأت بالتحسن منذ منتصف العام. فلماذا تم تجاهل هذه الأساسيات العلمية المعروفة!!؟؟

5-    يبدو ان الوزارة لم تقم باستشارة سومو وهي الجهة الوحيدة المؤهلة، فنيا، لإعطاء راي بشأن اسعار النفط ضمن تشكيلات الوزارة؟؟ فلماذا تفردت دائرة العقود بتبني سعر للنفط وبهذه الطريقة البدائية للغاية!!؟؟

6-    معظم التوقعات الخاصة بأسعار النفط التي قامت وتقوم بها المؤسسات الدولية المرموقة تشير الى ارتفاع اسعار النفط من الان فصاعدا وبالتأكيد فوق مستوى 50 دولار للبرميل سواء في المديات القصيرة او المتوسطة او البعيدة. فمعدل سعر النفط العراقي خلال الاربعة أشهر الاخيرة من هذا العام كان 61.85 دولار- اي 23.7 % فوق سعر الأساس المستخدم في عقد جولة التراخيص!!

يستنتج مما تقدم ان تبني سعر 50 دولار كأساس في احتساب حصة الشركة الاجنبية من “العائد الصافي” يعمل بالتأكيد على زيادة تلك الحصة طرديا بارتفاع اسعار النفط فوق سعر الاساس المنخفض اصلا. والحسابات اعلاه تشير ان الشركات حققت زيادة قدرها 23.7 % في حصصها من “العائد الصافي” حتى قبل توقيع العقد.

ربط استرداد الكلف الرأسمالية بأسعار النفط

يشير العقد الى ان “نسبة العائد الصافي” المخصصة لاسترداد الكلفة تكون 30 % عندما تكون اسعار النفط تساوي او اقل من 21.5 دولار وبعكسه تكون النسبة 70%.

وهنا نسجل الملاحظات التالية:

1-    لم تذكر الوزارة كيف تم تحديد هذا السعر؟ ومن قبل من؟ وماهي الحسابات والمبررات التي استند عليها؟

2-    لم تشهد اسعار تصدير نفط العراق مطلقا هذا السعر المنخفض منذ تموز 2008 ولحد الان. وان أوطأ سعر كان 22.21 دولار ولشهر واحد فقط وهو كانون ثاني 2016. فما هي الحكمة والفائدة من تحديد هذا السعر المنخفض ليكون اساساً لتجنب أثر تسديد الكلف الرأسمالية!!!

3-    ونظرا لضعف احتمالية انخفاض اسعار النفط العراقي الى ذلك المستوى ولمدة مؤثرة فان ذكر هذا الشرط في العقد لا يشكل اي فائدة للعراق ولا يوفر من الناحية العملية والفعلية اي حماية؛ وبالمقابل اعطى العقد نسبة 70% للشركة لاسترداد الكلفة.!!

4-    والاخطر من كل ذلك ان العقد لم يحدد بوضوح ماذا يحصل لنسبة العائد الصافي عند استرداد الكلف الرأسمالية بالكامل خاصة وان العقد لا يتضمن معامل-آر كما ذكر سابقا.

يستخلص مما تقدم ان ربط استرداد الكلفة بأسعار النفط وبالصيغة المعتمدة بالعقد تخدم الشركات الاجنبية وبالضد من مصلحة العراق.

ثامنا: التعارض مع الدستور وقوانين الموازنة وسياسة الدولة المعلنة

من الاسس الدستورية المهمة في ادارة القطاع النفطي هو “تحقيق اعلى منفعة للشعب العراقي” (المادة 112 –ثانيا)؛ كما اكدت قوانين الموازنة (منذ 2015) على ” حفظ مصلحة العراق الاقتصادية ….. وتخفيض النفقات وايجاد الية لاسترداد التكاليف بحيث تتلاءم مع اسعار النفط”.

فاين هي مصلحة العراق وكيف تم تحقيق اعلى منفعة للشعب العراقي في عقود هذه الجولة وعقد شرق بغداد؟ وهل اعتماد اسعار النفط المذكورة في العقد- كما ذكر اعلاه- تحفظ مصلحة العراق الاقتصادية؟؟؟

لقد تمت احالة ثلاث من ست “رقع” الى شركة مدرجة في القائمة السوداء لمخالفتها-ومازالت- سياسة الدولة المعلنة منذ 2010. وإننا نحذر وبكل قوة ان التعامل مع شركة مدرجة في القائمة السوداء سيترتب عليه نتائج قانونية سيئة للغاية وعلى المستوى الدولي على قدر تعلق الامر بسيادة العراق على ثرواته النفطية والغازية وخاصة فيما يتعلق بعقود الاقليم وقضية التحكيم الدولي ضد تركيا امام غرفة التجارة الدولية في باريس.

 

في ضوء ما تقدم فإننا نناشد كل من مجلس الوزراء والبرلمان على عدم المصادقة على أي من العقود الخاصة بهذه الجولة وعلى العقد الخاص بحقل شرق بغداد.

