China Buys “nearly Half” of Iraq’s oil

By John Lee.

An advisor to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has said that nearly half of the country's oil exports go to China, making China the number one market for Iraqi oil.

Speaking on Thursday, Mazhar Muhammad Salih said that China accounts for about 40-44 percent of Iraqi oil exports, equating to about 800,000 barrels of oil per day.

(Source: INA)

(Pictured: Former Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi with China's Premier Xi Jinping, in September 2019)

The post China Buys "nearly Half" of Iraq's oil first appeared on Iraq Business News.

IOC’s Strategic Positioning in Iraqi Upstream Petroleum

By Ahmed Mousa Jiyad.

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

IOC's Strategic Positioning in Iraq Upstream Petroleum

Much talk have been circulating recently on "Big Oil" abandoning Iraq upstream petroleum projects after they rushed into the country many years ago. How much truth is in this; who is leaving, remaining and planning a comeback; why and what material evidences are available to provide verifiable realistic explanation are some of the topics this brief intervention attempts to address.

IOCs positioning in Iraq upstream petroleum have seen a dramatic shift since a Grand Opining Big Push Policy- GOBPP was pursued in 2004; offering IOCs opportunities to achieving unprecedented expansion in the petroleum production capacity during short period.

Their involvement and strategic positioning went through three phases: the first, 2004 to end 2008, comprises many memoranda of understanding/cooperation (MoU/Cs ) in search for foothold and as springboard for further opportunities; transparent competitive bidding phase, June 2009 to May 2012, includes four bid rounds and, third phase covers contracts implementation that began from January 2010 up to date.

Ministry of Oil- MoO concluded some 40 MoU/Cs with IOCs from 23 countries, with overwhelming dominance of the US (9); Japan and Norway (4 each); China, UAE, UK and Canada (2 each) and one company from 16 countries.

For IOCs, MoU/Cs represent invaluable direct contact with Iraqi staff and professionals at all layers of responsibility and access to most archives and database relating to upstream petroleum; that helped IOCs exploring where and what they could do to chart their way towards business in Iraq's upstream petroleum and beyond, i.e., to plan their strategic positioning in the sector. Some IOCs had their MoU/C terminated and were blacklisted from further involvement in upstream petroleum projects, due to their agreements with KRG in violation of the government declared policy.

MoU/Cs contributed in formulating and development of a model contract, and by the time they were terminated MoO succeeded, through direct government-to-government talks (with China), in converting Alahdab oilfield from production sharing to service contract. That conversion presents the model for what MoO offers: a long term service contract not a production sharing contract; an outcome many IOCs had not hoped for and probably impacted their decision for further undertaking.

The first bid round, for brown oilfields, was held end June 2009, followed by three bid rounds for green fields, gas fields and exploration blocks respectively; the last was convened end May 2012.

120 IOCs participated in the qualification process for the bid rounds, 55 from 27 countries were qualified: Japan (9); USA (7); Russia (5); China and UK (4 each); Australia, India and Italy (2 each), and 19 other countries with one company each; a different profile from phase one with obvious strategic positioning implications.

The outcome of the four bid rounds and Alahdab are: 14 oilfields contracted to 15 IOCs from 12 countries; a consolidation of strategic positioning. Total contracted plateau production was 12.3mbd and their total proven reserves ca. 67 billion barrels (58% of the country's proven reserves at that time). Three gas fields were contracted to 3 IOCs from 3 countries with total plateau production of 820mcfd and proven reserves of 11.2tcf. Finally, four exploration blocks were contracts with 7 IOCs from 5 countries resulting in discovery of Fayha and Eridu oilfields.

The contracted plateau production of 12.3mbd was IOCs making that proven to be unrealistic and unattainable, thus, consequently revised downward repeatedly!!

During the second phase many meaningful signs for significant shift in IOCs strategic positioning began to emerge, the most apparent consolidation was Russia.

The third phase, i.e., contracts implementation period, witnessed the most dramatic effective and lasting shifts in IOCs strategic positioning.

