Iraq To Boost West Qurna 1 Oil Output After Exxon Evacuates Staff

Iraq will raise the oil production from its giant West Qurna 1 field by as much as 50,000 bpd in the next few days, a senior industry official told Reuters on Wednesday, days after the oil field developer ExxonMobil evacuated all its foreign staff from the field amid security concerns.

Currently, the West Qurna 1 oil field pumps around 440,000 bpd, while Iraq’s intention is to increase that production to 490,000 bpd within days, Basra Oil Company chief Ihsan Abdul Jabbar told Reuters.

Last week, ExxonMobil began evacuating its engineers working at West Qurna 1 as security concerns mounted with the heightened tension in the Middle East amid the U.S.-Iran and Saudi-Iran standoffs. Other international oil majors, including BP and Chevron, are said to be monitoring the situation in Iraq very closely.

The exodus from Iraq comes after the United States ordered last week 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 security issues came to light mid-week last week after the United States ordered all non-essential personnel evacuated from the country citing possible threats from Iran, presumably via the Iraqi Shi’ite militia.

Iraq was not happy with Exxon’s hasty evacuation of all foreign personnel from West Qurna 1, with its oil minister Thamer Ghadhban saying the exit was “unacceptable and unjustified.” According to the Iraqi minister, Exxon’s staff evacuation has nothing to do with security threats, instead arguing that it was politically motivated.

Earlier this month, Iraq was close to signing a mega US$53-billion deal with Exxon and PetroChina to develop oil fields in the south. The deal was “very close” but has been slowed by Exxon’s departure from Iraq, Ghadhban said this weekend.

Any security-risk-related disruption of oil production in Iraq—OPEC’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia—would not go unnoticed on the oil market, which has already started to consider a perceived higher risk of supply outages in the Middle East.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com