By Ahmed Mousa Jiyad.

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

The Ministry of Oil and the “Odious Contract’ Trap” with ExxonMobil’ Consortium

Talks have intensified recently about the continuation of negotiations between the Ministry of Oil (MoO) and ExxonMobil/CNPC consortium that might lead to the signing of a contract for the “South Iraq Integrated Project (SIIP)” at an estimated cost of $53 billion and a duration of 30 years, but no official confirmation or indications on the fundamental contractual provisions that were agreed on and those still pending.

In the light of the available information, material evidence, actual examples, international geopolitical considerations and comparative analysis, a detailed evidence-based research and Report* was done on the project and related negotiation.

The report on SIIP’ possible contract comprises:

  • A necessary introduction and caveat;
  • Political and geopolitical implications of ExxonMobil behavior and its apparent link to the “deep state” based on many evidences that actually and factually had negative consequences on oil projects, for example, in Russia and in Iraq.

In Russia, ExxonMobil caused a delay of almost four years in the development of the Pobeda oil discovery in the Kara Sea when ExxonMobil withdrew, in late 2014, from its deal with Rosneft due to imposing US sanctions on Russia.

Iraq had three bad experiences with this company in recent years. The first, when ExxonMobil negotiated secretly and concluded, against declared government policy, deals with KRG in 2011 soon after the company secured West Qurna 1 contract through first bid round with the federal ministry.

That move led to excluding ExxonMobil from leading Common Seawater Supply Project (CSSP), reduce its Participating Interest in WQ1 and blacklisting it from any upstream project.

The second and third bad experience occurred this year when the company evacuated, unilaterally and without government consent, all its foreign staff from WQ1. All these three incidents caused tremendous damage to Iraqi economic interest.

  • Potential strategic risks, of an enormous scale, on SIIP that could be generate from the growing deterioration of the American-China relations as evidenced from the blacklisting of two major state oil companies, i.e. Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp and Sinopec. US escalating tension against Iran adds further geopolitical risks;
  • Analyses of what would be SIIP contract was premised on what was reported by national and international sources that are originally based on information given by unnamed Iraqi officials. That was due to the absence of clarity and lack of transparency of the ministry regarding essential contractual terms and conditions.

Based on the analyses and findings of the report, I am compelled to clearly alert and strongly, frankly and loudly warn both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Oil of the danger of pushing Iraq into a “trap of an odious contract” and by specifying ten of its most grave risks and disadvantages:

  1. ExxonMobil, as the consortium leader, is granted a monopoly position that allows the company directly controlling all vital oil projects in southern Iraq, and thus the entire national economy, for thirty years;
  2. It poses a multiplicity of major threats to national security and economic interest due to what can be called contractually-connected high strategic and geopolitical risks, since SIIP comprises many critical and vital projects such as Common Seawater Supply project-CSSP (for water injection), pipelines, storage tank-farms, export facilities, gas processing units and two oilfields;
  3. It contravenes the fundamental premises of the Iraqi Constitution because the contract requires “mortgaging/ reserving/ booking” two oilfields, with a combined plateau production of 500kbd, exclusively for the two foreign oil companies, i.e. ExxonMobil and CNPC, for the entire term of the contract- 30 years;
  4. It offers “Profit-Sharing Contract”, which, in reality, represents the monetary side of a “Production Sharing Contracts”, which, is impermissible by the Constitution;
  5. The announced astronomical cost (of $30bilion) increased already by $11billion in less than ten weeks while negotiating!;
  6. It offers all rent (windfall) resulting from oil price increases exclusively to the two foreign companies, nothing for Iraq!;
  7. It prevents SOMO (the only State Oil Marketing Company) from performing its role in marketing crude oil from the “mortgaged” two oilfields; this contravenes established policy, undermines annual state budget laws and weakens almost 50 years of SOMO’s function;
  8. It reduces the “national efforts” in the development of oilfields, thus, contradicting declared Ministry policy, weakens Iraq’s flexibility to comply with OPEC decisions through “swing fields”;
  9. Inconsistent with the regulations for tendering and contracting government projects;
  10. It lacks both transparency and competitiveness.

Therefore, I suggested to the Ministry of Oil not to continue on wasting time and causing further delays: it should officially declare that it is not in Iraq’s economic interest and national security to award SIIP to ExxonMobil-CNPC (and for this matter to any one consortium) and end, immediately, all and any related negotiations.

In the event that the Ministry of Oil and/or the Government insist on going ahead with this Odious Contract with ExxonMobil-CNPC, it becomes inevitable to refer the matter to the Federal Supreme Court to invalidate the contract on the bases of incompatibility with the Constitution; for eradicating the highest interest of the Iraqi people, including future generations (principle of inter-generational equity)  and for returning Iraq to what looks like abhorrent concessions of the, colonial, past.

*A brief of the original Arabic text of the entire report was circulated widely within many networks and was published by and posted on many websites, and accessible on the following links:

الحذر يا وزارة النفط من “فخ العقد البغيض” مع شركة اكسون موبل

https://www.akhbaar.org/home/2019/8/261291.html

http://www.tellskuf.com/index.php/mq/83987-as174.html

http://www.sahat-altahreer.com/?p=49115

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.

Indian-based Asian Oilfield Services Limited has announced that it has won orders totalling $37 million in Iraq.

The orders relate to seismic acquisition at Block 12, with $12 million for a 2D survey and $25 million for a 3D survey.

Block 12, located in the Najaf and Muthanna provinces, is being developed by Russia’s Rosneft, and PetroVietnam.