A complexity of combined reasons had contributed to such an outcome; some are related to IOCs themselves, others related to the Iraqi side (entities, policies and circumstances), while the rest are related to a variety of international factors and geopolitical considerations. Space limitation prevents from indulging in the details of relevant data, facts and documents, but it is useful to mention the most impacting among them: Fracking revolution in the US; ISIS and oil price collapse in mid-June 2014 that inflicted serious blow to Iraq fiscal, security and developmental efforts; OPEC+ impact on Iraq production; Covid-19 and finally energy/green transition and climate change debate.

However, it is vital to highlight briefly the IOCs that strengthened or weakened their positions during this phase.

In the context of Iraqi GOBPP, strategic positioning is taken here to mean IOCs persistent, competitive, enhanced and long-term underrating in Iraq upstream petroleum. Three dimensions manifest IOC involvement and its strategic positioning: horizontal (in multi-fields), vertical (the participating interest-PI in the fields) and volumetric (in terms of proven reserves and production due to field development).

From November 2013 China began enhancing its presence in the country through consolidating CNPC , CNOOC, ZhenHua , Sinopec , UEG and probably CPECC, which   invests in utilizing all associated gas produced in Missan Province . In addition to the above, there are many Chines service companies that are involved in upstream petroleum activities such as drilling, supply and construct surface installations, pipelines, field management among others.

Russian Lukoil enhanced its position vertically horizontally and volumetric in West Qurna 2-WQ2 oilfield and in exploration Block 10 that led to Eridu oilfield discovery; Lukoil found other reservoirs beyond the field's current borders and thus requested to expand Eridu field. Surprisingly, the Oil Minister reportedly said recently Lukoil intends to sell its PI in WQ2 to a Chines company!

Other Russian IOCs with bid round contracts include Gazprom (operator of Badra oilfield) and Bashneft/ Rosneft (for Exploration Block 12), KRG not included here.

In addition to Chines and Russian IOCs Japanese companies increased their presence as well: Japex (Gharraf oilfield); INPEX (Exploration Block 10/Eridu oilfield) and Itochu bought entire Shell' PI (20%) in WQ1.

Against the consolidation of the Chines, Russian and Japanese companies, other IOCs lost or weakened their presence in upstream petroleum; these include Big Oil- as ExxonMobil, Shell and Oxy and medium-small size companies such as Petronas, Kogas, Kuwait Energy, TPAO.

Occidental Petroleum relinquished, in 2016, its PI in Zubair oilfield to South Oil Company (now Basra Oil Company), due to its decision pulling out from projects in the Middle East for financial reasons.

ExxonMobil demise began almost ten years ago soon after it had attained significant consolidation; a demise of its own making!! Apart from the contribution of the Iraqi factors ExxonMobil faced and facing many other challenges that exacerbate its decision to abandon Iraq. These include restructuring its international profile; energy transition (away from fossil-based to renewable-energy) environmentally-conscious; shareholder revolts, expulsion of ExxonMobil representative from EITI'MSG due to position regarding Dobb-Franck issue and the forthcoming SEC environmental compliance rules.

Royal Shell story is not very different from that of ExxonMobil. Shell launched initially a powerful strategic positioning, resisted the temptation of engaging with KRG petroleum and diversified its portfolio in oil, gas and petrochemical projects. Now it has much weakened role; withdrew from Majnoon oilfield, sold its PI in WQ1, rumors that it contemplate leaving Basra Gas Compan- BGC , whose  HoA was signed in 2008 but it did not deliver the contracted target, and Nibras petrochemical project, with MIM & MoO, draggeed for too many years without any prospect.

Again, Shell decision to leave WQ1 and Majnoon oilfields and possibly BGC was not entirely due to contractual and working conditions in Iraq; one possible explanation relates to Shell' overall plan to restructure its global business, following its takeover of British Gas Group- BGG. Also Shell faces legal action; A Dutch court ruled, recently, that Shell will have to reduce its carbon emissions by 45 percent from 2019 levels by 2030.

BP has only one engagement- Rumaila oilfield, with almost equal PI with CNPC (while during the June 2009 bidding round BP' PI was double that of CNPC). Recently, BP decided to spin off its involvement in Rumaila into a stand-alone company, a "ring fencing practice", for reasons relating to diverting its global assets and investment plans.  Though this move is more structural and organizational in nature that has, contractually, no effect on Iraq, it, nevertheless, could indicate possible departure from Rumaila sooner or later.

