“Kurdistan is the oil exploration capital of the world,” says Tony Hayward, the former chief executive of BP, now chief executive of Genel Energy, the largest independent oil producer in the region.With Or Without Exxon, Iraq Kurds Strive For Energy Autonomy
Exxon’s decision to enter the region in 2011 was a turning point, with Chevron, Total and Gazprom following in its wake.
The KRG says their arrival should silence critics who question the legality of the production-sharing contracts it has signed with international energy groups. “[Exxon’s arrival] is an endorsement of our policy,” says Ashti Hawrami, the KRG’s minister of natural resources.
Baghdad says the Exxon contract and the roughly 50 other deals the KRG has signed are unconstitutional and has barred oil companies that enter the north from participating in Iraqi oil licensing rounds. It has also made life hard for oil companies operating in KRG-controlled areas who often have to wait months for Baghdad to pay them for the oil they produce.
Behind the closed doors of their offices in the United States, top executives and lawyers for Exxon Mobil are poring over two sets of contracts, weighing a decision that could shift the balance of power in Iraq.Exxon, Kurdistan Visit Disputed Iraqi Oil Block leading to Exxon's Deal With The Kurds Inflames Baghdad
The bombshell exploded last month when Exxon Mobil, the world's largest oil company, defied the instructions of the Baghdad government and signed a deal with the Iraqi Kurds to search for oil in the northern area of Iraq they control. To make matters worse, three of the areas Exxon has signed up to explore are on territory the two authorities dispute. The government must now decide if it will retaliate by kicking Exxon out of a giant oilfield it is developing in the south of Iraq.Chevron Acquires New Stake in Kurdish Oil License
The company and the Kurdish regional government have agreed on the terms of the deal but have yet to sign it, the official said.Kurds Warn BP Not To Drill For Baghdad
The Iraqi central government has barred Chevron from having oil contracts in central and southern Iraq since the California-based company bought stakes in the two oil-exploration blocks.
"The terms in the north are much better. The government gets a stake, but the better you do, the more you get, and the terms are attractive," he said. Plus the overall conditions are "night and day better" in Kurdistan than in Baghdad, he said. "You fly into a very modern, efficient airport. There are good hotels, good infrastructure."
When combined with the Kurdish authorities’ already-existing plans to build independent oil and natural gas export pipelines out of Kurdistan that avoid the Arab regions of Iraq entirely, the oil deals look increasingly like a robust, commercial-led carving out of the region as a stand-alone entity. Some might call it another substantial piece of the puzzle toward the creation of the Kurds’ longstanding national dream — a state of their own.
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