الموقعون

1-طارق شفيق؛ 2-عصام عبدالرحيم الجلبي؛ 3-عبد الجبار الوكاع؛ 4-د. هاشم الخرسان؛ 5-د. طارق الارحيم؛ 6-د. محمد علي زيني؛ 7-فؤاد قاسم الامير؛ 8-د. طلال  عاشور كنعان؛ 9-د. ثامر حميد العكيلي؛ 10-د. موفق اديب  الصمدي؛ 11-منير الجلبي؛ 12-د. اسامه فرحان عبد الكريم ؛ 13-د. محبوب الجلبي؛ 14-عبدالزهرة جودة كاظم المحمداوي؛ 15-سمير كبة؛ 16-عبد يوسف بولص اسمرو؛ 17-ناطق خضر عباس البياتي؛ 18-د. فالح  حسن الخياط؛ 19 -علي حسين عجام؛ 20-نوري العاني؛ 21-ضياء إبراهيم  الحسن؛ 22-سعد الله  الفتحي؛ 23 -فلاح كاظم الخواجة؛  24-محمد مصطفى الجبوري؛ 25-علي عبد الباقي الحيدري؛  26-علي نوري علي الصالح؛ 27- ضياء شمخي البكاء؛ 28 -دـ حسن علي الناجي؛ 29 – د. نبيل توحلة؛ 30- احمد  موسى جياد (منسق هذا الموقف الموحد) .

يرجى تعميمه ونشره على اوسع نطاق ممكن

مع فائق التقدير والاحترام

احمد موسى جياد

(منسق الموقف الموحد لخبراء النفط العراقيين)

استشارية التنمية والابحاث/ العراق

النرويج

8 أيار 2018

Mr Jiyad is an independent development consultant, scholar and Associate with the former Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES), London. He was formerly a senior economist with the Iraq National Oil Company and Iraq’s Ministry of Oil, Chief Expert for the Council of Ministers, Director at the Ministry of Trade, and International Specialist with UN organizations in Uganda, Sudan and Jordan. He is now based in Norway (Email: mou-jiya(at)online.no, Skype ID: Ahmed Mousa Jiyad). Read more of Mr Jiyad’s biography here.

By Alessandro Bacci.

Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq’s Fifth Licensing Round: Some Preliminary Considerations After the Auction

On the morning and afternoon of April 26, 2018, I participated in a petroleum scholar workshop organized in London by the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators (A.I.P.N.). There I gave the presentation “Current Trends Concerning Petroleum Service Contracts in the Middle East.”

I explained the difficulties that Iraq was experiencing with its technical service contracts (T.S.C.s) and that, exactly while we were discussing in London, Iraq was holding in Baghdad its fifth licensing round after the introduction of some amendments to its service contracts in the previous weeks. After the end of the workshop, I stopped in café where I started collecting information concerning the results of the licensing round.

Iraq’s fifth licensing round was related to the offering of 11 blocks. In specific, 10 onshore blocks located along the Iraqi borders with Kuwait and Iran, and 1 offshore block in the Persian Gulf waters. In the end, six blocks were awarded, while five of the exploration blocks did not receive any bids. So, what is a correct evaluation of this fifth licensing round? Probably, a balanced answer would be that Iraq’s fifth licensing round ‘on the day of the auction’ obtained a mixed result.

In fact, if, on the one side, it’s true that six blocks were awarded, on the other side, it’s also true that no major international oil company (I.O.C.) won any bids. Of the big names in the petroleum industry, Italy’s E.N.I. alone decided to participate and made two unsuccessful bids. U.A.E.-based Crescent Petroleum obtained three blocks, China’s Geo-Jade two blocks, and China’s United Energy Group one block.

One initial explanation for the mixed result might be that the Iraqi government had previously changed the date of the auction. Initially, the Ministry of Oil wanted to have the auction in June 2018, but, then, it moved the date of receiving the offers of the international qualified companies for the licensing round forward to April 15. At the same time, the Oil Ministry’s Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate sent the document concerning the final form of the tender, the conditions of the tender, and the formula of the exploration, development, and production contract (E.D.P.C.) and of the development production contract (D.P.C.) only on April 13.

However, when the Oil Ministry realized that the I.O.C.s—fourteen companies had purchased the documents required to participate in the bid round—would have had only two days to study the new contracts and submitting an offer, it postponed the deadline for submitting an offer to April 25. Then, the Oil Ministry held the licensing round on April 26.  In any case, the time for studying the dossier relating to the 11 blocks was limited according to either deadline. On top of this, Iraq will hold its national elections on May 12, and, before committing to investing on a long-term basis in additional projects in Iraq, investors might want to know the results of the coming elections.

For sure, political reasons played a role for changing the date of the bid round. Until a few months ago, the official schedule required that the final contract and tender protocol be issued by the end of May 2018 and that the submission of bids and the awards occur in June 2018 (see also BACCI, A., Iraq’s Fifth Licensing Round, in Iraq Business News, Dec. 20, 2017). Honestly, because Iraq has not been investing in the development of the border fields for the last 50 years, it’s is difficult to see what would have been the economic loss for Iraq’s government if Iraq had organized the auction two months later, i.e., in June, as it had previously planned. Two months would not have been a stark difference for the government, but it would have been a consistent difference for the I.O.C.s, which might have studied more completely the offered blocks and the new contract.

