Iraq calls on BP to ‘quickly’ develop disputed oilfields after seizing areas of Kirkuk

18 Oct

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Iraqi government forces remove a Kurdish flag from the Bai Hassan oil field, west of the multi-ethnic northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, on October 17, 2017.

Iraq urged BP to help develop oilfields in the disputed city of Kirkuk on Wednesday, after central government forces loyal to Baghdad swept through the Kurdish-held territory at the start of the week.

Iraqi forces began a takeover of almost the entire disputed Kirkuk province Monday, with Kurdish forces retreating to nearby oilfields.

The military maneuvers in northern Iraq come after the country’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence in a referendum last month. The vote was subsequently declared illegitimate by Iraq’s central government.

Baghdad is reportedly seeking to double Kirkuk’s oil output to more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) and has requested the support of Britain’s oil major to help achieve this aim.

Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi asked BP “to quickly make plans to develop the Kirkuk oilfields,” as reported in an oil ministry statement Wednesday.

BP was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

‘Coordinated plan’

Herman Wang, OPEC specialist at S&P Global Platts, told CNBC Wednesday that he was unclear regarding the leadership in Kirkuk after Peshmagra fighters had left the disputed province.

“There seemed to be some sort of coordinated plan, now who was in charge of this coordinated plan is not that clear to me at this point,” he said.

Iraq is OPEC’s second-largest oil producer. Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq are among the most productive in the country and contain much of its energy infrastructure. BP has estimated that Kirkuk has approximately 9 billion barrels of recoverable oil remaining.

Geopolitical tensions in Iraq were supportive to oil prices Wednesday morning. Brent crude rose 0.7 percent to $58.29 a barrel while U.S. oil futures hovered near the $52 level in mid-morning trade.