Russian oil producer gains foothold in Kurdish Iraq

Gazprom Neft assumes control over the Sarqala oil field in northern Iraq.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   March 15, 2016 at 6:36 AM
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MOSCOW, March 15 (UPI) -- Russian oil producer Gazprom Neft said it was taking a stronger hold over reserves in the Kurdish north of Iraq by assuming control of the area's Sarqala field.

Gazprom Neft's Middle East subsidiary said its Canadian counterpart, WesternZagros Resources Ltd. , transferred its hold over the Sarqala field according to the terms of a production sharing contract signed in 2012. Work on the field is now managed by the staff of the Russian oil company.

The field is part of the regional Garmian block, where oil production started in 2015. To data, Gazprom Neft said total production stands at around 19.8 million barrels.

"Gazprom Neft's interest in the Garmian block stands at 40 percent," the company said in a statement. "Detailed field appraisal on this block is currently ongoing in preparation for its being opened up for large-scale development, with the Kurdistan Regional Government currently assessing preliminary plans, to that end."

While much of the Kurdish north has been spared from violence, attacks attributed to the terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State and, separately, the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK, have disrupted the flow of oil to surrounding regions.

With the federal government in Baghdad falling short of distributing budgetary concessions to its Kurdish counterpart, the Kurdish government said its own coffers are dwindling.

Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said earlier this week the drop in oil prices has dealt a "painful blow" to the regional economy.

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