So, politics played a role. In Iraq, 320 members out of the 329 members of the Parliament are elected through the open list form of party-list proportional representation—the remaining 9 seats are reserved for the minorities. Iraq’s 18 governorates act as the constituencies. The ten onshore offered blocks are in the following Iraqi governorates: Basra, Diyala, Wasit, and Missan. In total, in May, these four governorates will be responsible for the election of 60 seats, or more than 18% of the seats (Basra, 25; Diyala, 14; Missan, 10; and Wasit, 11). However, at the same time, these governorates are home to the majority of Iraq’s most important oil fields (in particular Basra Governorate). And, because in Iraq the economy is dominated by the petroleum sector, which provides about 90% of government revenues and 80% of foreign exchange earnings, it’s easy to understand the pivotal economic role played by these governorates.

Moving forward the development of the additional blocks located in the above-mentioned governorates to before the elections may indeed provide a political support to Oil Minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi who is a member of the Victory Alliance, which is led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. In practice, holding the fifth licensing round would be a sort of additional tool to increase the chances of victory for a specific political group in the affected areas, because this move shows that the present government is concerned with the economic development of the above-mentioned governorates. And considering Iraq’s present fragile political environment, this political move has a certain logic. Now, according to the schedule, the deals must be signed on May 10. If they are not approved by the present government, it will be the task of the new government to approve them.

Considering these political reasons, it’s difficult to say whether we can consider the fifth licensing round finished and not just a politically useful stopgap. In any case, what is surprising is that important amendments to the structure of the offered service contract have been carried out with limited input from the industry and the stakeholders. In fact, the basic truth of the petroleum industry is that if a contractor is able to generate a return exceeding its planned internal rate of return (I.R.R.) threshold, it will go ahead with its investment. If the planned return is less than the I.R.R. threshold, the contractor will not invest.

This problem stood out very clear in 2009 during Iraq’s first licensing round. The day of the auction the result was negative because the companies did not see any profitability in what was offered. In practice, only after a few months of additional negotiations, was the government able to transform a failed licensing round into a success. What happened at that time was that the average cash outlay was renegotiated so that the I.O.C.s could have an improved profitability. And in just a few months, Iraq could sign contracts for the Rumaila field, the Zubair field, the West Qurna 1 field, and the Maysan field.

Moreover, after the end of the fifth licensing round, the Ministry of Oil correctly affirmed that the lack of bids for five exploration blocks— Zurbatiya and Shihabi on the border with Iran, Jebal Sanam and Fao on the border with Kuwait, and the offshore block—was also linked to additional difficulties, which could have increased the costs for the contractors. In fact, some blocks cover former battlefields (Zurbatiya and Shihabi), some have an infrastructural gap, and the offshore block lacks complete data.

Crescent Petroleum, a subsidiary of the multinational conglomerate Crescent Enterprises, is the first and the largest private upstream oil and gas company in the Middle East. It has operations in the U.A.E. and in the Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G., a.k.a. Iraqi Kurdistan). In the U.A.E., the company operates the Sharjah onshore concession and the Sir Abu Nu’ayr concession, while in the K.R.G. it operates the Khor Mor and the Chemchemal gas fields. In addition, Crescent Petroleum is the founder and the largest shareholder in Dana Gas, which is the first and largest publicly listed private-sector natural gas company in the Middle East.

Geo-Jade Petroleum is an oil exploration and production company with operations in Kazakhstan and Russia. This company started its oil and gas investments only in 2010—before the company was involved exclusively in real estate. Today, it is independently operating six exploration blocks and three development blocks. United Energy Group (U.E.G.) is an oil and gas exploration company having projects in Pakistan and Indonesia. In 2017, U.E.G. had an annual production of more than 4 million tons. After the acquisition of BP Pakistan in 2011, the company has expanded its operations in the country, and, today, U.E.G. and United Energy Pakistan Limited (U.E.P., U.E.G.’s Pakistani subsidiary) are the largest foreign E&P company and investor in Pakistan.

With reference to the contracts, the Ministry of Oil has introduced some amendments that have changed the structure of Iraq’s service contracts. During the previous four licensing rounds, Iraq had used service contracts in which there was a per-barrel fee remuneration linked to an R-Factor. The amended contract is different in that it sets a link between oil prices and the remuneration given to the I.O.C.s. At the same time, it introduces a 25% royalty on gross production.

In practice, out of the overall revenue, first, the contractors will pay a 25% royalty on gross production, second, they will recover the incurred costs according to a specific formula, third, they will split the remaining part, i.e., the net revenue share, with the government according to the percentage established at the time of the bid round, and fourth, they will pay the 35% corporate income tax (C.I.T.) on their percentage of net revenue share. Moreover, the amended contract does not consider any longer oil byproducts (for instance liquified petroleum gas) as companies’ revenue.

