A brief three-line announcement on 5 January from the office of Iraq’s oil minister Ihsan Ismaael confirmed that the country’s cabinet had approved “the takeover of ExxonMobil’s stake at WQ-1 by INOC.” Whether ExxonMobil will accept the transfer to the newly-formed Iraqi state firm is another matter, given that the US firm has sought to sell its 32.7% stake at the 470,000 b/d capacity West Qurna-1 (WQ-1) field to Chinese partner CNPC and its compatriot CNOOC. Exxon has begun arbitration over Iraq’s blocking of that deal (MEES, 30 July).

The main sticking point of any INOC purchase would be payment. Iraq has sought to pay ‘in kind’ for the stake, but Exxon wants cash. What the cabinet announcement does seemingly do is stop dead the prospect of a consortium led by US oilfield services provider Halliburton acquiring the stake (MEES, 10 December 2021). (CONTINUED - 142 WORDS)