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Iraq, Total agree to work jointly on associated gas, solar power projects


Iraq wants to lower dependence on Iranian gas, electricity

1,000 MW solar power plant

Natural gas produced mainly from pumping oil

Dubai — Iraq and French oil major Total agreed to jointly work on developing four associated gas and solar power projects, the country's oil ministry said March 29, as OPEC's second largest producer seeks to reduce dependence on Iranian energy imports needed for power generation.

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The most important project is construction of complexes and units to treat associated gas, which will be in two phases with a capacity of 600 million cf, the ministry said. The other projects are a solar energy plant with capacity of 1,000 MW for the Ministry of Electricity, a sea water project and development of the Ratawi field to increase natural gas output.

Iraq and Total, which signed on Jan. 27 a memorandum of understanding for developing "big projects," want to cooperate on associated gas projects in Ratawi in the south, Diyala in the east and Anbar in the northeast, Iraq's Oil Minister Ihsan Ismaael said in a ministry statement on March 17.

Iraq is trying to lower its dependence on Iranian gas and electricity imports as it comes under increasing US pressure. Since the US imposed sanctions on Tehran's energy sector in 2018, Iraq has been receiving waivers from Washington to continue importing energy from Iran.

Iraq needs Iranian energy imports to avert acute power shortages that have led to protests in the past, especially in the hot summer months when temperatures can reach 50 C in the south.

Gas flaring

Iraq mainly produces gas that is pumped with oil, which is subject to OPEC+ quota restrictions, limiting the amount that can be used for power generation. Iraq also plans to capture associated gas that is mostly burned, with the country branded as the world's second-worst gas flaring nation after Russia in 2019, according to a World Bank report.

Iraq has plans to import electricity from Saudi Arabia, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, Turkey and Jordan and is also mulling developing solar power projects to help plug power shortages.

Total has limited operations in Iraq compared to other oil majors such as ExxonMobil, Eni and BP. In the associated gas agreement, Total will establish a central gas complex in Ratawi with the aim of collecting and refining associated gas from Ratawi, West Qurnah/2, Majnun, Tuba and Lahis oil fields. Iraq said it has been trying to start the integrated seawater project for more than 10 years, but did not elaborate on what is involved. The Ratawi field project will seek to maximize natural gas production, according to the statement.

The French company has a 22.5% stake in Halfaya oil field in Missan province in the south and also holds an 18% stake in Sarsang exploration block in the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north.