BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's northern self-ruled Kurdish region has given the green light to a consortium led by a United Arab Emirates state-run energy investment company to pump oil, a statement said Monday, in a latest move shows the Kurds' determination to pursue ambitious oil plans despite central government objections.
Ethnic Kurds and the Arab-led government in Baghdad have been in a long-running dispute over rights to develop natural resources, with each side relying on a different interpretation of the constitution. Baghdad says it is the sole authority to negotiate and award deals, while Kurds argue that the constitution allows them to do so without going through the Federal Oil Ministry.
In its statement, Abu Dhabi National Energy Co., known as Taqa, said it plans to spend more than $300 million in the first phase of a plan to pump about 30,000 barrels a day from the Atrush block by early 2015. The statement added that the second phase, yet to be approved, is expected to add another 30,000 barrels a day.
TAQA and its partners are also evaluating the feasibility of producing associated gas, a by-product of producing oil, for delivery to the domestic market.
The deal, which was signed in 2012, is one of scores the Kurds have signed unilaterally since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and paved the way for broader Kurdish autonomy.
Taqa, which is majority owned by the oil-rich government of Abu Dhabi though more than a quarter of its shares are available to the public, holds 39.9 percent of the consortium. ShaMaran Petroleum Corp., a Kurdish oil company, has 20.1 percent, the U.S. Marathon Oil Corp. has a 15 percent share and Kurdistan has the remaining 25 percent.
Kurdish officials claim their region holds 45 billion barrels, though that figure cannot be confirmed independently. They plan to produce one million barrels per day by 2015 and two million barrels per day in 2019.