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A general view of a trading session at the Kuwait Stock Exchange.
Kurdistan’s largest oilfield working to boost production Tanker with Kurdish crude moves towards Gibraltar

 TAQ TAQ OILFIELD, Iraq, Aug 15, (RTRS): Oil production at Iraqi Kurdistan’s largest-producing field is set to rise to as much as 140,000 barrels per day (bpd) by the end of the month despite the advance of Islamist militants, the general manager of the operating company told Reuters.

“We have a target to ramp up production towards 140,000 bpd and I believe we would achieve this by the end of the month,” Onder Tekeli from Taq Taq Operating Co (TTOPCO), a joint venture of Anglo-Turkish Genel Energy and Sinopec’s Addax Petroleum said late on Thursday.
Radical Sunni militants of the Islamic State last week advanced to within a half hour’s drive of Arbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region and a hub for international oil companies, before US military air strikes thwarted their advance.
Several Western oil companies including US giants like ExxonMobil and Chevron operating in the previously stable Kurdish enclave have evacuated some of their staff while some smaller producers like Afren have halted production.
But there was little impact on overall oil output in the region, with only about 5,000 bpd of production cut, according to company statements, though fighting between Kurdish peshmerga forces and Islamic State fighters not far from Arbil have kept firms and investors on edge.
But at the Taq Taq oil field, which lies 40 kms (25 miles) southeast of Arbil, morale was good, said Tekeli.
 
“The worries started about the IS (Islamic State) fighters when they attacked the Makhmour camp. But we have not stopped working and our local staffers have expressed their commitment to us,” Tekeli said.
Makhmour lies to the southwest of Arbil and fighting there was some of the closest to the Kurdish regional capital last week.
TTOPCO will set up three well-site production facilities to boost output, Ozan Guler, production superintendent said at the site as he walked through a labyrinth of oil pumping machinery.
“We already have the potential to boost production up to 140,000 bpd in our wells ... We will be setting up these new facilities whose start-up period is about 10 days,” Guler said.
Genel Energy, which operates the Taq Taq and Tawke oilfields in Kurdistan, has said it has evacuated non-core personnel from fields in the region that are not producing oil. Last week it said production was still ongoing at the two fields and it was averaging a combined 230,000 bpd.
Genel’s shares fell by almost a quarter in early August as Islamic State forces advanced towards Arbil, but have since rebounded by around 12 percent.
 
At 1131 GMT on Friday, they were up almost 2 percent at 824 pounds.
Meanwhile, a tanker carrying an estimated 300,000 barrels of Kurdish crude oil was heading toward Gibraltar on Friday, after not unloading its disputed cargo to refiner Axeon Specialty Products in New Jersey on the US East Coast.
The tanker was previously at anchor outside of Paulsboro, New Jersey, and began moving east at 6:16 p.m. EDT (2216 GMT) on Wednesday.
Its destination was listed as “Gibraltar for orders,” according to Reuters AIS Live shiptracking. This meant it could unload at any point in the Mediterranean, Europe, or further east.
Shares of energy companies operating in Iraqi Kurdistan plunged and two US companies evacuated some staff as Islamic State militants advanced within 45 kms (28 miles) of Arbil, a key hub for oil producers.
 
Companies that produce oil in the semi-autonomous region, including Oslo-listed DNO ASA, as well as London-listed Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd and Genel Energy Plc saw double-digit declines in their share prices as the radical Sunni militants seized 15 towns.
While the companies said their oil fields continued to operate, there are growing concerns about the security risks faced by firms active in Iraqi Kurdistan, seen as a beacon of relative stability in the region.
“Investors are now taking into account the risk,” ABG Sundal Collier analyst Oeyvind Hagen said, adding it remained difficult to judge how far into the Kurdish region the Islamists could penetrate.
Shares in DNO fell as much as 24 percent and Gulf Keystone Petroleum was down 13 percent at their lowest point, before paring losses. Genel shares were down over 10 percent.
Gulf Keystone said it had increased security at its flagship Shaikan field, Iraqi Kurdistan’s largest, but added that production and trucking operations were continuing safely.
DNO operates the Tawke field, in which Genel is also a partner, which produces around 120,000 barrels of oil per day.
Other Kurdistan oil producers including London-listed Afren PLC and Toronto-listed Oryx Petroleum Corporation Ltd, which operates the fields closest to the militants advance, declined to comment. Shares of Oryx were down as much as 11 percent.
Chevron Corp and Exxon Mobil said on Thursday they were evacuating staff from Kurdistan as the militants advanced.
 
The companies have been drilling and testing new wells in the region. Exxon said little about its Kurdistan holdings at an analysts meeting earlier this year. As recently as last week, Chevron executives told investors they were “very encouraged” by initial Kurdistan well results.
Marathon Oil Corp, a US oil and gas company that is also drilling in Kurdistan said in a statement that all of its employees are currently accounted for but evacuation is under consideration if the security situation worsens.
Energy companies have flocked to Iraqi Kurdistan in recent years, hoping to access what is believed to be one of the world’s last huge conventional onshore oil deposits.
The regional capital Arbil houses many western oil workers and executives, and has seen an investment boom despite tensions with Baghdad over the control of oil sales and revenues.
Most worrying for investors this week has been the pullback of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Peshmerga soldiers.

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