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Iraq to Sign Akkas Gas Deal on 24 February

Source: Reuters 2/21/2011, Location: Middle East

Iraq's oil ministry will sign an initial deal with South Korea's KOGAS and Kazakhstan's KazMunaiGas for the western Akkas gas field on Thursday, an oil ministry official said.

Akkas has estimated reserves of 5.6 trillion cubic feet.

"After initialing the contract we will send it to the cabinet for final approval," Sabah Abdul Kadhim, the head of the legal section of Iraq's Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate.

The companies won a deal to develop the western Akkas gas field, near the Syrian border, last October in Iraq's third energy auction since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The initial signing, originally scheduled for Nov. 14, was postponed due to a row between the central government and provincial authorities over possible gas exports.

Authorities in western Anbar province, the Sunni heartland and a former al Qaeda stronghold, said they would not allow foreign companies to work there.

Abdul Kadhim said the differences have been resolved.

"The oil ministry met with Anbar local officials to submit clarifications for the deal and all misunderstandings were resolved. Now Anbar provincial authorities are happy and promised to show support and cooperation for the companies that will develop the Akkas gas field," he said.

"Development of the Akkas field will have positive economic benefits not only in Anbar province but also the country."

Iraq, holder of the world's 10th largest gas reserves, has said the priority for the gas will be domestic consumption, mainly for power generation, but has left open the possibility of allowing exports once domestic needs are satisfied. The national electricity grid only supplies a few hours of power each day.

"Gas produced from the three fields will boost domestic need and supply power stations, while the surplus would be exported when we reach a stable production levels," Abdul Kadhim said.

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