Chevron has pulled all of its American oil workers out of Iraq, the company said on Monday, according to Reuters, making it the latest foreign oil company to evacuate staff there at the urging of the US Embassy, following the killing of Iranian Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani.
Chevron operates in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, much to the irritation of the Iraqi government, and owns and operates a 50% operating stake in the Sarta production-sharing contract, and a 40% non-operating interest in the Qara Dagh production-sharing contract, according to the company’s website.
While American workers are being whisked out of the country, local Kurdistan workers will oversee Chevron’s Iraqi operations.
Chevron, America’s second largest oil company behind only Exxon, was blacklisted by Iraq in 2012 for sealing the oil deal with Kurdistan, a move that effectively banned Chevron from signing any oil agreements with the Iraqi government. The Qara Dagh and Sarta blocks that Chevron purchased in part were disputed blocks. The blacklisting, however, have too few teeth to persuade Chevron to drop its Kurdish pursuits.
Chevron had already stopped its Kurdistan activities in October 2017 after an independence referendum created further tensions between the Kurdistan region and the central Iraqi government in Baghdad. At the time, Iraqi government forces had seized all oilfields around Kirkuk, taking 350,000 bpd of oil production offline. The oilfields had been under Kurdish control since 2014. Chevron restarted its operations there months later.
Chevron also considered pulling its staff out of Iraq in May of 2019 after the US ordered the evacuation of all non-essential government employees out of Iraq due to security concerns, stating that US citizens in Iraq were, at the time, at a “high risk for violence and kidnapping”.