KIRKUK: Iraq signed a contract yesterday with British energy giant BP to develop oil fields in the northern province of Kirkuk that were retaken from the Kurds last year. The agreement was signed by Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luaybi in Kirkuk, north of Baghdad, where the North Oil Company has its headquarters, AFP reporters said.
Iraqi forces reclaimed a string of major oil fields in Kirkuk after Iraqi Kurds in September voted for independence in a controversial referendum opposed by Baghdad. The Kurds had taken over the fields in 2014 during the chaos of the Islamic State group’s rampage across the country and exported oil to Turkey through their own pipeline. Work to renovate a parallel Iraqi pipeline could take up to two years, according to experts.
Kirkuk province now has a production capacity of 420,000 barrels a day (bpd), according to Baghdad, but only 120,000 barrels a day are being pumped and exports from the region are at a halt. Iraq, the second largest producer in the OPEC cartel after Saudi Arabia, aims to increase the output of the Kirkuk oilfields to one million barrels a day, Luaybi said in November. The Iraqi oil ministry signed a consultancy contract with BP in 2013 to help the state-owned North Oil Company to develop the Havana and Baba Gurgur fields in Kirkuk province. But it was never implemented as Baghdad lost control of the fields to Kurdish forces the following year. Iraq reported its oil exports hit 109.6 million barrels a day in December, the same month that the government announced victory over IS. – AFP