The key to understanding the new contractual framework is Article 19 of both the exploration, development, and production contract (E.D.P.C.) and of the development and production contract (D.P.C.). Art. 19 explains that in any quarter, Iraq’s involved regional oil company (R.O.C.) shall be entitled to a royalty of twenty-five percent (25%) of the deemed revenue, which is the value of net production in barrels of oil equivalent. With reference to the petroleum costs, Art. 19.5 explains that

[i]n respect of Petroleum Costs, in any Lifting Quarter due and payable Petroleum Costs shall be paid to Contractor to the extent of the Percentage of Net Deemed Revenue. The Percentage of Net Deemed Revenue shall be determined by reference to SOMO’s [the contract here means the State Oil Marketing Organization or its successors] average OSP [official selling price] during the Spending Quarter and in accordance with the following formula:

Percentage of Net Deemed Revenue= (Average OSP / 50) * (70%) * Net Deemed Revenue

The said formula shall be applied throughout the Term, provided that where the average OSP is equal to or less than twenty-one point five US Dollars (US$ 21.50) per Barrel, the Percentage of Net Deemed Revenue shall be thirty percent (30%) of Net Deemed Revenue and where the average OSP is equal to or greater than fifty US Dollars (US$ 50.0) per Barrel, the Percentage of Net Deemed Revenue shall be seventy percent (70%) of Net Deemed Revenue.

The percentage of net deemed revenue means the available portion of net deemed revenue allocated for the payment of the petroleum costs. The net deemed revenue means deemed revenue less royalty.

Then, the contractor shall be entitled to a remuneration equal to the product of the remuneration percentage bid and the remaining net deemed revenue. The remuneration percentage bid means the percentage of the remaining net deemed revenue bid by the contractor. And the remaining net deemed revenue means the net deemed revenue that remains after the payment of the petroleum costs to the extent of the percentage of net deemed revenue.

And then, the contractor shall pay the corporate income tax at a percentage of thirty-five percent (35%) on the actually received remuneration generated from the implementation of the contract to the General Taxation Commission in accordance with the Law No.19 for year 2010.

These are the remuneration percentage bids according to the six awarded blocks:

  • Khashim Ahmer-Injana (gas, Diyala Governorate): 19.99%, Crescent Petroleum
  • Naft Khana (oil and gas, Diyala Governorate): 14.67%, Geo-Jade
  • Khider al-Mai (oil, Basra Governorate): 13.75%, Crescent Petroleum
  • Gilabat-Qumar (gas, Diyala Governorate): 9.21%, Crescent Petroleum
  • Huwaiza (oil, Missan Governorate): 7.15%, Geo-Jade
  • Sindabad (oil, Basra Governorate): 4.55%, United Energy Group

A first consideration is that the percentage of the remuneration varies consistently according to the considered block. However, this should not be surprising because these blocks might well, for instance, have different geological characteristics. In fact, already with the technical service contracts used in the first four licensing rounds, the per-barrel fee was different according to each auctioned field. Now, with the new contract model, the Oil Ministry is trying to provide a fee that is based on commodity prices and costs.

At least on paper, the Oil Ministry should be able to give in this way more flexibility to its contracts. In fact, the three main factors that determine the amount of resource wealth linked to a petroleum field (oil and gas) are the produced volume; the price of the petroleum; and the involved exploration, development, and production costs. From an economic point of view, the best option for both the contractor and the government would be when the following three factors coexist: a high production level; low exploration, development, and production costs; and high oil prices in the international markets.

Thanks to the new contractual structure, the government would like to force the contractors to act in a more efficient manner, while at the same time, because the remuneration fee is based on the remuneration percentage bid, the contractor would now be affected positively by the increase and negatively by the decrease in oil prices. At the same time, the new contracts have a time limit concerning the requirement for the contractors to stop flaring. Iraq would like to stop completely flaring by 2021.

Iraq has currently a daily oil production of about 4.43 million barrels from Baghdad-controlled oil fields (March 2018). The country’s exports averaged 3.45 million barrels a day last month from the southern ports. According to a 5-year development plan, the government wants to reach a production of 6.5 million barrels per day by 2022.

Alessandro Bacci is an independent energy consultant in relation to business strategy and corporate diplomacy (policy, government, and public affairs). Much of his activity is linked to the MENA region, an area where he lived for four years. Alessandro is now based in London, United Kingdom (www.alessandrobacci.com), and he is a member of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators (A.I.P.N.). A multilingual professional, Alessandro holds a Bachelor of Laws and Master of Laws from the University of Florence (Italy), a Master of Public Affairs from Sciences Po (France), and a Master in Public Policy from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (Singapore).  

By John Lee.

The Ministry of Oil’s Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate (PCLD) has published the templates for the contracts to be used for the 5th oil licensing round, the results of which were announced last week.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

By John Lee.

Iraq’s Ministy of Oil has awarded all four development projects, and two of the seven exploration blocks, that it offered in its fifth auction of oil licences.

Only nine of the 26 companies originally pre-qualified took part in the auction, with majors such as Lukoil (Russia), ExxonMobil (US) and Total (France) not bidding.

Development blocks:

  • Gilabat-Qumar, in Diyala: Crescent Petroleum (UAE)
  • Khashim Ahmer-Injana, in Diyala: Crescent Petroleum (UAE)
  • Huwaiza, in Missan (Maysan): Geo Jade Petroleum (China)
  • Khudher Al-Mai [Khider al-Mai], in Basra and Muthana: Crescent Petroleum (UAE)

Exploration blocks:

  • Naft Khana, in Diyala: Geo-Jade Petroleum (China)
  • Sindibad [Sindbad] field in Basra: United Energy Group (Hong Kong)
  • Zurbatiya [Zurbatia], in Wasit and Diyala: not awarded
  • Shihabi in Missan and Wasit: not awarded
  • Fao, in Basra: not awarded
  • Jebel Sanam [Jabal Sanam], in Basra: not awarded
  • Offshore Gulf block: not awarded

Abdul Mahdi al-Ameedi, director general of the Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate (PCLD), told Reuters that the failure of five blocks to attract bids was due to a combination of factors, including the fact that some of them cover former battlefields, some are hard to access, and the one offshore plot needs more data.

