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.

Amarinth delivers $650k Pumps to Garraf Oilfield

UK-based pump company Amarinth has delivered four API 610 VS4 vertical pumps with Plan 53B seal support systems for the Oil Train 5 Project at Garraf oilfield.

Located at the northwest of Al-Refaei, approximately 85 kilometers north of the City of Nasiriya, half way between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the southeast of Iraq, Garraf is the fifth largest oil and gas field in Iraq with estimated reserves of 1 million barrels of oil.

Petronas and its partners are currently increasing production in the field, and the addition of Oil Train 5 is expected to bring this up to 230,000 barrels per day.

The $650,000 order of four API 610 VS4 vertical pumps with Plan 53B seal support systems was placed with Amarinth by China Petroleum Engineering Procurement & Construction (CPECC).

According to a press release from the company, this was the first time that CPECC had ordered from Amarinth and the decision was made based on Amarinth's proven ability to design and deliver bespoke API 610 pumps for hazardous areas, along with the company's previous experience of successfully supplying pumps for the Iraq market, all to strict deadlines.

The pumps were manufactured in Inconel Alloy 625, a nickel-based superalloy that possesses high strength properties, resistance to elevated temperatures and excellent protection against corrosion and oxidation. In addition, the Plan 53B seal support systems required a bespoke mounting configuration and piping design.

Amarinth successfully completed the design, manufacture, and delivery within the required 34 weeks.

Oliver Brigginshaw, Managing Director of Amarinth, commented:

"We are delighted with this first order from CPECC, again underlining our strength in the Middle East, and in particular our ability to delivery API 610 pumps into the developing oil and gas projects in Iraq."

(Source: Amarinth)

The post Amarinth delivers 0k Pumps to Garraf Oilfield first appeared on Iraq Business News.

CPECC wins $204m Contract at Majnoon

By John Lee.

The China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corp (CPECC) has reportedly won a $203.5 million engineering contract to treat sour gas at the Majnoon oilfield in Iraq.

According to Reuters, the field is now producing around 240,000 barrels per day (bpd), with plans to boost output to 450,000 bpd in 2021.

Originally awarded to Shell (45%), Petronas (30%) and the Maysan Oil Company (25%) in 2009, the field was taken over by the state-owned Basra Oil Company (BOC) at the end of June 2018, with operations and maintenance contracted to Chinese company Anton Oilfield Services Group (Antonoil) and the US company KBR.

(Source: Reuters)

Chinese Firm to recover Gas at Halfaya

By John Lee.

The China Petroleum Engineering and Construction Corporation (CPECC) has been awarded a contract to recover natural gas from the Halfaya oilfield.

Planned production is put at 300 million standard cubic feet of gas per day, according to a statement from Iraq’s Ministry of Oil.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

Chinese Company “wins Contract” to build NGL Plant

By John Lee.

A Chinese company has reportedly won a contract to build a natural gas liquids (NGL) plant in Basra.

According to Xinhua, China’s Petroleum Engineering and Construction Corporation (CPECC) signed the contract on Wednesday with Iraq’s Basra Gas Company (BGC).

As a result of the new plant, BGC will increase its gas production capacity by 40 percent.

The Basra NGL facility will be built in Ar-Ratawi area in west of Basra and is scheduled to complete at the end of 2020.

CPECC is a subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC),

(Source: Xinhua)

Turkish Firm wins Contract at Garraf

Turkish oil and gas services company Ergil has been awarded a design, engineering, fabrication, and testing contract by China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corporation ( CPECC), for PetronasGarraf oil field.

The company says it has completed designing, manufacturing and supplying of 12 units 320-bar high-pressure pig receivers and launchers, 28 units pig signallers, 12 units manual pig jib crane and 8 units pig trolley.

The field is owned by Petronas (45%), Japex (30%) and the North Oil Company (25%).

(Source: Ergil)

235-MW Rumaila Power Station Opened

By John Lee.

Oil Minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi [Allibi, Luiebi] has officially opened the Rumaila power station.

The construction of the 235 MW plant was supervised by the China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corporation (CPECC), the engineering and construction subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

The Minister said the project is considered as one of the largest projects organized by the Rumaila Operating Organization (ROO), which includes Basrah Oil Company (BOC), BP and PetroChina.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)