Iraq says Eni, BP deal doesn't mean Exxon excluded from southern mega-project

FILE PHOTO: Flames emerge from the flare stacks at the West Qurna-1 oilfield, which is operated by ExxonMobil, near Basra, Iraq June 1, 2019. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/File Photo/File Photo

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s oil ministry said on Saturday it was still in talks with U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil over a major deal to improve the country’s southern oil infrastructure.

An agreement with Britain’s BP and Italy’s Eni was not part of the $53 billion, 30-year mega-project. It covered the building of two seabed oil pipelines for exports through the Gulf, the ministry said.

Reuters on Thursday cited five senior Iraqi oil officials as saying that Iraq was close to reaching a deal with BP and Eni for an export pipeline project that was initially planned as part of the mega-deal with ExxonMobil.

“The ministry affirms that its negotiations with U.S. company ExxonMobil are ongoing,” the ministry said in a statement.

“...Not reaching an agreement or signing a deal between both parties does not mean the end of negotiations or the ‘exclusion’ of ExxonMobil from the project as reported by news agencies citing officials they did not name.”

The deal with Eni and BP was limited to the two seabed oil pipelines, it said. Large strategic projects required more time to research, negotiate, and study, it added.

The southern mega-deal involves several projects including developing oil fields, expanding storage, transport, and export infrastructure, and building byproduct gas treatment units.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; editing by John Stonestreet