He said another round could be held for those five blocks.

More details here from Iraq Oil Report (subscription required)

(Sources: Iraq Oil Report, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP)

By John Lee.

Iraq’s Ministry of Oil has reportedly postponed its oil and gas bidding round for 11 new blocks to 25th April.

Abdul Mahdi al-Ameedi, director general of the Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate (PCLD), told Reuters:

“The bidding process was rescheduled to be on April 25. It is just to give the companies a little bit more time to submit the bid bonds and be prepared for the bidding.”

However, Oil Ministry Spokesman Asim Jihad told Bloomberg he was unaware of any postponement in the auction, originally scheduled for 15th April.

Just two weeks ago, the ministry said it was changing to a new “hybrid” type of oil contract.

(Sources: Reuters, Bloomberg)

Iraq is giving international oil companies (IOCs) just two weeks to evaluate a new contract model that will serve as the basis of an upcoming bidding round for 11 oil exploration and development projects.

The Oil Ministry has set April 15 as the deadline for companies to submit bids, according to Abdul Mahdy al-Ameedi, director general of the Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate (PCLD), who presided over a briefing for IOCs at the ministry Thursday to outline the contract model and bidding process.

More here from Iraq Oil Report (subscription required).

By John Lee.

Iraq’s Ministry of Oil will hold a conference on Thursday 29th March to announce for a new licensing round to develop and rehabilitate 11 exploration zones on the borders of Iran and Kuwait, including one offshore zone on the Gulf.

The conference will be attended by 13 international companies which have purchased the data portfolios, in addition to two companies which intended to buy data portfolios.

These 15 companies will compete for the rights to develop and rehabilitate these exploration zones.

Assim Jihad, spokesman of the Ministry of Oil, said also that the form of the contract will be “service contract with a few modifications”.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

By John Lee.

Platts reports that the final details of Iraq’s latest oilfield licensing round will not be completed by the planned date of July, due to the upcoming elections.

Abdul Mahdy Al-Ameedi, Director General of the Oil Ministry’s Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate (PCLD) told the CWC Iraq Petroleum Conference in Berlin:

“The timing may extend a bit especially as the whole project is connected with elections in April and May …

Comments have been made by specialists in order to reorder contracts to include all the commitments and provisions I doubt that we will finish by July 5. It will take time but it will be done.

The list of qualified companies can be found here.

(Source: Platts)

By Ahmed Mousa Jiyad.

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

The New Petroleum Bid Round Faces Many Serious Problems

Since the last Ministerial reshuffle of August 2016, the Ministry of Oil has been persistently trying to offer most possible oilfields and exploration blocks to IOCs under new contracts that differ from those adopted by the Ministry in previous rounds. The latest attempt in this regard is the announcement by the Ministry that it has scheduled the date of a new round and has presented the timeliness of the necessary activities.

Briefly, as stated in this intervention, the timing of this round is rather unfortunate; many of the qualified IOCs by the Ministry are blacklisted; absence of transparency on the proposed contracts; method for evaluation and selection of different offers, by IOCs, have not been announced and finally, no feasibility study of any fields or block was available, let alone done. But, the fact that these fields and blocks are stranded on the borders they have special status and thus should deserve attention and prioritization.

At the outset a brief note is probably relevant. Since the national election date was initially proposed there has been a pattern of “pre-election rush” at the Ministry of Oil for announcing many recent events, creating what might be called “election-linked achievement bubbles”: Majnoon oilfield transition deadline was shortened from end June to end March 2018; concluding contract for East Baghdad oilfield; signing agreement on Nehr Bin Omar on associated gas utilization; singing  agreement with BP on Kirkuk oilfield; setting earlier date for border fields and blocks bid round; and sudden announcement, on 28 January, for offering Faw refinery & petrochemical of 300kbd (without any FEED or any further basic information). What next!

In previous occasions I addressed, as mentioned below, all attempts by the Ministry in this regard, especially since its first announcement, in July 2017, on this new round. Therefore, the focus will now be on this new round and by using official statements, especially those issued by the Ministry of Oil.

First: Licensing Date and its Timetable

Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate-PCLD of the Ministry announced recently that it will hold on May 7, 2018 this bid round according to a tentative schedule of activities.

The date is actually over two months earlier than envisaged based on previous announcement by the same entity; resulting into adoption of a brief, unrealistic and impractical timetable that could have negative consequences on the process itself, thus questioning the possibility of holding the round on the designated date.

