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.

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ShaMaran Increases Stake in Sarsang Contract

By John Lee.

ShaMaran Petroleum has announced that it has signed an agreement with a subsidiary of French major TotalEnergies S.E. to acquire its affiliate (TEPKRI Sarsang A/S) holding an 18% non-operated participating interest in the Sarsang Production Sharing Contract in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for an initial consideration of USD 155 million plus working capital adjustments amounting to USD 14.2 million as of January 1, 2021.

Shares in the company were up 16 percent on the news.

An additional contingent consideration of USD 15 million is payable in the future as more fully described below.  The Acquisition is transformative to ShaMaran's production, reserves and financial profile and delivers on the Company's focused and disciplined strategy for growth by targeting this opportunity that is accretive to the Company, its shareholders and its bondholders.

HIGHLIGHTS

The Acquisition:

  • Adds immediate incremental participating interest production of approximately 5,000 bopd of light crude oil;
  • Is expected to double ShaMaran's Q2 2021 average net production of 11,090 bopd following the completion of the processing facility expansion at Swara Tika field by mid-2022;
  • Enhances ShaMaran's oil reserves through the addition of high API and low sulphur oil that achieves a low discount to Brent; and
  • Provides a low cost structure with life-of-field operating expenditure anticipated to be approximately USD 5.60/boe.

The Sarsang block is on the northern border of the Company's Atrush block and is comprised of two producing fields: Swara Tika and East Swara Tika.  At Swara Tika, an expansion project is well underway with the addition of a new 25,000 bpd processing facility which is expected to lift gross production to approximately 50,000 bopd by mid-2022. Through the Acquisition, ShaMaran will add strong cash flow and a production growth trajectory underpinned by its interests in two cash-positive PSCs with three producing fields in the same vicinity.

Following a successful closing of the Acquisition, the Company's Q2 2021 average net production of 11,090 bopd is expected to double in second half of 2022 after the facility expansion at Swara Tika is completed. Additionally, the Sarsang crude is of high quality and enjoys one of the lowest price discounts to Brent in Kurdistan. In connection with the new facility being commissioned by mid-2022, the Sarsang block will also be connected to the Atrush feeder pipeline for future pipeline export and will thereby have a permanent pipeline connection to the export market.

The Acquisition is highly accretive and transformative to ShaMaran as it grows from a single asset company to a multi-field producer and paves the way for future growth opportunities for ShaMaran.

ShaMaran's President and Chief Executive, Dr. Adel Chaouch, said:

"We are delighted that we have agreed the acquisition of the TotalEnergies' non-operating interest in Sarsang, a high-quality producing asset with strong operational and financial fit to ShaMaran's business. This is a strategic transaction for ShaMaran delivering value to equity and debt holders and strengthening the financial profile of the Company.

"Upon completion, this acquisition will add immediate material production and cash flow to ShaMaran and will provide significant value enhancement. It demonstrates our continued commitment to Kurdistan and diversifies our existing production base.

"Sarsang has an attractive discovered reserves base with a strong track record of safety and sustained production.  As a neighboring field to the Atrush field, becoming a partner in the Sarsang field presents opportunities for potential integration synergies with Atrush operations.

"We would like to thank TotalEnergies for their commitment in the negotiations of this acquisition and look forward to a constructive partnership in the future with the Sarsang operator, as well as a continued and trusted relationship with the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq."

TRANSACTION DETAILS

ShaMaran has agreed to acquire 100% of the shares of TEPKRI Sarsang A/S ("TEPKRI"), a subsidiary of TotalEnergies, which holds an 18% non-operated participating interest in the Sarsang PSC.  The Acquisition has an effective date of January 1, 2021.

ShaMaran will pay an initial consideration of USD 155 million upon closing of the Acquisition before working capital and related adjustments and an additional contingent consideration of USD 15 million in the future, as follows:

  • The initial consideration of USD 155 million is divided into (i) an upfront cash payment of USD 135 million payable upon closing and (ii) a deferred consideration of USD 20 million structured as a vendor finance in the form of a 5.5% convertible promissory note issued to a subsidiary of TotalEnergies with a 12-months' maturity from the date of closing.
  • An additional contingent consideration of USD 15 million is payable in the future upon (i) cumulative gross production from the Sarsang PSC reaching 130 MMbbls and (ii) subject to Brent crude oil prices averaging at least USD 60/bbl for a twelve months' period.

