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Exxon May Land Itself In Hot Water Over Iraqi Exit

Iraq’s Basra Provincial Council is calling on the Iraqi government to take Exxon to task over its decision to evacuate its engineers from its West Qurna oilfield in the Basra province.

Although the council said that Exxon’s evacuation did not disrupt overall production in Basra, Anwar Mudalal, a member of the Council, said that “the Minister of Oil, however, should take legal procedures against the company because it has violated its contract with Iraq,” according to basnews.

Mudalal added that most of the oilfields in Basra are managed by Iraqi officers, and not foreign personnel, thus its resilience to the shocks of a major player such as Exxon pulling its engineering staff out of country—an action that Iraq’s Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban claimed was “unacceptable and unjustified.”

ExxonMobil began to evacuate its engineers working on Iraq’s West Qurna 1 field a couple weeks ago after the United States ordered the evacuation of all non-essential government employees from Iraq citing security concerns, warning that the US embassy in Iraq would suspend visa services and would have a “limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Iraq.”

Despite Exxon’s untimely departure, Iraq promised just days later that it would raise the oil production from its giant West Qurna 1 field by as much as 50,000 barrels per day. Currently, the West Qurna 1 oil field pumps around 440,000 bpd. Iraq’s plan is to increase that production to 490,000 bpd.

The news that Exxon was beginning to remove some engineering personnel from the country came at a rather delicate time as Iraq, PetroChina, and Exxon were rumored to be close to signing a $53-billion oil deal that would create a $400 billion windfall for Iraq over the 30-year period of the deal.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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