It is worth recalling that the Minister and PCLD’s DG stated, in their press conference held at the Ministry on November 27, 2017, that “the final tender document will be announced on May 31, 2018, and then the bids from companies wishing to compete in the round will be received.” The Ministry and PCLD announcement did not specify, then, the date of the round. Given the need to provide sufficient time for IOCs to study and evaluate the final tender protocol, the provisions of the contracts and determine their position to submit their bids individually or within consortium, the date of the round could (realistically and technically) be in mid-July 2018 the earliest.

It should be noted that the period between the “announcement of the final tender document of the contracts” and the day of “licensing round” were, for example, more than five weeks in each of the first and fourth bid rounds.

Apparently, the timeliness of activities necessary for holding this round was set at four months between the date of “Data Package” sale on 7 January and 7 May 2018; a very short period indeed compared with previous rounds considering the apparent difficulty and complexity of the new bid round.

Every bid round of the previous four was structured around one type contract only for all offered fields or exploration blocks in the related round; in this round there will, at least, three different types of contracts to be proposed by the Ministry and an unspecified number of “commercial models / contracts” expected from the IOCs!!

Each contract in the previous four licensing rounds involves only one field (with the exception of the three Missan oilfields) or one exploration block; in this bid round, most of what is announced includes more than one field or block, and in fact even more than what was announced in July 2017. The extreme example is Naft-Khana, comprising nine fields and exploration blocks; and this, as discussed later, necessitates the formulation of composite-complex contract that could actually comprises three or even four different contracts- perhaps a unique or the only one of its kind!

All the fields that were included in the first three bid rounds and all exploration blocks of fourth bid round are located inside Iraq; while all the fields and blocks offered in the new round are located along land borders with Iran and Kuwait, except one offshore block on Iraqi territorial waters in north Arabian Gulf. As highlighted below, border fields should receive special consideration seriously and fully.

Finally, international petroleum business environment and IOCs enthusiasm (on Iraq) in 2018 is very different from those prevailed during June 2009- May 2012 when the previous four bid rounds were held.  That could prompt IOCs to propose more complicated contracts with less attractive terms for Iraq, thus make it imperative for the Ministry officials to be extremely careful and devote enough time to assess what IOCs propose. Probably, the current failure (but not yet ended) after many months of direct behind closed door negotiation, with ExxonMobil/CNPC regarding the package for developing Ratawi and Nahr Bin Omar oilfields and the linkage to CSSP and SIIP, provides indications on what IOCs are asking to have.

By comparative analysis, it becomes very clear that the proposed timetable is unrealistic, not practical and very well could derail the bidding event itself. It is therefore legitimate to pose a few questions about the rationale of such hastiness: Does the Ministry have the human, legal and institutional skills and capacity to carry out all the required activities within the times specified in the schedule? Has the three models of contracts been studied thoroughly enough to ensure and protect the rights and interests of Iraq, especially since all the fields and blocks are close to or cross the border with Iran and Kuwait? But the most compelling question is why and under whose directives the date was set at 7 May 2018.

The Ministry did not provide any clarification on why it went for an early bidding date and for such a tight compact timetable of essential activities.

A through daily follow-up of the Ministry news found no compelling reasons or urgency to hold the bidding at the specified date. But, what is surprising that the date was fixed, earlier than previously announced, soon after the date for the national election, on 12 May, was decided by the Cabinet (and now confirmed by the Federal Court and the Parliament).

Was the new timing for the bid round just unfortunate coincidence (though this reflects either political naivety or wrong decision-making or a combination of both) or a deliberate decision with motivations? If it was a bad unfortunate coincidence, why did the Ministry not change it? But, if it was intentional, what is the intention: score an achievement or impose a fait accompli or jump ahead- looking to the next cabinet reshuffle or to fulfill a pledge or “let it go” since everyone will be preoccupied with the election or.. or any other imaginable or possible explanations

Whether the timing is coincidental or intentional, holding the licensing round a few days before the national parliamentary (and possibly provincial) elections could contribute to maximize risk and uncertainty for and by all serious international companies, which could prompt them not to buy the Data Package and pay non-refundable $100,000 fee. In the case of limited purchase of the Package, that means the Ministry has actually contributed to its own failure and that may compel it to postpone the event to another date. But frequent postponement contributes to credibility erosion; as manifested by the refineries that have been re-announced several times over the past 15 months without any material luck!

Increasing risk and uncertainties that are associated with the date of the bid round could, in IOCs due diligence, come from the following possibilities:

  • The period between bidding results (in case of winning) and the agreement on the final version of each contract, obtaining the final approvals by the Council of Ministers, the final signing of the contract and the entry into force of the contract usually takes more than two months, i.e., after the election;
  • Elections may lead to a government change, which may have different agenda and position contrary to the outcome of the bidding and, possibly, dot not approve the contract;
  • Similarly, the election may lead to change the Minister of Oil himself. The new Minister or his political bloc may have a position contrary to the position of the current Minister; that could prevent the finalization of the contract and therefore not to be referred to the Council of Ministers for approval;
  • The formation of the new government takes usually a good deal of time depending on the actual election results and the need to formalize the political alliances, and this could take many months. This practically means that the current government becomes a caretaker government that, constitutionally, cannot take decisions binding the new government to such international contracts. Meaning, the current government cannot and should not ratify any contract resulting from the licensing round, especially with the existence of a new parliament; keeping in mind that all these contracts are for boarder fields- a highly sensitive and complex matter.

