International oil producers halt northern Iraq operations

Six international oil companies working in Iraq's Kurdish region, including Exxon and Chevron, have decided to suspend production and evacuate their staff for security reasons

Six international oil companies working in Iraq's Kurdish region, including Exxon and Chevron, have decided to suspend production and evacuate their staff for security reasons

BAGHDAD - Six international oil companies working in Iraq's Kurdish region, including Exxon and Chevron, have decided to suspend production and evacuate their staff for security reasons.

Their decision comes after clashes between Kurdish peshmerga security forces and militants belonging to the radical militant group known as the Islamic State, who are attempting to advance on the Kurdish regional capital Erbil.

Alongside Exxon and Chevron, Abu Dhabi's TAQA, Canada-listed Oryx Petroleum, London-listed oil producer Afren and US oil producer Hess Corporation are all suspending their operations.

"The regional administration is working to ensure these companies will have shares from allocated export production," said Ali Hussain Belu, undersecretary for the Kurdish regional energy ministry. He warned international companies working in oil fields to "not take any steps without close coordination with the Ministry of Natural Resources."

Belu also said that the regional administration in northern Iraq will continue to transfer crude oil to Turkey's southern Ceyhan port, where it is exported to international markets.

Iraq, with the world’s fifth-largest crude oil reserves, is the largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, known as OPEC, after Saudi Arabia.

The militant group Islamic State has been conducting offensives throughout Iraq and has ordered engineers and workers to continue production at oil fields they have seized.

The U.S. Air Force has carried out air strikes against the group in the past week, to stop its attempted advance on Erbil.

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