ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi government announced on Saturday that, despite talk of an impending agreement with Britain's BP and Italy's Eni to build two seabed pipelines to export Iraqi oil, ExxonMobile was not necessarily excluded from the project.
According to Reuters, the Ministry of Oil specified that the pipeline was not part of the US energy giant's 30-year plan for projects in Iraq, worth $53 billion.
The statement comes after the news agency reported on Thursday that five Iraqi officials said their government was close to sealing the pipeline deal with the other two companies.
According to Thursday's report, the officials, who spoke to the news agency on condition of anonymity, were directly involved in the negotiations and claimed that Baghdad had initially planned the pipeline deal with Exxon. Under a proposed $400 million agreement, they said, British Petroleum (BP) and Italy’s Eni would manage a plan to build two offshore pipelines to export crude from southern Iraq through the Gulf.
It was earlier reported that the pipeline project was meant to be part of a deal with Baghdad that both Exxon and PetroChina appeared to be gearing up for earlier this year, but was then apparently halted due to contractual disputes and security concerns.
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.
Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest oil producer following Saudi Arabia, relies almost entirely on oil to generate its revenue. Over the past few years, the country has faced budget deficits due to the market’s unstable oil prices.