It is rather regrettable that the concerned parties, especially the Energy Committee of the Council of Ministers and the Oil & Energy and Legal Committees of the Parliament, have not taken the right action to prevent the Ministry from convening the bid round on the stated date or to postpone it to after the formation of the new government.

Second: Blacklisted Qualified Companies

Since the first bid round, PCLD of the Ministry has adopted a detailed method whereby companies are evaluated for the purpose of ascertaining their eligibility to participate in the field development and exploration projects as operator and non-operator. The evaluation methodology includes several details covering at least the last three years of four sets of indicators or standards:

  1. Financial and Economic Standard
  2. Legal Standard
  3. Technical and Training Standard and
  4. Health, Safety and Environment Standard.

The most questionable about this bid round is the list of qualified companies by the Ministry, which comprises many blacklisted IOCs contrary to its own declared and maintained policy that has been adhered to for many years in implementation of and in conformity with the official position of the Iraqi government, which considers all contracts signed by the KRG are illegal and contravening the Constitution. This means legally, logically and practically that any party that signs a contract that the sovereign authority considers to be contrary to the Constitution shall have knowingly committed a violation of the Constitution. As a result, the application of the “legal standard” directly leads to automatic disqualification of any company that has already committed a flagrant infringement of the Constitution.

PCLD had announced the companies eligible to participate in this round and in the light of available information, blacklisted qualified companies fall in two groups:

The first group comprises companies that signed contract(s) with KRG after had signed a contract through the bid rounds organized by the Federal Ministry of Oil. These companies are ExxonMobil (USA), Total (France) and Gazprom (Russia).

Although these three companies are still working in the oilfields contracted within the first and second licensing rounds, the application of the legal standard should prevent them from participating in this round.

In fact, these companies were excluded from contributing to the development of the field part within the “Nassiriyah Integrated Project-NIP” and were allowed to contribute to the refinery part only (though NIP project was abandoned by the Ministry!)

The second group companies that have signed contract with KRG but have not a contract within the licensing rounds organized by the Federal Ministry. These companies are: Dana Gas and Crescent Petroleum-CP (both in the UAE) and Sinopec (China).

It is worth mentioning that the Ministry of Oil terminated on 8 May 2009 the memorandum of understanding with Crescent Petroleum signed on 28 September 2005 after the company signed a contract with KRG. Then the Ministry qualified Crescent Petroleum (!!) for the ill-fated offering of 12 new oilfields announced in October 2016, only two months after the current Minister took the helm of the Ministry, (http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/2016/10/27/jiyad-min-of-oil-should-withdraw-plan-to-offer-12-new-oilfields/ )

Moreover, the Ministry had introduced the following provision in the contract for bid round four giving related Iraqi contracted entities (NOCs) the power to terminate the contract if, “Contractor, a Company or their Affiliates: either violating in any material respect a Law, including, without limitation, any directive or instruction of the Government (including the Ministry of Oil); or entering into any contractor agreement relating to the exploration, appraisal, development or production of Hydrocarbons in the Republic of Iraq, that has not been approved by, or consented to by, the Government;”

I have already made it clear that granting contracts for field development or exploration blocks to companies that are still operating contrary to the Constitution is only equivalent to rewarding those companies for their violations of the Constitution and the declared policy of the federal government; that should not be allowed (http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/2017/12/26/majnoon-development-plan-important-move-in-the-right-direction/).

The application of the legal standard should prevent these companies from participating in this round. Therefore, I call upon the Parliament/House of Representatives to take a decision, similar to that of January 8 regarding KAR Company, to compel the Ministry disqualify the above six blacklisted companies from participating in the new round.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that PCLD list comprises Shell and Petronas; both formally exited, recently, Majnoon giant oilfield. Probably, we have to wait until 5 February to know whether Shell and or Petronas buys the Data Package or not, and if either does then we should explore to know and explain why. And for Shell does this return has anything to do with its interest in Azadegan oilfield on the Iranian side of the borders?

Third: Transparency Considerations and the Proposed Contracts

According to the proposed timetable for the licensing round, PCLD will, on February 5, “convene a Roadshow to discuss the general principles of the contract and the commercial models submitted by companies”. However, PCLD did not specify the location of the workshop; the number of submitted models; when they were submitted; by which company and whether those models related to the fields or blocks or the offshore one or all of them.

In addition, there is a complete blackout on the type and components of the contract(s) that will be presented by the Ministry in the planned roadshow. Moreover, what complicates the matter even more are the ambiguity and strange statements. For example, the Minister said, “The contracts that are hoped to be concluded with the international companies in this round are an important step towards adopting a new commercial model and financial terms different from the previous contracts. The commercial models, by the companies wishing to invest, will be studied and analyzed then negotiated and select the contract which achieves our objectives”

How can the Ministry achieve its objectives without specifying and disclosing what are those objectives? How can it achieve these goals by relying on models proposed by the IOCs themselves? And when will the “study and analysis of business models provided by companies wishing to invest,” be done knowing that there are 9 groups of fields and blocks; 3 or 4 types of contracts and 21 companies eligible to participate in the round?

