Taqa seeks green light on Kurdish oil production

Taqa is seeking approval to pump 30,000 barrels per day from its field in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

A Taqa drilling rig at the Atrush block in Kurdistan. Courtesy Taqa
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Abu Dhabi National Energy (Taqa), the state utility, is seeking approval to pump 30,000 barrels per day from its field in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Although the amount would be a fraction of the capacity of more developed fields in the Kurdish area such as Taq Taq and Tawke, plans for extra output add urgency to the semi-autonomous region's case for exporting oil without the involvement of the Iraqi federal government.

Companies such as Genel and DNO, a Norwegian producer part-owned by the UAE, have faced losses in the Kurdish region as a stand-off between the Kurdistan regional government and Baghdad's ministry of oil bottlenecks exports.

Taqa is discussing its development plan for the Atrush field with the government in Erbil in order to get the green light, Leo Koot, the company's managing director for Iraq, told the state news agency Wam.

Shares of Taqa on the Abu Dhabi bourse rose 2.42 per cent to Dh1.27 yesterday.

Taqa's minority partners at Atrush are Marathon Oil of the United States and General Exploration Partners, a joint venture between Canada's ShaMaran Petroleum and the privately owned Aspect Energy.

Taqa bought its 53.2 per cent stake in Atrush in December from General Exploration Partners.

"The development plan is currently under review with final approval expected in the third quarter of 2013," Marathon said in a report last month.

"We anticipate first production in 2015."

Drilling at Atrush's third well has hit 1,800 metres underground, Mr Koot told Wam. The partners plan to increase capacity soon after they reach 30,000 bpd, he added.

Those barrels are likely to face a far easier path to export in 2015 than at present.

Today, Kurdish producers have three options: use an often-blocked pipeline to Turkey operated by the federal government; send it by lorry to Turkey; or smuggle it to Iran.

Genel Energy, the Turkish explorer led by the former BP chief Tony Hayward, is nearing completion of a fourth option: an independent pipeline to Turkey.

"The pipeline is currently 15km short of the tie-in," Julian Metherell, the chief financial officer of Genel, told Bloomberg this summer.

"We're confident that we'll have export capability through it, and that will allow us to utilize our capacity."

Taqa's push in Kurdish Iraq stands in relief to its plans in Turkey, where in January it signed a US$12 billion agreement to mine coal and build power plants capable of meeting a tenth of the nation's projected capacity.

The investment would have been its biggest anywhere outside the UAE and was part of a broader desire by Arabian Gulf nations to increase trade with Turkey.

But last month Taqa said it was delaying taking an investment decision from this summer to next year because of "spending priorities," spurring the Turkish energy minister to accuse Taqa of bowing to political interests.