PARIS, July 8 French oil major Total,
which rattled Baghdad two years ago by signing a deal with
Kurdistan, says it is too early to predict whether the
semi-autonomous Iraqi region may turn into an important oil
As violence threatens the unity of Iraq, there are
predictions that Kurdistan will seek independence and quickly
aim to become a major oil producer.
The regional government hopes output could jump five-fold in
the next few years to 1 million barrels per day and is seeking
greater autonomy from Baghdad, which insists only the central
government has the right to sell Kurdish oil.
Arbil is betting multiple deals with Western companies to
explore its reserves will put it firmly on the map among the
fastest growing producers, but majors such as Total are more
"If Kurdistan were a huge petroleum region, we wouldn't have
waited until 2010," Total chief executive Christophe de Margerie
told Reuters in an interview.
"It is too early to make a judgement. You can't yet see what
we call a production curve... You have to avoid underestimating
or overestimating the potential."
Total bought stakes in two exploration blocks in Kurdistan
in 2012 from U.S. peer Marathon Oil, drawing an angry
response from the Iraqi government which has tried to bar
companies from dealing directly with Arbil.
Elsewhere in Iraq, Total has a relatively modest exposure as
partner at the south-eastern Halfaya field. France's opposition
to the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq did not endear French
companies to the new authorities.
Most oil majors cite unattractive terms of Iraqi contracts
as being behind their decisions to explore more lucrative
"Why hasn't Kurdistan got the right to develop its reserves?
I've defended that and it has cost me a couple of problems with
Baghdad," said De Margerie.
But he also suggested Kurdistan was unlikely to eclipse Iraq
on the global oil map: "Kurdistan isn't Baghdad - one shouldn't
make this mistake."
He also said companies could not remain indifferent to
security risks such as violence in Syria even if Kurdistan
looked stable compared to some other regions of Iraq.
"There is escalation in Syria. Every time you want to
simplify things because it suits you, those things refuse to be
simplified," De Margerie said.
(Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Paul Taylor and David