Iraq has ‘contingency plans’ for its power grid in case Iran gas imports halted

Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said he hopes there will not be a repeat of power outages this year. (Reuters/File photo)
Updated 17 May 2019

Iraq has ‘contingency plans’ for its power grid in case Iran gas imports halted

  • A lack of electricity was one complaint by protesters in demonstrations that descended into violence in Iraq’s oil hub of Basra last year

BAGHDAD: Iraq has contingency plans for any stoppage of Iranian gas imports for its power grid but hopes no such disruption will take place, Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said on Thursday.
He also said a meeting of OPEC’s ministerial monitoring committee in Saudi Arabia this weekend would assess member states’ commitment to a deal reducing oil production and that oil prices and markets were now stable.
“It’s still too early to predict what will be decided,” Ghadhban told a news conference when asked whether the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its oil-producer allies could extend the output cut or boost supplies.
The gathering on Sunday in Jeddah may issue a recommendation ahead of OPEC’s policymaking meeting with its allies next month in Vienna.
Turkey has asked to buy more Iraqi crude, Ghadhban added, speaking in Baghdad a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi traveled to Turkey to meet President Tayyip Erdogan.
The United States is ramping up sanctions pressure on Iraq’s neighbor and ally Iran, especially over oil exports.
“Turkey has asked to increase its crude oil imports from Iraq and we have pledged to consider the Turkish request positively,” Ghadhban said.
Iraq relies heavily on gas from Iran for its electricity supply, which is stretched during hot summer months.
A lack of electricity was one complaint by protesters in demonstrations that descended into violence in Iraq’s oil hub of Basra last year.
Asked how Iraq would react if Iranian gas imports were halted, Ghadhban said: “We hope there will be no halt, but we have taken precautionary measures for such a situation.”
The United States is urging Baghdad to sign energy deals with US companies, including a share for General Electric of a $14 billion power scheme that Washington says would help wean Iraq off Iranian energy.
Ghadhban said international oil companies were operating as normal. He added that oilfields in the south and north of the country were safe and secure amid increased tensions between Washington and Tehran.
The United States evacuated non-essential staff from its diplomatic missions in Iraq over unspecified threats from Iran on Wednesday.
Sources close to foreign oil companies denied reports they were also evacuating employees on Wednesday.
The Kerbala refinery in southern Iraq will start operating in 2022 with a production capacity of 150,000 barrels per day (bpd), Ghadhban said.
Iraq plans to build a refinery with a capacity of 150,000 bpd near the northern city of Mosul to refine heavy crude from the nearby Nejma and Qayyara oilfields, the minister said.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a signing ceremony for a $400 million investment contract with Iraq’s Al-Barham Group Co.
Under the deal, facilities will be built near the Kirkuk refinery to produce 12,000 bpd of high-octane gasoline and 160 tons of liquefied petroleum gas per day.


Argentine economy minister resigns amid deepening crisis

Updated 13 min 48 sec ago

Argentine economy minister resigns amid deepening crisis

  • The country’s peso ended the week having shed 20 percent of its value against the US dollar

BUENOS AIRES: Argentina’s Economy Minister Nicolas Dujovne resigned after a week of economic tumult caused by President Mauricio Macri’s defeat in a primary poll ahead of a general election.

Dujovne will be replaced by Hernan Lacunza, economy minister for Buenos Aires province, Argentine media reported.

The country’s peso ended the week having shed 20 percent of its value against the US dollar as both Fitch and S&P cut the South American country’s long-term credit rating, citing increased uncertainty and a rising risk of default.

Dujovne said, in a letter posted on the website of La Nacion newspaper, he was “convinced that, under the circumstances, the (government’s) management needs significant renewal in the economic arena.”

He leaves in the middle of a deepening economic crisis following last Sunday’s primary elections in which market-friendly Macri was dealt a huge blow in his bid for re-election when he polled 15 points less than center-left Peronist candidate Alberto Fernandez.

The primaries serve as a bellwether for general elections in October. Dujovne’s announcement marks the first change in Macri’s Cabinet since voters went to the polls.

Fitch, which downgraded Argentina’s credit rating two notches to “CCC,” said the center-right’s defeat “increases risks of a break from the policy strategy of the current administration of Mauricio Macri guided by a program with the IMF.”

Fernandez, now the clear favorite to unseat Macri, has questioned the reform program backed by a $56 billion rescue package from the International Monetary Fund.

Standard & Poor’s dropped Argentina’s rating a single grade from “B” to “B-.”

“My resignation is consistent with a government and political space that listens to the people and that acts accordingly,” Dujovne said, in a clear message to the Argentine electorate.