Iraq has not yet reached an agreement with ExxonMobil on a multibillion-dollar project to boost output from several southern oilfields, the oil minister Jabbar Al Luaibi said on Monday.
If no agreement is reached by February, Mr Al Luaibi said at a signing ceremony for a separate deal, the project would be offered to other companies.
Mr Al Luaibi had said in October that Iraq was in final talks with ExxonMobil on developing the project, which consists of building oil pipelines, storage facilities and a seawater supply project to inject water from the Arabian Gulf into reservoirs to improve production.
The ExxonMobil news came as Mr Al Luaibi said he was optimistic crude prices will rise in 2018, with global stockpiles falling and demand on the rise in China and India.
“I am very optimistic that in the first quarter, oil markets will witness balance,” he said in Baghdad.
Opec, of which Iraq is the second-biggest producer, agreed with allies this year to cut output amid efforts to reduce global inventories. The cutbacks contributed to a 15 percent rise in Brent crude prices this year. Iraq produced 4.36 million barrels a day in October, down from 4.83 million a day at the end of last year, according to Joint Organisations Data Initiative data.
In the meantime, Iraq has taken steps to develop oil fields on its own and to be ready for when output cuts end. China ZhenHua Oil will develop Iraq’s east Baghdad oil field, pending cabinet approval probably next month, said Abdul Mahdy Al Ameedi, the director general of the oil ministry’s licensing department. The field will require a US$3 billion investment, with the target for output to be 40,000 barrels a day in five years, he said.
In recent weeks, Iraq has started test production at the Subba field in the south, invited companies to take part in building an oil export pipeline from Kirkuk oilfields to Turkish borders, began the takeover of the Majnoon oilfield from Royal Dutch Shell and announced plans to invite international oil companies to develop energy fields in areas shared with Kuwait and Iran.