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Iraq under US Occupation

Oil Industry

Project: Iraq Under US Occupation
Open-Content project managed by AJB, KJF, mtuck

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The US Department of Commerce prepares a memo for the president concerning the US-UK Energy Dialog, a bilateral initiative that was established during the April 2002 meeting of Prime Minister Blair and President Bush to “enhance coordination and cooperation on energy issues” (see April 6-7, 2002). The memo states: “Current forecasts for the oil sector put global demand by 2030 at about 120 million barrels per day (mbd), which is roughly 45 mbd higher than today. While recognizing that the increasing role of Russia and other non-OPEC producers, a large proportion of the world’s additional demand will likely be met by the Middle East (mainly Middle East Gulf) producers. They hold over half of current proven reserves, exploration and production costs are the lowest in the world, and production in many mature fields in the OECD area is likely to fall. To meet future world energy demand, the current installed capacity in the Gulf (currently 23 mbd) may need to rise to as much as 52 mbd by 2030.” [Muttitt, 2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Commerce

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Production Sharing Agreements

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi provides the Supreme Council for Oil Policy with a set of guidelines upon which the council is to base its petroleum policy. According to the guidelines, fields currently in production should continue to be developed by the Iraq National Oil Company (INOC), but development of all other fields should be contracted to private oil firms through production sharing agreements (PSAs). Eighty oilfields are known to exist in Iraq, but only 17 of them are currently being developed. Under the policy advocated by Allawi, the remaining 63 would be operated by the oil companies. New fields, according to Allawi, should be developed exclusively by the private sector. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 9/13/2003; Agence France-Presse, 9/26/2003; Muttitt, 2005] One critic of this proposed policy will later note that since Iraq’s 17 known fields “represent only 40 billion of Iraq’s 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves, the policy to allocate undeveloped fields to foreign companies would give those companies control of 64 percent of known reserves. If a further 100 billion barrels are found, as is widely predicted, the foreign companies could control as much as 81 percent of Iraq’s oil; if 200 billion are found, as the Oil Ministry predicts, the foreign company share would be 87 percent. Given that oil accounts for over 95 percent of Iraq’s government revenues, the impact of this policy on Iraq’s economy would be enormous.” [Muttitt, 2005] Another one of Allawi’s recommendations is that the INOC should be partially privatized. Allawi also feels that Iraqis should avoid spending time negotiating with the oil companies, and instead agree to whatever terms the companies will accept, with a possibility of renegotiating the contracts at a later date. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 9/13/2003; Agence France-Presse, 9/26/2003; Muttitt, 2005]

Entity Tags: Iyad Allawi

Category Tags: Economic Reconstruction, Neoliberal Reforms, The Oil Law, Production Sharing Agreements

The International Tax & Investment Centre (ITIC), a corporate lobby group that advocates for pro-business investment and tax reform, issues a major report titled Petroleum and Iraq’s Future: Fiscal Options and Challenges, expressing the view that Iraq’s relationships with oil companies should be managed through the use of production sharing agreements (PSAs). The paper calls PSAs the “simplest and most attractive regulatory… framework.” It says this view is supported by “international experience and regional preferences,” though critics of PSAs will note that PSAs are not in fact popular among the major oil producing countries of the Middle East. “It is difficult to overstate how radical a departure PSAs would be from normal practice, both in Iraq and in other comparable countries of the region,” says Greg Muttitt of PLATFORM, a British oil industry watchdog group. “Iraq’s oil industry has been in public hands since 1972; prior to that the rights to develop oil in 99.5 percent of the country had also been publicly held since 1961. In Iraq’s neighbors Kuwait, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, foreign control over oil development is ruled out by constitution or by national law. These countries together with Iraq are the world’s top four countries in terms of oil reserves, with 51 percent of the world total between them.” The ITIC report also argues that foreign investment in Iraq’s oil sector will help “kick start” Iraq’s economy and free up funds for other programs. [Muttitt, 2005]

Entity Tags: International Tax and Investment Centre

Category Tags: Economic Reconstruction, Neoliberal Reforms, Production Sharing Agreements, The Oil Law

