ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Five Iraqi officials said their government is close to sealing a deal for a pipeline project with international oil giants BP and Eni, Reuters reported on Thursday.
According to the report, the officials, who spoke to the news agency on condition of anonymity, are involved in the negotiations and claimed that Baghdad had initially planned the pipeline deal with US oil giant ExxonMobil.
They added that, under a proposed $400 million agreement, British Petroleum (BP) and Italy’s Eni would manage a plan to build two offshore pipelines to export oil from southern Iraq through the Gulf.
The original project was meant to be part of a larger $53 billion scheme that both Exxon and PetroChina appeared to be gearing up for earlier this year, but plans with Baghdad were halted due to contractual disputes and security concerns.
Exxon’s intended involvement was reportedly part of a 30-year goal of the company to expand operations in Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer.
In May, Iraq seemed poised to sign the deal amid talks on the matter between the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. However, with Gulf tensions skyrocketing from then onward between Washington and Tehran, talks seem to have hit substantial roadblocks.
Concluding an initial deal was further stalled starting in May when Exxon evacuated staff on two separate occasions due to Washington's warnings of an imminent threat from Iranian actors in Iraq and a rocket attack that appeared to have targeted the company's operations there.
The five Iraqi officials affirmed that continued delays forced Baghdad to consider other options as the country’s seaport infrastructure is dilapidated and in desperate need of revamping.
Editing by John J. Catherine