Iraq’s move to rush oil bidding could deter some major companies

The Iraqi Cabinet approved a five-year development plan with a target of 6.5 million barrels a day by 2022 earlier this month. Above, a worker operates valves in Nihran Bin Omar field north of Basra. (AP)
Updated 25 April 2018
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Iraq’s move to rush oil bidding could deter some major companies

  • Last month, Oil Minister Jabar Ali Al-Luaibi unexpectedly moved the date to receive bids from late June to April
  • Fourteen companies are qualified to bid for exploration and development rights for 11 underdeveloped blocks

BAGHDAD: Iraq is opening more of its untapped oil and gas resources to foreign developers, hoping to boost revenues after its costly war with the Daesh group, but analysts say the rushed bidding process — now timed to precede national elections — could draw a lukewarm response.
Last month, Oil Minister Jabar Ali Al-Luaibi unexpectedly moved the date to receive bids from late June to April, meaning the bidding would be held before May 12 national elections. Some believe Al-Luaibi, who is campaigning for a seat in parliament, moved up the date for political reasons.
Al-Luaibi hopes to represent the oil-rich southern province of Basra as a member of the Victory Alliance, which is led by Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, who is running for re-election.
“Personal and partisan interests are taking priority over national interests,” said Ruba Husari, managing director of the consulting firm Iraq Insight. “The objective of the exercise is aimed doubtlessly at portraying the ministry — and the minister — as aggressive in developing the nation’s resources ahead of the (elections).”
The Associated Press placed multiple calls to Al-Luaibi’s spokesman, who did not pick up. An aide to the spokesman said Al-Luaibi’s office was too busy with the election campaign to comment on the allegations.
In one of his campaign videos, Al-Luaibi tries to reassure a group of weary Iraqis who are worried about their future.
“Past years have wreaked havoc on everything,” a man in traditional Arab clothing says in the video, referring to the devastation caused by war. “Iraq’s wealth is your responsibility,” says a woman dressed in a conservative abaya — a loose black cloak that covers the body from shoulders to feet.
“I’m confident that with your determination I can protect the wealth of the generations,” Al-Luaibi says at the end of the video.
Thursday’s auction will be the fifth since Iraq opened its vast oil and gas reserves to international energy companies in 2009 for the first time in decades.
In previous bidding rounds, officials spent months hosting conferences, road shows and discussions with companies before issuing final contracts. Last month, the minister changed the date to April 15, but when companies asked for more time it was extended to Wednesday, and then to TSwitch to plain text editorhursday.
Ian Thom, principal analyst at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said the tighter deadline could work against Iraq.
“Companies may be more cautious if they have not fully evaluated the bid terms,” he said. “This may result in bids being less competitive as companies seek a greater margin of safety.”
Fourteen companies are qualified to bid for exploration and development rights for 11 underdeveloped blocks.
Seven are located near the border with Iran, and three others are located near the Kuwaiti border, while the 11th is in the Arabian Gulf, in Iraqi territorial waters.
Encouraged by an improved security situation, Iraq in 2009 began to attract international oil companies to develop its vast untapped oil and gas reserves. Top among major oil companies are the US’s Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, the UK’s BP, China’s CNPC and Russia’s Lukoil.
Since then, Iraq has awarded a handful of oil deals to develop major fields that hold more than half of its 153.1 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. Deals to tap natural gas resources were also awarded. As a result, Iraq’s daily production and exports have jumped to levels not seen since the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The country is now producing around 4.36 million barrels a day from Baghdad-controlled oil fields, up from nearly 2.4 million a day in 2009, and its daily exports averaged 3.450 million barrels a day last month, making it OPEC’s second-largest producer behind Saudi Arabia. Oil revenues make up nearly 95 percent of the country’s budget.
An economic crisis set in over the course of 2014, when the Daesh group swept across much of northern and western Iraq and oil prices plummeted. Iraqi forces concluded major military operations against the extremists last year, but large parts of the country were reduced to rubble.
In February, Iraq secured $30 billion from international donors to help rebuild devastated areas, far from the $88.2 billion Baghdad estimates it needs.
Earlier this month, the Iraqi Cabinet approved a five-year development plan with a target of 6.5 million barrels a day by 2022.
Iraq’s 2018 budget of nearly $88 billion comes with a deficit of more than $10 billion. It is based on a projected oil price of $46 per barrel and a daily export capacity of 3.8 million barrels.