A report authored by Greg Muttitt of PLATFORM concludes that Iraq would not benefit from an oil policy based on production sharing agreements (PSAs). According to Muttitt, the PSAs would cost Iraq “hundreds of billions of dollars in potential revenue,” while oil company profits would see annual rates of return “ranging from 42 percent to 62 percent for a small field, or 98 percent to 162 percent for a large field.” Muttitt’s study also warns that PSAs would result in Iraqis forfeiting control of their oil industry to foreign oil companies. For example, Iraq would lose its ability to control the depletion rate of its own oil resources. “As an oil-dependent country, the depletion rate is absolutely key to Iraq’s development strategy, but would be largely out of the government’s control,” Muttitt notes. Furthermore, PSAs, which typically have fixed terms of between 25 and 40 years, often include “stabilization clauses” that grant oil companies immunity from all future laws, regulations, and government policies. If Iraq were to sign such PSAs, future Iraqi governments would be unable to change tax rates or laws regulating labor standards, workplace safety, or the environment. PSA agreements also tend to put the host government at a disadvantage when there is a dispute with the contracted oil company. Most PSAs stipulate that disputes must be resolved in international arbitration tribunals where they are generally presided over by corporate lawyers and trade negotiators who will only consider narrow commercial issues without regard to Iraqi public interest. Muttitt’s report argues that Iraq has several options for developing its oil industry that would be far more beneficial to Iraq than relying on PSAs. One option would be for Iraq to hire specialist companies under short-term technical service contracts to provide expertise only when native expertise is lacking. There is no reason, Muttitt notes, for Iraq to give oil companies full control over the industry when Iraq has a highly-skilled oil sector workforce that is fully capable of managing the country’s oil production. All that’s needed, he says, is for them to receive training on the latest technologies. Until that is achieved, Iraq would be adequately served with a policy based on short-term technical service contracts. Muttitt also argues that Iraq has several options for acquiring the needed capital to jump start the oil sector. Foreign investment is neither the only, nor the most attractive solution for Iraq. He argues that using Iraqi money or borrowing funds would save Iraq billions of dollars in the long term. [Muttitt, 2005]

Entity Tags: Greg Muttitt

Category Tags: Economic Reconstruction, The Oil Law, Production Sharing Agreements

Ahmed Chalabi, Iraqi deputy prime minister and former chair of the country’s Energy Council, says, “In order to make major quantum increases in oil, we need to have production sharing agreements, but that has to wait until after the formation of parliament.” [Reuters, 11/22/2005; Inter Press Service, 11/23/2005]

Entity Tags: Ahmed Chalabi

Category Tags: The Oil Law, Production Sharing Agreements

July 2006: Draft of Iraq Oil Law Completed

A draft for a new Iraq oil law is completed. The proposed law was drawn up by three Iraqis—Tariq Shafiq, Farouk al-Qassem, and Thamir al-Ghadban—who have been working on it for three months. Shafiq is the director of the oil consultant firm Petrolog & Associates and was the founding director of Iraq’s National Oil Company in 1964. Ghadban recently served as the country’s oil minister (see June 2004). [United Press International, 5/2/2007] One provision in the draft law lists production sharing agreements (PSAs) as one type of contract that could be used to govern private sector involvement in the development of Iraq’s oil sector. Under PSAs, oil companies would claim up to 75 percent of all profits until they have recovered initial drilling costs, after which point they would collect about 20 percent. These terms are more favorable to investors than typical PSAs, which usually give about 40 percent to the company before costs are recovered and only 10 percent afterwards. Even when the price of oil was as low as $25 per barrel, the lower paying PSAs were profitable for companies. Critics say that the oil companies want to negotiate and sign the PSAs with Iraq before the country is stabilized so they can argue that the political risk of doing business in Iraq warrants higher profit shares. But then they would wait until after the situation has improved before moving in. Iraq would be the first Middle Eastern country with large oil reserves to use PSAs. Other countries have avoided PSAs because they are widely thought to give more control to companies than governments. James Paul of the Global Policy Forum will tell the Independent: “The US and [Britain] have been pressing hard on this. It’s pretty clear that this is one of their main goals in Iraq.” The Iraqi authorities, he says, are “a government under occupation, and it is highly influenced by that. The US has a lot of leverage… Iraq is in no condition right now to go ahead and do this.” Critics also suggest the companies’ shares of profits should be lower than typical PSAs, if anything, since Iraq’s oil is so accessible and cheap to extract. Paul explains: “It is relatively easy to get the oil in Iraq. It is nowhere near as complicated as the North Sea. There are super giant fields that are completely mapped, [and] there is absolutely no exploration cost and no risk. So the argument that these agreements are needed to hedge risk is specious.” [Independent, 1/7/2007] Immediately after this draft is completed, it is shared with the US government and oil companies (see July 2006). In September it will be reviewed by the International Monetary Fund (see September 2006). Iraqi lawmakers will not see the document until early 2007. The provision mentioning PSAs will be axed from the final draft due to Iraqi opposition (see February 15, 2007).