Total, rebranded TotalEnergies, have very modest PI in only one oilfield- Halfaya, is trying a comeback to Iraq through concluding HoA comprising four major projects, three of which are part of SIIP that Iraq wasted too many years discussing with ExxonMobil!!

Surely, IOCs strategic positioning has significant implications for petroleum sector and the prospect of the entire economy. There has been a tendency for some to be highly selective by focusing only on one Iraqi based, real reason, such as harsh contractual terms; type of contracts; corruption, resource mismanagement and security conditions among others. While all these are real and effective, they are absolutely not the only factors behind IOCs shift and change of priorities as there is a complex wed that one should be aware of; 20 IOCs have recently warned for tax violation and IOCs that lost their strategic positioning inside Iraqi petroleum had themselves contributed to that outcome.

Moreover, global energy/green transition and international geopolitics have powerful ramifications though the debate is, as usual, not conclusive. While IEA recent report could have effective impact, REN21 new report raises doubt; and such wide divergence suggests oil remains needed much longer than some thinks.

Click here to download the full report 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.

The post IOC's Strategic Positioning in Iraqi Upstream Petroleum first appeared on Iraq Business News.

China to Snap Up Iraqi Oil Assets?

By John Lee.

Both BP and Lukoil are reported to be considering quitting upstream oil operations in Iraq.

Reuters quotes Iraq's Oil Minister, Ihssan Abdul-Jabbar Ismail, as making the comments during a parliamentary session last week.

Last month, BP was said to be planning to spin off its Iraqi operations in Iraq into a separate company, which would be jointly owned with its partner in the giant Rumaila project, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

Meanwhile, the Minister said Russia's Lukoil is thought to be trying sell its 75-percent stake in the West Qurna-2 oilfield to Chinese firms.

More here and here.

(Sources: Reuters, Oil Price)

The post China to Snap Up Iraqi Oil Assets? first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Iraq Borrows $360m to Reduce Gas Flaring

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, is investing in Basrah Gas Company (BGC) to support one of the largest gas flaring reduction projects in the world, helping to improve energy access, prevent associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and support a more resilient, sustainable energy sector in Iraq.

BGC is an Iraqi joint venture created to treat and process associated gas that would otherwise be flared. The project is expected to increase BGC's processing capacity, thereby avoiding more unnecessary flaring and associated GHG emissions by around 10 million tons per annum. It will support Iraq's transition to a lower carbon path and improve access to a domestic energy source, helping the country meet its growing power needs.

IFC is the lead arranger of the five-year, $360 million loan to BGC.

Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismail, Minister of Oil for Iraq, said:

"Signing the loan agreement reinforces the collective efforts to increase investment in associated gas flaring reduction using world-class technologies. It is in line with our objectives of turning flared gas into cleaner valuable energy and reducing the impact of the Green House Gas emissions on the environment.

"This loan opens new horizons for cooperation and collaboration that serve common purposes and interests, reiterating Iraq's commitment to increasing investment in associated gas flaring reduction and to achieving the objectives set by the Paris Agreement."

Malcolm Mayes, BGC Managing Director, said:

"We are delighted to have successfully signed this loan with IFC, the first loan facility of its kind in the energy sector in Iraq-a milestone to be proud of.

"The agreement demonstrates the strength of Iraqi companies and their ability to attract funding and trust from international banks. The intent of this five-year loan is to support BGC's growth project and turn the otherwise wasted flared gas into much needed energy for the country. Our strategy is in alignment with the government of Iraq's vision to power Iraqi homes with electricity and create a more sustainable energy industry."

Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice President for the Middle East and Africa, said:

"This pioneering project has the potential to deliver significant environmental and economic benefits, including lower GHG emissions and increased fiscal revenues, and will improve energy access and lower costs for Iraqi citizens.

"The project comes after years of hard work and strong cooperation by all parties involved. We hope that it will send a strong signal to other investors and help drive more private investments to tackle climate change and support inclusive growth in Iraq."

