(Amends sign-off, reference to Genel staff)
By Karolin Schaps
LONDON Aug 8 Oil companies in Iraqi Kurdistan
began to withdraw more staff on Friday as Islamic State
militants closed in on the regional capital, with Afren
becoming the first to announce it was cutting production.
Shares of London-listed oil firms active in northern Iraq
fell for a second day as other field closures and staff
evacuations became more likely in a region seen until now as
relatively secure compared to the rest of the country.
The Islamic State considers non-Muslims and adherents to
Shi'ite Islam as apostates, and in many towns it has captured it
has made a stark offer: convert, flee, or die.
They have advanced to little over a half-hour drive from
Arbil, a city of 1.5 million that is headquarters of the Kurdish
regional government and the local branches of many international
"Afren has taken the precautionary step to temporarily
suspend operations at the Barda Rash field," the company said,
adding it was withdrawing all non-essential staff from the
Genel Energy, operator of the two large Taq Taq and
Tawke oilfields in Kurdistan, said it evacuated non-core
personnel from fields in the region that are not producing oil.
Taq Taq and Tawke are still operating, it said, and have
been producing an average of 230,000 barrels per day (bpd) this
Genel recouped some of an early decline after it reassured
investors about its continuing operations, but it remained
almost 3 percent down on the day and has lost 20 percent of its
value since last Friday.
Afren fell 4.5 percent, while Gulf Keystone Petroleum,
another Kurdistan-focused oil producer, was down 6.2 percent,
although both narrowed those declines later in the session.
Oslo-listed oil producer DNO defied the trend,
leaping 8 percent on the back of a technical buying rebound. In
early trading on Thursday, DNO had fallen by as much as 24
percent as investors took fright.
"(Afren's oilfield closure) underlines the severity of the
security situation in Kurdistan and the potential risks for
those operating in the region," said analysts at Maribaud
U.S. oil majors Chevron had already announced on
Thursday they were evacuating some staff from Kurdistan. An
industry source said Exxon Mobil was also evacuating.
Gulf Keystone has increased security at its flagship Shaikan
field but said production and trucking operations were
The Kurdistan Regional Government's oil pipeline through
which it has been pumping oil to Turkey since December was
operating normally on Friday, flowing 120,000 bpd of oil,
industry sources told Reuters.
Barda Rash, Afren's only producing oil asset in Iraqi
Kurdistan, is 60 percent owned by the company. It was producing
a gross average of 785 bpd of oil in the first quarter, making
it a relatively small field.
Afren's other operations in Kurdistan continued to function
normally but the company said it was closely monitoring events.
It said the Barda Rash suspension was not expected to have a
significant impact on its cashflow.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday he had
authorized limited U.S. airstrikes to blunt the onslaught of the
militants, which has heightened international fears of a
Tens of thousands of members of Iraq's minority Yazidi sect
have been driven from their homes and are stranded on Sinjar
(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta in London and Balazs
Koranyi in Oslo; editing by David Sheppard and Tom Pfeiffer)