Rosneft ‘mulls ExxonMobil Iraq tie-up’

Iraq on radar: Rosneft's Igor Sechin

Russia’s Rosneft has further fuelled speculation that it could enter ExxonMobil’s West Qurna 1 oilfield in Iraq after admitting it would consider partnering the US supermajor in the country.

Igor Sechin, the chairman of the Russian company which recently completed its monster acquisition of TNK-BP, said on Tuesday that the pair could work together in the major Middle Eastern producer, according to reports.

"We will work with anyone who offers good terms, we'll work with ExxonMobil too," Reuters quoted Sechin as saying when asked who the Russia oil behemoth may partner with in Iraq.

Sechin also said representatives from the Iraqi Ministry of Oil are due to come to Moscow in May to talk with Rosneft officials about possible deals.

ExxonMobil has long been rumoured to be looking to significantly farm down its stake in the giant Iraqi oilfield, last year informing Baghdad it wanted to sell the entire 60% stake to focus on its controversial oil plays in Kurdistan in the north of Iraq.

It has since poured some cold water on such reports, promising in late March to allocate $1.65 billion to develop the field this year. This would be up from the $1.6 billion it set aside in 2012.

ExxonMobil and Shell won the contract to develop the 8.7-billion-barrel West Qurna field in 2010. They raised their production plateau target from the field to 2.825 million barrels per day.

ExxonMobil’s presence in Kudristan has angered officials in Baghdad who last year issued an ultimatum to the supermajor to quit one or the other. That stance has, however, since softened.

Rosneft’s reported interest in West Qurna 1 is not new, however: the Russian was reported to be in talks with ExxonMobil almost a year ago about entering the play.

Russian daily Kommersant reported at the time that Rosneft may secure a stake of 20% in the project. Sources at Rosneft soon confirmed to Reuters the company had been in talks with ExxonMobil over Iraq.

ExxonMobil and Rosneft have already forged a $3.2 billion joint venture, finalised in April last year, that gives the US player access to exploration blocks in the Kara Sea, as well as the Black Sea, while the Russian state-owned giant will participate in joint exploitation of tight oil resources in North America.

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