OPEC cut ‘biggest in almost 2 years’

Updated 18 January 2019
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OPEC cut ‘biggest in almost 2 years’

  • OPEC said in a monthly report its oil output fell by 751,000 barrels per day (bpd) in December to 31.58 million bpd
  • OPEC expects 2019 global oil demand growth to slow to 1.29 million bpd from 1.5 million in 2018

LONDON: OPEC said on Thursday it had cut oil output sharply in December before a new accord to limit supply took effect, suggesting producers have made a strong start to averting a glut in 2019 as a slowing economy curbs demand.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said in a monthly report its oil output fell by 751,000 barrels per day (bpd) in December to 31.58 million bpd, the biggest month-on-month drop in almost two years.
Worried by a drop in oil prices and rising supplies, OPEC and its allies, including Russia, agreed in December to return to production cuts in 2019. They pledged to lower output by 1.2 million bpd, of which OPEC’s share is 800,000 bpd.
The reduction in December means that should OPEC fully implement the new Jan. 1 cut, it will avoid a surplus that could weaken prices. Oil slid from $86 a barrel in October to below $50 in December on concerns of excess supply.
OPEC expects 2019 global oil demand growth to slow to 1.29 million bpd from 1.5 million in 2018 although it was more upbeat about the economic backdrop than last month and cited better sentiment in the oil market, where crude is back above $60.
“While the economic risk remains skewed to the downside, the likelihood of a moderation in monetary tightening is expected to slow the decelerating economic growth trend in 2019,” OPEC said.
“This has recently been reflected in global financial markets. The positive effect on market sentiment was also witnessed in the oil market,” it said.
The supply cut was a policy U-turn after the producer alliance known as OPEC+ agreed in June 2018 to boost supply amid pressure from US President Donald Trump to lower prices and cover an expected shortfall in Iranian exports.
OPEC changed course after the slide in prices starting in October. A previous OPEC+ supply curb starting in January 2017 — when OPEC production fell by 890,000 bpd according to OPEC figures — got rid of a glut formed in 2014-2016.
In a sign of excess supply, OPEC’s report said oil inventories in developed economies had stayed above the five-year average in November.
The biggest drop in OPEC supply last month came from Saudi Arabia and amounted to 468,000 bpd, the survey showed.
Saudi supply in November had hit a record above 11 million bpd.
The Kingdom told OPEC it lowered supply to 10.64 million bpd in December and has said it plans to go even further in January by delivering a larger cut than required under the OPEC+ deal.
The second-largest was an involuntary cut by Libya, where unrest led to the shutdown of the country’s biggest oilfield.
Output from Iran posted the third-largest decline, also involuntary, as US sanctions that started in November discouraged companies from buying its oil.
Iran, Libya and Venezuela are exempt from the 2019 supply cut deal and are expected by some analysts to post further falls, giving a tailwind to the voluntary effort by the others.
OPEC said in the report that 2019 demand for its crude would decline to 30.83 million bpd, a drop of 910,000 bpd from 2018, as rivals pump more and the slowing economy curbs demand.
Delivering the 800,000 bpd cut from December’s level should mean the group would be pumping slightly less than the expected demand for its crude this year and so avoid a surplus. Last month’s report had pointed to a surplus.
The figures for OPEC production and demand for its crude were lowered by about 600,000 bpd to reflect Qatar’s exit from the group, which now has 14 members.