IFC's investment comprises a $137.76 million loan for IFC's own account, a $180 million loan in which participations were syndicated to eight international banks (Bank of China, Citi, Deutsche Bank AG, Industrial Commercial Bank of China, Natixis, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Société Générale and Standard Chartered Bank), and a $42.24 million loan through IFC's Managed Co-Lending Portfolio Program, a platform that allows institutional investors to participate in IFC's loan portfolio. The loan is without recourse to or guarantees from any of the shareholders.

Iraq is endowed with significant reserves of natural gas, mainly produced as a byproduct of legacy oil extraction. However, in the absence of adequate infrastructure to capture and process it, about 70 percent of all natural gas produced in the country is flared. Capturing associated gas for subsequent use can help Iraq reduce overall emissions.

The project benefits from long-standing engagements of the World Bank Group in Iraq's energy sector. Iraq joined the Global Gas Flaring Reduction initiative in 2011 and committed in 2013 to eliminate all routine natural gas flaring by 2030.

(Sources: IFC, Iraqi Govt)

The post Iraq Borrows $360m to Reduce Gas Flaring first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Iraq “Cancels” Oil Deal with China’s Zhenhua

By John Lee.

Iraq has reportedly cancelled its $2-billion pre-paid oil supply agreement with Zhenhua Oil Company.

Under a deal said to have been agreed in January, the state-owned Chinese company would pay Iraq in advance for a year's supply of oil.

S&P Global Platts reported the following month that Iraq had "frozen" the deal, following an increase in oil prices.

The price of oil has continued to rise, with Iraq confirming an average price of $65.842 per barrel exported in May, considerably higher than the $53.294 per barrel it received in January.

More here.

(Source: S&P Global Platts)

The post Iraq "Cancels" Oil Deal with China's Zhenhua first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Iraqi Cabinet Awards Energy Contracts

By John Lee.

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Iraqi Cabinet agreed to send an invitation, "in a single bid manner", to the French company Total to invest in a project to generate 1,000 megawatts of solar electric power.

The project was originally agreed in March as part of a larger engagement with the French energy company, which last week announced that it would rebrand itself as TotalEnergies.

The cabinet also approved a request from the Ministry of Electricity to award a contract "in a single bidding manner" to the Chinese company PowerChina (Power Construction Corporation of China).

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

The post Iraqi Cabinet Awards Energy Contracts first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Iraq may Buy Exxon stake in West Qurna 1

By John Lee.

Press reports quote Iraq's oil minister as saying that Iraq could buy ExxonMobil's 32.7-percent stake in the West Qurna 1 oil field.

Ihssan Abdul-Jabbar Ismail told a news conference on Monday that the government might purchase the stake via the state-owned Basra Oil Company (BOC).

BOC previously took over the Majnoon field from Shell and Petronas at the end of June 2018.

It had previously been rumoured (see here and here) that China would take over Exxon's holding in West Qurna 1.

Earlier this year, ExxonMobil sold its share in the Baeshiqa license in the Kurdistan region of Iraq to DNO.

(Sources: Reuters, Bloomberg)

The post Iraq may Buy Exxon stake in West Qurna 1 first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Chinese Company to Develop Iraq’s Mansuriyah Gas Field

By John Lee.

The Chinese company Sinopec (China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation) has won a contract to develop the Mansuriyah gas field in Diyala.

The field, near the Iranian border, is expected to produce 300 million standard cubic feet (Mmscf) per day of gas, which will be used for electricity generation.

In 2010, an agreement had been signed for the field to be developed by Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) (37.5%), Iraqi Oil Exploration Company (25%), Kuwait Energy (KEC) (22.5%), and Kogas (15%). This consortium stopped development in 2014 due to security concerns, and the agreement was reportedly cancelled in 2020.

Under the new 25-year deal agreed on Tuesday, Sinopec will have a 49-percent interest in the field, with Iraq's state-owned Midland [Middle, Central] Oil Company having 51 percent.

The contract may be extended for an additional five years.

According to the Ministry of Oil, Sinopec's bid was he lowest submitted.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

The post Chinese Company to Develop Iraq's Mansuriyah Gas Field first appeared on Iraq Business News.