Entity Tags: Thamir al-Ghadban, Farouk al-Qassem, Tariq Shafiq

Category Tags: Production Sharing Agreements, The Oil Law

Hasan Jum`ah `Awwad al-Asadi, head of the Federation of Oil Unions in Basra, condemns the draft oil law (see January 16, 2007) and argues that Iraqis are fully capable of managing their own industry. “They have the experience in the field and the technical training, have overcome hardships and proven to the world that they can provide the best service to Iraqis in the oil industry,” he says. “The best proof of that is how after the entry of the occupying forces and the destruction of the infrastructure of the oil sector the engineers, technical staff and workers were able to raise production from zero to 2,100,000 barrels per day without any foreign expertise or foreign capital. Iraqis are capable of further increasing production with their present skills. The Iraqi state needs to consult with those who have overcome the difficulties and to ask their opinion before sinking Iraq into an ocean of dark injustice. Those who spread the word that the oil sector will not improve except with foreign capital and production-sharing are dreaming. They must think again since we know for certain that these plans do not serve the sons and daughters of Iraq.” [General Union of Oil Employees in Basra, 2/6/2007]

Entity Tags: Hasan Jum`ah `Awwad al-Asadi

Category Tags: Neoliberal Reforms, The Oil Law, Production Sharing Agreements

Iraqi oil labor unions send a letter to Iraqi President Jalal Talbani urging him not to support an oil development policy that would rely upon the use of production sharing agreements. “Production-sharing agreements are a relic of the 1960s,” the letter says. “They will re-imprison the Iraqi economy and impinge on Iraq’s sovereignty since they only preserve the interests of foreign companies. We warn against falling into this trap.” [Inter Press Service, 2/28/2007]