ShaMaran expects to receive significant positive cash flow upon closing of the Acquisition based on 2021 cash flows at current oil prices.

The Company intends to finance the Acquisition through the issue of new debt, equity and by utilizing the Company's cash balance.

The "change of control" of TEPKRI resulting from the Acquisition is subject to regulatory and exchange approvals in Canada, the Kurdistan Region and Sweden.

DEBT FINANCING

The Company intends to issue an up to USD 300 million new 4-year bond to refinance existing debt and raise new capital for the Acquisition.  Subject to the closing of the Acquisition, USD 175 million of the currently outstanding USD 180 million ShaMaran 2023 bond (after the USD 5 million repayment due in late 2021) will exchange at 102% of par into the proposed new bond at par value.  In aggregate, USD 185.7 million (including the USD 7.2 million amount described below) will be issued to refinance the existing debt into the new bond upon closing of the Acquisition and up to USD 114.3 million will be issued for cash to finance the Acquisition and other general corporate purposes. Cash proceeds from the new bond will be placed in an escrow account and only released upon satisfaction of the closing conditions to the Acquisition.  The existing debt that is proposed to be refinanced into the new bond includes USD 7.2 million of the total USD 22.8 million debt currently owed by the Company to Nemesia S.à.r.l. (a private company ultimately controlled by a trust the settlor of which is the Estate of the late Adolf H. Lundin) ("Nemesia").  The USD 15.6 million balance will remain outstanding as described below.

The Company and its advisors have engaged with a majority of bondholders that prior to the date of this news release have pre-committed to vote in favour of the conditional refinancing of the existing bond through a written summons and resolutions, as well as necessary waivers for the issuance of the new bond and other financial matters relating to the existing bond.

The Company has also obtained strong interest for the contemplated new bond from a group of existing and new bond investors.  Book-building for the contemplated bond will be launched imminently together with a summons for written resolution to refinance the existing outstanding bond conditional on closing of the Acquisition.

EQUITY FINANCING

The Company intends to raise USD 30 million of additional equity capital to fund the Acquisition, which the Lundin family, as ShaMaran's largest shareholder, has agreed to support by Nemesia providing a USD 30 million equity underwriting.  The new equity is expected to be issued through a rights issue in eligible jurisdictions in connection with the Acquisition in order to provide all shareholders to whom subscription rights may be lawfully issued with a proportionately equal opportunity to participate.

Further information on the contemplated rights offering will be announced in due course.  The offering will be conditional on, inter alia, approval of the Acquisition by the TSX Venture Exchange, the approval of the Kurdistan Regional Government ("KRG"), the filing of a rights offering circular or prospectus in Canada and in Sweden and other regulatory approvals.  It is anticipated that the rights offering would be commenced as soon as practicable following receipt of KRG approval for the Acquisition.

The Lundin family underwriting will be by way of a stand-by commitment, meeting the requirements of applicable securities laws, to acquire shares not subscribed for by others pursuant to subscription rights issued in the offering.

(Source: Shamaran)

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Will Baghdad, Erbil fulfil Budget Obligations?

From Amwaj Media. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

With deal in hand, will Baghdad, Erbil fulfil budget obligations?

To what extent will the Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRI) be seriously committed to the provisions of the federal budget now that it has been approved?

And will the convulsions of the bilateral relationship between Erbil and Baghdad reappear if one of them violates these provisions or does not abide by them?

The full report can be viewed here (registration required).

The post Will Baghdad, Erbil fulfil Budget Obligations? first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Iraqi Cabinet allocates $34m for Emergency Electricity Work

By John Lee.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi chaired the regular session of the Iraqi cabinet on Tuesday.

Addressing the ongoing crisis in electricity supply, the cabinet agreed to allocate 50 billion Iraqi dinars ($34 million) for emergency expenses and maintenance of the electricity infrastructure.

This will be achieved by profitable Ministry of Oil companies lending the funds to the Ministry of Electricity companies.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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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)

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Iraq Oil Exports for June Exceed $6bn

By John Lee.

Iraq's Ministry of Oil has announced preliminary oil exports for June of 86,765,589 barrels, giving an average for the month of 2.892 million barrels per day (bpd), slightly down from the 2.899 million bpd exported in May.

The exports from the oilfields in central and southern Iraq amounted to approximately 83,690,352 barrels, while exports from Kirkuk amounted to 3,075,237 barrels.

Revenues for the month were $6.141 billion at an average price of $70.778 per barrel.

May's export figures can be found here.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

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