Iraq looking to replace Exxon with Russian oil firms – report

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Media reports citing energy industry sources said on Thursday Iraq is considering Russian companies as a replacement of ExxonMobil at the supergiant West Qurna-1 oilfield as a punishment for the oil giant’s venturing into Kurdistan.

Baghdad is unhappy about the fact that the autonomous Kurdish region has signed deals with foreign oil majors, such as Exxon, Total and Chevron, and has refused to accept their legality.

“Iraq is weighing whether to replace Exxon with Russia’s LUKOIL and Gazprom Neft – both already involved in the country,” Nefte Compass, a weekly energy newsletter about the FSU and Eastern Europe, said on Thursday.

It added that Russian oil companies will be represented at this week’s high level meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a vocal opponent of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, has called for Russia to strengthen its presence in the OPEC oil producer state during the meeting with Al Maliki.

LUKOIL, Russia’s second-largest crude producer and operator of West Qurna-2, denied the company is planning to increase its exposure in Iraq by acquiring a stake in West Qurna-1. The company’s spokesman reiterated the company’s official line that it is satisfied with its portfolio in Iraq.

Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of the world’s top natural gas producer Gazprom, declined to comment.

The Reuters report, quoting industry sources, said Russia’s top oil company Rosneft, may team up with Exxon in Iraq after the two have struck a landmark agreement to jointly tap Arctic hydrocarbon riches and oil and gas in North America.

Rosneft also declined to comment on the possibility of entering Iraq.

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