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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

New Iraq chief for Taqa as first Kurdish region oil nears

Taqa bought into Atrush as operator four years ago when the find was first declared commercial, paying US$600 million for an initial stake of just over 53 per cent. It was the company’s first major operating asset in the Middle East.
Taqa’s Atrush central processing facility, near Dohuk, about 85 kilometres north of the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil. Courtesy Taqa
Taqa’s Atrush central processing facility, near Dohuk, about 85 kilometres north of the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil. Courtesy Taqa

Abu Dhabi National Energy Company named a new head of its Iraq operations, as first production at its Atrush oilfield in the Kurdistan region nears following a series of delays.

The company, known as Taqa, said on Thursday that AbdulKhaliq Al Ameri will head up its operations in Iraq, replacing Craig Webster, whose deputy he has been since July 2015.

Mr Webster will be moving after a few months to a senior management role at Taqa North, the company’s Canada subsidiary.

Taqa bought into Atrush as operator four years ago when the find was first declared commercial, paying US$600 million for an initial stake of just over 53 per cent. It was the company’s first major operating asset in the Middle East.

The oilfield, which is near Dohuk, about 85 kilometres north of the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil, was expected to start producing oil originally in 2013 but has faced delays from contract disputes, technical obstacles and security threats because of its proximity to fighting with Isil militants.

The latest hitch last year was a dispute over the financing and construction of a pipeline spur that will connect the field with the Kurdish pipeline network, to allow crude to be exported via Turkey’s Ceyhan port.

That dispute revolved around the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) terms in exercising its option to increase its stake in Atrush, but it was resolved in November and an engineering contract was awarded to Iraqi firm KAR Company to begin building the new spur, according to ShaMaran Petroleum, a company listed on the Canadian TSX Venture Exchange that owns part of Atrush.

After the KRG exercised its option to take a 25 per cent stake, Taqa’s holding is now 39.9 per cent, ShaMaran Petroleum subsidiary, General Exploration Partners (which made the original oil discovery), has 20.1 per cent and Marathon, 15 per cent.

The Atrush block is estimated to have between 1.5 billion and 2.8 billion barrels in place, with recoverable oil columns of 670 million barrels identified with upside potential.

Taqa says the output is expected to be ramped up to about 30,000 barrels per day in the initial phase. The companies have not updated about plans for a second phase to further raise production, so it is unclear if and when that might be implemented.

Taqa’s share of the target production – about 12,000 bpd – would represent an increase of 8 per cent over its 145,000 averaged daily oil and gas production when it last reported in autumn. The terms reached last November, however, call for additional volume to compensate for costs borne by the partners until those are paid off.

Before joining Taqa in 2012, Mr Al Ameri was a reservoir engineer with the Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company, the operator of the main offshore concession, at the national oil company, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and at Mubadala Petroleum. He graduated from the University of Tulsa’s petroleum engineering programme in 1998, Taqa said.

He will report directly to Taqa’s top executive, Saeed Al Dhaheri.

Mr Al Ameri has the experience to take on responsibility for “delivery of first oil and establishing the team for operating this asset thereafter”, said Mr Al Dhaheri.

Taqa is majority owned by the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, which together with other government shareholders own about 75 per cent of the company, with the remainder held by individual shareholders via a listing on the Abu Dhabi Exchange.

Taqa shares on Thursday closed 2 per cent higher at 52 fils.

amcauley@thenational.ae

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