* KRG hopes to announce new oil block deals with majors next
* No oil exports by truck from Kurdistan for last few weeks
By Julia Payne and Simon Falush
LONDON, Jan 29 Iraqi Kurdistan said it is
negotiating with two or three major international companies to
operate oilfields and expects to announce the outcome in about a
month, in a move likely to further heighten tensions with
The remarks by Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami on
Tuesday highlight the autonomous region's resolve to push ahead
with development of its oil resources independently of the
Baghdad-based central government.
Kurdistan has upset the central government by signing deals
directly with oil majors such as Chevron Corp and Exxon
Mobil, providing lucrative production-sharing contracts
and better operating conditions than in the south of the
Last week Hawrami said Kurdistan, which is in the north of
Iraq and has run its own administration and armed forces since
1991, had awarded Chevron a stake in the Qara Dagh oil block.
"We are negotiating with two to three other significant
companies. They will hopefully be announced in a month or so,"
Hawrami told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in
He also said Exxon Mobil's contentious deal to operate in
the autonomous region was on track.
Baghdad issued Exxon an ultimatum this week, telling the
American oil major it must choose between operating in the north
or the south, after Exxon's chief executive Rex Tillerson had
meetings in both regions.
At stake is Exxon's 60 percent share of the $50 billion West
Qurna-1 project in southern Iraq.
"Exxon is business as usual as far as we are concerned,"
Hawrami declined to name the companies with which talks were
Tensions between the northern region and Baghdad are such
that late last year they both sent troops to reinforce positions
along their disputed internal border.
Hawrami added that no Kurdish oil has left the autonomous
region for a while, as Baghdad had reneged on payments that it
was expected to make to operators of oilfields.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) stopped contributing
exports to Iraq's pipeline from Kirkuk in the north to the
Turkish port of Ceyhan in December.
"Currently nothing is going through the main pipeline, and
has (not been) for a while," Hawrami told reporters at a
conference in London.
TRUCKING TO RESUME
Exports by truck stopped two or three weeks ago, Hawrami
said, but they should resume next week and rise to around 20,000
barrels per day of crude and 10,000-15,000 bpd of condensate
He added that the exports would begin with a limited amount
of condensate - a very light oil - and maybe some crude oil as a
Condensate exports by truck to Turkey began last summer, and
hit a high this month, despite the stoppage. Exports of crude
oil from the Kurdistan's Taq Taq oilfield started at the
beginning of January this year.
"We are working on some procedures to have a clear
monitoring and metering system ...at the border before we allow
The central Iraqi government in Baghdad has repeatedly
stated that it considers independent exports from the KRG as
The KRG views these exports as part of its 17 percent
entitlement to consume oil in Iraq and says the central
government does not provide the northern region with enough oil
products such as motor fuels.
Kurdistan is short of fuels like diesel, but has abundant
supply of naphtha, used to blend gasoline and in making
plastics, as well as plenty of heavy fuel oil.
Oil production in the Kurdish region is close 400,000
barrels per day (bpd), including about 15,000 bpd of condensate.
The Taq Taq field is producing at 130,000 bpd, Tawke at 105,000
bpd and the Khurmala field at around 110,000-115,000 bpd,
The capacity for oil exports is around 250,000-300,000 bpd,
as refinery capacity in Kurdistan is at 100,000-110,000 bpd
currently, and Hawrami said it would reach about 150,000 bpd by
the year's end.