Iraq may have twice as much oil as previously thought, says minister

Jabar Al-Luaibi said Iraq’s oil reserves may be double their current estimated level. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 March 2018
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Iraq may have twice as much oil as previously thought, says minister

LONDON: Iraq’s oil reserves may be double their current estimated level, according to the country’s oil minister, as OPEC’s second-largest producer invited tenders for the exploration of 11 oil and gas blocks in the country’s south and east.
Jabar Al-Luaibi made the prediction at an energy conference in Baghdad on Wednesday, Reuters reported, with his comments subsequently echoed by Adnan Al-Janabi, head of the Iraqi parliament’s oil and gas commission.
The doubling of the country’s proven reserves would see Iraq overtake Saudi Arabia to contend with Venezuela for the title of the country with the largest proven reserves.
The South American nation says it has just over 300 billion barrels worth of proven reserves, a claim met with skepticism by some market analysts, with much of its reserves consisting of hard-to-access heavy oil in the country’s Orinoco belt.
Iraq last year upgraded its reserve estimates to 153 billion barrels from their previous level of 143 billion.
The oil minister’s statement is more likely to relate to future possible increases in resources, rather than an immediate upgrade to current reserves, said Robin Mills, CEO of UAE-based Qamar Energy.
“I don’t think it has any impact on the short- or medium-term output from Iraq, but it does emphasize the tension between OPEC restraint and Iraq’s plans for production growth,” he said.
The country plans to boost crude production to more than 5 million barrels per day from the current level of 4.35 billion.
However Al-Luaibi insisted that it “definitely will not deviate from the overall decision of OPEC” when it comes to the possible extension of a deal between OPEC and other producers to cut production, due to expire at the end of the year, Reuters reported.
Speaking at the same event, OPEC Secretary-General Moham-med Barkindo told the conference that the bloc was seeking “very long-term” cooperation with non-OPEC producers.
His remarks follow comments earlier this week by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that the Kingdom is in discussions with Russia to forge an unprecedented 10-20 year cooperation agreement, building on the success of 2016’s agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers to cut output to support oil prices.
Brent crude futures, which slumped below $30 a barrel in early 2016, have recovered as a result of the production cut agreement, trading at about $70 a barrel this week.
Barkindo told conference delegates in Baghdad that OPEC was evaluating the impact of the deal to determine the “appropriate action” when it expired at the end of this year.
“In addition to the 24 countries that came to sign the declaration of cooperation in November, we have six more producing countries who came to show solidarity,” he said.
Al-Luaibi said that several oil exporters have suggested a six-month extension to the deal, declining to name them.
Barkindo said that investment in the industry was increasing following the recovery in prices, but had yet to reach levels witnessed before prices began falling in late 2014.


Libya’s NOC declares force majeure on El Sharara oilfield

Updated 18 December 2018
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Libya’s NOC declares force majeure on El Sharara oilfield

  • El Sharara — a 315,000 barrels a day field was taken over on Dec. 8 by groups of tribesmen, armed protesters and state guards demanding salary payments
  • Some government officials favor offering quick cash to the occupiers to make them leave, but NOC officials have warned that would set a precedent

TRIPOLI: Libya’s state oil firm NOC has declared force majeure on operations at the country’s largest oilfield, El Sharara, a week after it announced a contractual waiver on exports from the field following its seizure by protesters.

The 315,000 barrels a day field, located in the south of the North African OPEC member country, was taken over on Dec. 8 by groups of tribesmen, armed protesters and state guards demanding salary payments and development funds.

Officials have been unable to persuade the groups, who have been camping on the field, to leave the vast, partly unsecured site amid disagreements how best to proceed, workers on the field said.

Some government officials favor offering quick cash to the occupiers to make them leave, but NOC officials have warned that would set a precedent and encourage more blockades, workers at the oilfield say.

NOC has described the occupiers as militia trying to get on the payroll of field guards, a recurring theme in Libya where many see seizing NOC facilities as an easy way to get heard by the weak state authorities.

Production will only restart after “alternative security arrangements are put in place,” NOC said in a statement.

Operations at the smaller El Feel oilfield continued as normal, engineers said.

“Production at Sharara was forcibly shut down by an armed group — Battalion 30 and its civilian support company — that claimed to be providing security at the field, but which threatened violence against NOC employees,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanallah said in the statement.

His comments came after the chief of staff of the Tripoli-based government, Abdulrahman Attweel, criticized some of Sanalla’s previous comments about the protesters as “irresponsible.”

“These people (guards) were there to protect the field without salaries and without any attention to them and their daily needs, not in terms of accommodation, supply, transportation and communication,” Attweel told Al-Ahrar channel late on Monday.

Their demands were legitimate, he said, echoing comments by some southern lawmakers and mayors demanding more jobs and development for the neglected region.
The blockade has been complicated by the presence of tribesmen, who have argued against quick cash payments saying they want funds to improve hospitals and other services, which might take time to deliver.

The shutdown of the El Sharara has not affected the El Feel oilfield, also located in the south. It continued to pump around 70,000 barrels a day, field engineers said.
Its exports were being routed via the Melittah oil and gas port, which like El Feel belongs to a joint venture NOC has with Italian energy company Eni, another engineer said.

A spokesman for NOC did not respond to a request for comment.
El Sharara crude is normally transported to the Zawiya port, also home to a refinery. NOC runs the field with Spain’s Repsol , France’s Total, Austria’s OMV and Norway’s Equinor, formerly known as Statoil.