The Khor Mor gas field in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq came under rocket fire June 25 for the third time in a week, according to local media reports.
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Sideeq Mohammed, a local mayor at the Chamchamal district in Sulaimani province, told Kurdish news station Kurdistan 24 that "the rocket was launched from the east side" of the field, which is operated by UAE company Dana Gas and typically produces around 450 MMcf/d, but "that the attack didn't cause any human casualties or material damages."
Qubad Talabani, the Kurdistan Regional Government's deputy prime minister, said officials were awaiting the results of an investigation into the incident, PUKmedia reported.
PUKmedia also reported that Iraqi forces launched a military operation earlier June 25 within the borders of the Khor Mor gas field after the attack. Kurdish security forces did not participate in the operation.
Dana Gas could not immediately be reached for contact. In a statement after a previous attack on the field, the company said it was cooperating with local security services and that the KRG had "enhanced measures and security forces in the area."
On June 22, a small rocket fell near the field, slightly injuring two Dana Gas contractors, while a second missile attack occurred on June 24, hitting residential facilities operated by the company.
The strikes come amid ratcheting tensions between the KRG and the federal Iraqi government over Baghdad's attempt to take control of the Kurdish energy sector, which has operated independently since 2007.
The Iraqi oil ministry is attempting to implement a federal court ruling from Feb. 15 that ordered Kurdish officials to surrender all of the region's oil production to the central government.
The KRG has rejected the court ruling, and talks between the two sides have failed to achieve any compromise.
Yerevan Saeed, research associate at the Arab Gulf Institute in Washington, told S&P Global Commodity Insights that the Khor Mor attacks, as well as other recent strikes targeting other oil and gas infrastructure, may not necessarily be sanctioned by Baghdad, but could have originated from rogue Shia militia groups, who are trying to undermine the KRG and reassert federal authority over the Kurdish energy sector.
"These militia groups usually are good tools by people in deep states to send signals with plausible deniability.," Saeed said. "So the message is clear: unless the KRG makes concessions to Baghdad, its energy sector will be subject to attacks."
Kurdistan has ambitions of becoming a net exporter of gas to the rest of Iraq, as well as Turkey and Europe, its prime minister, Masrour Barzani, said in late March, and has been courting international investment for its energy sector.
Dana Gas, the biggest gas producer in Kurdistan, is planning to increase Khor Mor's production capacity to 700 MMcf/d by the second quarter of 2023. The expansion project received a $250 loan from the US International Development Finance Corp. in 2021.
In April 2007, Dana Gas and its parent company Crescent Petroleum entered into an agreement with the KRG for exclusive rights to appraise, develop, produce, market and sell petroleum and gas from the Khor Mor and Chemchemal fields. Other shareholders in what is called the Pearl consortium are OMV, MOL and RWE, with a 10% stake each.