June 22, 2012 / 7:38 AM / in 5 years

Rosneft in talks to join Exxon in Iraq

A worker walks in the Rosneft Achinsk oil refinery, one of the biggest Siberian fuel suppliers, near the town of Achinsk, some 188 km (117 miles) west of Krasnoyarsk, September 9, 2011. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s top crude oil producer, Rosneft (ROSN.MM), has been in talks with ExxonMobil XOM.M about teaming up with the U.S. group to tap Iraq’s huge West Qurna-1 oilfield, Kommersant daily reported on Friday.

The daily, citing sources familiar with the situation, said Rosneft may secure 20 percent in the project operated by Exxon in southern Iraq, adding the talks could be wrapped up within a month.

West Qurna-1, an 8.7-billion-barrel field in southern Iraq, is producing 406,000 barrels per day, expected to rise 100,000 bpd later this year, an Iraqi oil official said in April, as the country looks to double output over the next three years during its recovery after years of sanctions and war.

Sources at Rosneft confirmed to Reuters the company had been in talks with Exxon over Iraq. Spokesmen for Exxon and Rosneft in Moscow declined to comment.

“The talks are at the very early stage, there is nothing concrete yet,” a source close to Rosneft said.

Rosneft, which accounts for over a fifth of Russia’s crude output, had little exposure to the foreign markets before it secured landmark agreement with international majors such as Exxon, Norwegian group Statoil (STL.OL) and Italian operator Eni (ENI.MI) earlier this year.

Rosneft, headed by Igor Sechin, and Exxon struck a partnership in April to develop Russia’s Arctic offshore riches as well as oil in western Siberia. Rosneft gained access to Exxon’s project in North America in exchange.

Exxon’s participation in West Qurna is complicated by the Iraqi government’s concerns over the company’s plans to tap reserves in the country’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

Exxon angered the government last year by signing an exploration deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government, which the national government considers illegal.

On Thursday, LUKOIL (LKOH.MM), Russia’s No.2 oil producer, also offered Rosneft participation in the West Qurna-2 oilfield in Iraq.

West Qurna-2 is the world’s second-largest undeveloped field, with recoverable oil reserves of around 14 billion barrels, LUKOIL has said.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Dan Lalor

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