Gazprom Neft Signs Kurdistan Oil Project Deal

Source: Reuters 2/26/2013, Location: Middle East

Russia's fifth-largest crude producer Gazprom Neft has signed a deal to enter an oil project in Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan, a company official said, despite tension between local authorities and central government.

International oil firms have hit problems developing fields in Kurkdistan. The central Iraqi government claims its authority over oilfields in the country while local authorities have been trying to secure separate deals with oil firms.

Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of the world's top gas producer, Gazprom, said it secured 80 percent in the Halabja project, the company's third project in Kurdistan.

"We entered the third project in Kurdistan, the Halabja block. It is close to the blocks we already own," Vadim Yakovlev, Gazprom Neft's first chief executive officer deputy, said on a conference call. He said that the block's reserves are estimated at between 90 million and 100 million tonnes. "Now, we have to prepare and approve the geological research programme," he added. The deal was signed under a sharing production agreement, which analysts say is more lucrative than the contracts which the central government offers.

Last week, Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said Gazprom Neft had signed new agreements with KRG, without disclosing details. Gazprom Neft acquired interests in two Kurdistan blocks, Garmian and Shakal, last August.

The Russian company also has a contract for the Badra oilfield, controlled by the government. Yakovlev said Gazprom Neft has not been notified by the Iraqi central government of any wrongdoing.

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