As mentioned above, by covering areas for three different types of already producing (brown) fields with discovered by not developed (green) fields and exploration blocks in a single contract necessitates the formulation of a complex difficult contract, largely due to the significant differences between the financial terms, contractual provisions and technical and geological requirements of these three covered areas.

Finally, and this is very important, the contracts of this bid round should reflect the special status and the prioritization of developing fields straddled along borders with Kuwait and Iran, especially with regard to the possibility of joint development through the formula known as Unitization of the concerned field. This is in addition to the need to include in the contracts many of the conditions, provisions and practices recognized by international contracts of border fields.

In the case of complex contracts covering three types of fields and blocks concurrently, they become even more complex and difficult when adopting Unitization formula (by virtue of being structurally tripartite), which requires high skill capacity, professional negotiation, relevant experience and an integrated team covering all technical, legal, contractual, economic and geopolitical operational aspects (http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/2017/07/21/important-oil-projects-dubious-non-transparent-contracts/).

Can the Ministry study and analyze the commercial models that will be submitted by the companies during the period specified in the timetable, which is only ten days? Very doubtful! And the strangest of all, is what the Minister says, “the Ministry was keen to optimize its preparation for this bid round”!!!

In the light of the foregoing, the extent of absent transparency is evident, especially with regard to the types of contracts and their basic financial conditions; but this is, regrettably, not unusual practice at the Ministry. For example, the Ministry did not announce any information on its recent signed deal with Jinhua, a Chinese company, to develop East Baghdad Oilfield or the contract with Orion- a US company.

The Minister of Oil said that “the contract to develop East Baghdad Oilfield is different from previous service contracts, where some important changes were made to the contract formula that serves the public interest.” So far, neither the Minister nor the Ministry clarified what these “important changes” are and what the material evidence and the economic feasibility which prove in figures that these amendments “serve the public interest.” The same applies to the agreement signed by the Ministry on January 8, 2018 with the US company Orion to utilize associated gas from Nahr Bin Omar oilfield in Basrah province, as well as the contract / agreement signed with the GE-US company in July 2017 related to associated gas from Nassiriyah and Gharraf oilfields in Dhi Qar province, among others. As usual, the Ministry did not provide any information about these agreements nor about the contracts or agreements that were signed.

Moreover and worst still, all the above mentioned contracts and agreements were negotiated and concluded without following the usual official contracting procedure that requires public tendering, open bidding and transparent selection.

Strangely enough, this is happening even after the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative suspended, recently, Iraq’s membership for non-compliance. EITI presented detailed two reports (in both Arabic and English) highlighting what provisions did Iraq not comply with and what it should do to restore its membership in the organization (http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/2017/11/06/eiti-suspends-iraq-membership-a-serious-setback/ )

This clearly indicates the lack of proper understanding of the Ministry leadership of what transparency in the oil sector entails and what requirements that should be clearly disclosed in accordance with EITI Standard.

In conclusion, due to the importance and urgency of the matters I suggested:

  • The Ministry of Oil announces immediately the postponement of the bid round to a later date to be announced after the formation of the new government;
  • If the Ministry fails to do so, the Council of Ministers or the Parliament should oblige the Ministry, by issuing binding instructions, to postpone the round;
  • The Council of Ministers and the Parliament should oblige the Ministry of Oil to implement the policy of the federal government by preventing blacklisted companies from participating in this round;
  • The Ministry of Oil must adopt a realistic and practical timetable that allows its concerned entities, especially PCLD, to study thoroughly and develop the “complex contract” for the border fields;
  • The Ministry should adopt and exercise full transparency by early disclosure of the basic terms of the contracts proposed by it and by the oil companies and provide (in numbers rather than rhetorical statements) how could these conditions serve the national interest of Iraq.

Earlier Arabic text was posted on http://www.akhbaar.org/home/2018/1/239828.htm

Please click here to download the full article in pdf format.

Mr Jiyad is an independent development consultant, scholar and Associate with the former Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES), London. He was formerly a senior economist with the Iraq National Oil Company and Iraq’s Ministry of Oil, Chief Expert for the Council of Ministers, Director at the Ministry of Trade, and International Specialist with UN organizations in Uganda, Sudan and Jordan. He is now based in Norway (Email: mou-jiya(at)online.no, Skype ID: Ahmed Mousa Jiyad). Read more of Mr Jiyad’s biography here.

By John Lee.

Iraq’s Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate (PCLD) has announced the five additional companies have been approved to bid for Iraq’s “borderline onshore & offshore exploration blocks & fields.”

The companies are listed as:

  • Dana Gas (UAE)
  • Dragon Oil (UAE)
  • Geo-Jade Petroleum (China)
  • Schlumberger (USA)
  • Zarubezhneft (Russia)

Eight companies had applied for approval.

The five successful companies will be eligible to compete along with the following companies which are qualified from previous licensing rounds:

The areas to be offered include the onshore exploration blocks of Khudher Al-Mai, Jebel Sanam (Jabal Sanam) and Umm-Qasr on the Kuwaiti border; the Sindbad, Huwaiza, Shihabi, Zurbatia and Naft Khana blocks on the Iranian border; and the offshore exploration blocks in the Iraqi regional waters of the Arab gulf.

The bidding process should commence in May, according to the following schedule:

(Source: Oil Ministry)