The struggle for control of Northern Iraq’s oil and gas and a looming Kurdish bid for independence will be the most visible energy-impacting conflict of 2013.
The juniors were the first to tap into Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil and gas largesse. Now the majors are following suit, risking a sizable prize in central and southern Iraq to do so. But we have to pay attention here to the potential this risk has to foster a major geopolitical change that is not likely to go down without a bloody conflict—and hence, without some significant upset to the industry.
To put it in simple mathematical terms: Oil = Kurdish independence.
And what, exactly, does Kurdish independence equal? An Iraq carved up into a central and southern territory nominally controlled by Iran and a northern Iraq nominally influenced by Turkey, the US and the Sunni Gulf states.
So what we’re creating here by rushing in to take advantage of Iraqi Kurdish hydrocarbons is a bulwark against Iran that may very well include Syria--depending on how Syria’s 3 million Kurds decide to play this game, which is anyone’s guess.
Risk vs Prize
The oil majors and juniors are not even blinking--despite the risks of their Northern Iraq endeavors. Even as tensions mount in places like Kirkuk, and Iraqi military troops line up against Kurdish security forces, no one is backing down. Exploration, production and export continue unabated, and plans for…