Iraq cancels oil contracts in showdown over Kurdistan

Iraq has halted oil exports to Austria’s OMV, Central Europe’s leading oil and gas group, to protest a deal with the autonomous Kurdish region. An official at the Oil Ministry said OMV will no longer receive 10,000 barrels per day of Basra Light crude. In November, OMV signed two production-sharing contracts with the Kurdish authorities for two exploration blocs, Mala Omar and Shorish, in Irbil. South Korea’s SK Energy was also cut off because of deals with the Kurdish government. SK Energy refused to abandon its exploration blocs in Kurdistan as part of a consortium led by the state-run Korea National Oil Corp.

Four companies are believed to have agreements with both the Oil Ministry and the Kurdish administration: the United Arab Emirates’ Crescent, Canada’s Western Oil Sands & Heritage Oil, India’s Reliance Industries and OMV.

Since April, Kurdish and Arab leaders have been battling in parliament over who has final control over oil fields. The dispute has delayed passage of the new oil law designed to regulate foreign investment in Iraq’s vast reserves. Frustrated with the delay, the Kurdish administration has signed 15 production-sharing contracts with 20 international companies. The Oil Ministry considers these contracts illegal. (AP, Feb. 3)

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