* Safety one of main concerns for foreign companies in Iraq
* Iraq says restoring calm after protests in Schlumberger camp
* Lukoil to begin oil output in West Qurna-2 by early 2014
MOSCOW, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Russia’s Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of state-controlled Gazprom, has postponed initial production at its Badra oilfield in Iraq until 2014 due to safety concerns and logistical problems, the company said on Tuesday.
Iraq, OPEC’s second-biggest oil producer, expects a robust return to growth next year as foreign companies at work in its southern oilfields push output toward the highest level ever.
Still, safety is one of the main concerns, highlighted last week when dozens of Shi‘ite Muslim workers and tribesmen stormed the Schlumberger Ltd camp in North Rumaila after accusing a foreign security adviser of insulting their religion.
Gazprom Neft said in a Eurobond prospectus it had postponed a December launch due to “the failure on the part of certain contractors to fulfill their contractual obligations and certain issues related to the safety and security of employees and property.”
It also cited delays by Iraqi authorities over tender approvals, holdups to customs clearance for import cargo and a shortage of local contractors.
Gaining foreign business is key for Gazprom Neft to reach its production target of 100 million tonnes per year (2 million barrels per day) by 2020, double current levels.
It said in April that by 2017 as much as 170,000 bpd of crude oil could be produced for seven years at Badra.
Iraqi officials have said calm is being restored and that the situation at the BP-operated Rumaila oilfield - core to the country’s oil expansion plans - is now safe for Schlumberger to get back to work.
Apart from Gazprom Neft, Russia’s No.2 oil producer Lukoil is preparing to launch its West Qurna-2 oilfield in Iraq later this year or early in 2014. It declined to comment on whether recent violence had affected its operations.