According to a statement issued to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the order is to be executed within FY20 and FY21.

The company has previously carried out 3D surveys at the Shakal block and Taza block in Iraqi Kurdistan.

(Source: Asian Oilfield Services)

By John Lee.

Russia’s Gazprom Neft is reported to be interested in expanding its operations in Iraq.

Reuters says boss Alexander Dyukov told the annual general meeting on Friday that the company, which is already developing the Badra oilfield, is also “looking at” the Mansuriyah gas field near the Iranian border.

It says that Iraqi government is expected to launch a tender to develop Mansuriyah later this year. Iraq Business News understands that the field is currently being developed by TPAO (37.5%), Oil Exploration Company (25%), Kuwait Energy (KEC) (22.5%), and Kogas (15%).

(Source: Reuters)

The President of Lukoil, Vagit Alekperov (pictured), has met with Thamir Abbas Ghadhban Al Ghadhban, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Oil of the Republic of Iraq, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The parties discussed the progress of West Qurna-2 project and agreed to consider the possibility of early commissioning of Eridu field (Block 10). The Minister of Oil of Iraq expressed the support of Lukoil’s initiatives aiming at development of Iraqi projects, fulfilling obligations under the Service Contracts.

The parties have also expressed their interest to consider gas ​processing and petrochemical projects in Iraq.

(Source: Lukoil)

By John Lee.

Russia’s Rosneft will reportedly conduct geological exploration in Iraqi Kurdistan this year.

CEO Igor Sechin (pictured) is quoted as telling the annual general meeting:

“The company continues to implement the project to develop fields in Iraqi Kurdistan in the Middle East, where a geological exploration program is scheduled for this year to ensure production in the future.”

He added that pilot production at the Bijeel field began in the first quarter.

(Source: Tass)

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Has Russia begun to play a role in Iraq?

Member of the Iraqi parliament’s Security and Defense Committee Hakim al-Zamili announced May 9 that negotiations were underway to buy an S-400 air missile system from Moscow.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov said during his meeting April 26 with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi that “the number of Russian companies in Iraq is on the rise.”

Ihsan al-Shammari, head of the Iraqi Centre for Political Thought, concurred. He told Al-Monitor that “Russia is working to compete with multinational companies in central and southern Iraq, particularly in the field of energy.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

Foreign Minister Mr. Mohamad A. Alhakim Head of the Iraqi side and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Yury Borisov Head of the Russian side, signed the joint meeting minutes of the eighth session of the joint Iraqi-Russian committee.

They agreed to develop and enhance mutual cooperation in various productive and service sectors, as well as taking all measures to remove obstacles that face trade and investment between the two countries, and identify the mechanism by which bilateral cooperation is activated.

The meeting resulted in the signing of several agreements and memorandums of understanding in various fields, including trade, finance and banking, energy, electricity, mineral wealth, industry, telecommunications, information technology, transportation, agriculture, reconstruction, housing, health, sports, culture and tourism, education and cooperation in other areas.

(Source: Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Cumulative production at the West Qurna-2 field has reached 100 million tons of oil as part of successful implementation of Phase 1 of the project.

With 184 wells drilled at the field, the average daily production rate is 400,000 barrels.

Operator Lukoil said in a statement that, to manage the field’s production, it uses “the intelligent field concept which allows to control and adjust where necessary the production indicators in real-time.”

In 2018, the company started Phase 2 of the field’s development which envisages  growth in daily production to 480,000 barrels in 2020 and to a plateau of 800,000 barrels per day in 2025.

In January 2019, the drilling of 28 wells began on well pad #4. As of today, contracts have been signed to drill 57 production wells, including 54 at the Mishrif and 3 at the Yamama formations.

(Source: Lukoil)

Russia’s Gazprom Neft has commissioned a third production well at its Sarqala field in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI)

Potential production at this new well is estimated at 12,000 barrels per day. Cumulative daily oil production at the field following the commissioning of the Sarqala-3 well has increased by 25 percent reaching 35,000 barrels.

The well runs to a total depth of 3,291 metres, with drilling having been undertaken under the challenging geological conditions of the Sarqala field — anomalously high pressure and reservoir temperature having demanded the use of a selection of 11 technological solutions. The construction of the Sarqala-3 well has, as a result, involved the use of large-diameter casing pipes with ultra-strong thread connections, weighted drilling mud for bottom-hole flushing, and cement incorporating mineral-based and iron-oxide additives.

Drilling the well has involved an international team, with members from 20 countries. The project was implemented by Gazprom Neft Middle East, with technical support from the Gazprom Neft Science and Technology Centre.

Vadim Yakovlev, First Deputy CEO, Gazprom Neft, commented:

“The Middle East remains an area of strategic interest to Gazprom Neft, being a region with a rich resource base, and a demonstrable willingness to allow access to investors. Experience in implementing projects from scratch — both in exploration and production — is important to us. We are continuing to evaluate opportunities for the further development of our business in the Middle East — independently and in partnership with other companies — both using the synergies offered by existing project infrastructure, as well as at other assets.”

(Source: Gazprom Neft)

By John Lee.

The President of Lukoil, Vagit Alekperov, has held a meeting with Prime Minister of Iraq Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad.

The meeting was attended by the Russian Ambassador to Iraq, Maksim Maksimov.

The parties discussed the current status of projects, among them the geological exploration at Eridu field (Block 10) in the south of Iraq.

Mr. Abdul-Mahdi expressed his support for the intention to deliver first production at Eridu field ahead of time.

(Source: Lukoil)