Entity Tags: Jalal Talbani

Category Tags: Production Sharing Agreements, The Oil Law

Changes are again made to the draft of the proposed Iraqi oil law. [Asia Times, 2/28/2007] According to this draft:
bullet Foreign corporations would have access to nearly every sector of Iraq’s oil and natural gas industry, including service contracts on existing fields that are already being managed and operated by the Iraqi National Oil Company (INOC). For fields that have been discovered, but which are not currently being developed, the law would require INOC to be a partner in developing these fields. But the new oil law does not require participation of the INOC or any private Iraqi companies in contracts for fields that have not yet been discovered. In such cases, the new law would permit foreign companies to have full access. [Iraqi Council of Ministers, 2/2007; Inter Press Service, 2/28/2007; Asia Times, 2/28/2007]
bullet Companies contracted to develop oil fields would be given exclusive control of fields for up to 35 years, and would be guaranteed profits for 25 years. Foreign companies would not be required to partner with an Iraqi company or reinvest any of its profits in the Iraqi economy. Nor would they have to employ or train Iraqi workers, or engage in any other effort to transfer technology and skills to the Iraqis. [Iraqi Council of Ministers, 2/2007; Asia Times, 2/28/2007]
bullet An Iraqi Federal Oil and Gas Council would be established and given the ultimate decision-making authority in determining what kinds of contracts could be used to develop Iraq’s oil and what would be done with the existing exploration and production contracts already signed with French, Chinese, Russian, and other foreign companies. The law states that council members would include, among others, “executive managers from important related petroleum companies.” As an article in the Asian Times notes, “[I]t is possible that foreign oil-company executives could sit on the council. It would be unprecedented for a sovereign country to have, for instance, an executive of ExxonMobil on the board of its key oil-and-gas decision-making body.” There is no language in the law that would prevent foreign corporate executives sitting on the council from making decisions about their own contracts. And there is no requirement that a quorum be present when making decisions. The Asian Times article notes, “Thus, if only five members of the Federal Oil and Gas Council met—one from ExxonMobil, Shell, ChevronTexaco and two Iraqis—the foreign company representatives would apparently be permitted to approve contacts for themselves.” The new law does not specify what kind of oil agreements could be signed between Iraq and private firms to develop Iraq’s oil. Rather it leaves this question to the council, which would be permitted to approve and rewrite contracts using whatever type is agreed upon by a “two-thirds majority of the members in attendance.” Previous drafts of the law had specifically mentioned production sharing agreements (PSAs), a controversial type of contract that is favored by the oil companies. [Asia Times, 2/28/2007] That model, favored by the US and by oil companies, was opposed by many Iraqis, including Iraqi oil professionals, engineers, and technicians in the unions. The Iraqis prefer technical service contracts, like the ones used in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Under such contracts foreign companies would be allowed to participate in the development of oil fields, but only for a limited time. [Democracy Now!, 2/20/2007] The companies would be paid to build a refinery, lay a pipeline, or offer consultancy services, but then would leave afterwards. This type of arrangement would help transfer technical expertise and skills to Iraqis. “It is a much more equitable relationship because the control of production, development of oil will stay with the Iraqi state,” notes Ewa Jasiewicz, a researcher at PLATFORM, a British human rights and environmental group that monitors the oil industry. She notes that no other country in the Middle East that is a large oil producer would ever sign a PSA because it’s “a form of privatization and… it’s not in their interests.” Critics also note that the signing of PSA agreements with US oil companies would add fuel to the unrest in Iraq and that the US would attempt to legitimize its continuing presence in Iraq with assertions about the need to safeguard US business interests. [Inter Press Service, 2/28/2007]
bullet Iraq’s national government would not have control over production levels. Rather, the contractee developing a field—e.g., the INOC, or a foreign or domestic company—would be able to decide how much oil to produce. However, the document does say: “In the event that, for national policy considerations, there is a need to introduce limitations on the national level of petroleum production, such limitations shall be applied in a fair and equitable manner and on a pro rata basis for each contract area on the basis of approved field-development plans.” But it does not specify who has the authority to introduce such nation-wide limitations or how production levels might be lowered in a “fair and equitable manner.” The language appears to signify that Iraq would no longer work with OPEC or other similar organizations. [Iraqi Council of Ministers, 2/2007; Asia Times, 2/28/2007]
bullet Oil revenues would be distributed to all of Iraq’s 18 provinces according to their population sizes. Regional administrations, not Iraq’s central government, would have the authority to negotiate contracts with foreign oil companies, monitor contracts, and deal with small disputes. But the ultimate authority would lie with the Federal Oil and Gas Council which would be able to veto decisions made by regional authorities. Critics say this arrangement almost encourages the split of Iraq into three different regions or even three different states. According to Raed Jarrar, Iraq Project Director for Global Exchange, a situation like this would mean that “Iraqis in different provinces will start signing contracts directly with foreign companies and competing between themselves, among themselves, among different Iraqi provinces, to get the oil companies to go… there without any centralized way in controlling this and thinking of the Iraqi interest and protecting Iraq as a country.” [Iraqi Council of Ministers, 2/2007; Inter Press Service, 2/28/2007]

Entity Tags: United States, Ewa Jasiewicz, Iraq, Raed Jarrar

Category Tags: Economic Reconstruction, Neoliberal Reforms, The Oil Law, Production Sharing Agreements

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi says he opposes the oil law (see February 15, 2007) because it gives too many concessions to foreign oil companies. “We disagree with the production sharing agreement,” he tells reporters attending an international conference in Jordan that is hosted by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. “We want foreign oil companies, and we have to lure them into Iraq to learn from their expertise and acquire their technology, but we shouldn’t give them big privileges,” he explains. [Associated Press, 5/21/2007]

Entity Tags: Tariq al-Hashemi

Category Tags: Economic Reconstruction, The Oil Law, Production Sharing Agreements

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