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The Exodus Begins As Foreign Oil Companies Exit Iraq On Security Concerns

Iraq oil field

ExxonMobil is starting to evacuate its engineers working on Iraq’s West Qurna 1 field due to security concerns, according to Al Arabiya. Earlier in the day, S&P Global Platts reported that ExxonMobil was closely monitoring” the situation in Iraq, adding that BP and Chevron were also watching the situation closely.

The exodus from Iraq comes after the United States ordered on Wednesday the evacuation of all non-essential government employees from Iraq citing security concerns, adding 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.”

The US State Department said on Wednesday in a Level 4 travel advisory that US citizens in Iraq are at a “high risk for violence and kidnapping. Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq. Attacks by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad.”

Last week, Iraq said it was close to signing a $53-billion deal with ExxonMobil and PetroChina, which would land Iraq $400 billion over the 30-year deal period. Exxon also signed six Production Sharing Contracts covering more than 848,000 acres in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, according to Exxon’s website.

In addition to BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil, foreign oil companies including Eni, Rosneft, Lukoil, Gazprom, CNPC, CNOOC, and Total also operate in the now restive region, among others.

Iraq is a major oil producer and is OPEC’s No.2, producing 4.630 million bpd in April according to OPEC’s most recent Monthly Oil Market Report. If Iraq’s oil production is disrupted as a result of foreign oil company personnel exiting the country, it will further add to other OPEC production losses in Venezuela and Iran at a time when the market is already skittish due to attacks in the region on four oil tankers and Aramco’s oil pipeline.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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