BP pulls out of Iraq’s Kirkuk oilfield

LONDON: British energy giant BP said on Tuesday it had ended its involvement in Iraq’s giant Kirkuk oilfields and would now step away from the six-year venture.

“In 2013, BP signed a letter of intent with the North Oil Company of the Iraq Ministry of Oil to support field activity studies in Kirkuk,” the London-listed company said.

“As planned, in December 2019 BP completed field work, studies and recommendations.”

BP had signed an agreement with state-run North Oil Company (NOC) in 2018 to at least double output from the Kirkuk fields.

David Fyfe, chief economist at Argus Media, said the announcement suggested an appraisal of the site last year “came in below expectations”.

That appeared to have left BP “unable or unwilling to agree a development plan with NOC”, he told AFP.

Recent political unrest within Iraq, the flare-up of tensions between Iran and the United States and local bureaucracy had likely contributed to the decision, the analyst added.

“They may not be the last foreign company to consider scaling back their exposure to Iraq while these factors persist,” Fyfe said.

BP began working at the string of major oil fields in Kirkuk in 2013 but a year later Iraqi Kurds took over the site during the chaos of the Islamic State group’s rampage across the country.

They had been exporting the oil to Turkey through their own pipeline but were dislodged by Iraqi forces in 2018 after the Kurds had voted for independence in a controversial referendum opposed by Baghdad.

BP, which has a history of producing and exporting oil in Iraq dating back to the 1920s, remains active elsewhere in the country.

It is working in partnership with a local company and Chinese energy giant PetroChina at the huge Rumaila oilfield near the border with Kuwait.