Taqtaq, who’s there?

By Darya Ibrahim
Soma
Posted June 18, 2006

Who would have thought that a village as small as Taqtaq could ruffle so many feathers...

Nestled in the hills surrounding the town of Koya, is the small village of Taqtaq, which until recently was just another farming village in the Kurdish countryside. Following the discovery of oil beneath the little village, Taqtaq has become internationally known (at least to those in the oil industry).

Although the Kurds have known about this oil field since the 1960s, due to the political situation it was not explored. In 1995 just before the Kurdish civil war, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) instructed Genel Energy, a Turkish company, to start drilling the nearby Shiwashok oil field. In 2002, the KRG then signed a deal with Genel Energy and Adax (Canadian-Swiss company) to create a group with the KRG, called 'TTOPCO' Taqtaq operation company, and it was based in Taqtaq.

The group was tasked with preparing the area for the drilling of the Taqtaq oil fields. The project paused briefly during the liberation of Iraq, but recommenced once the Iraqi constitution had been approved.

The constitution allows the region to explore its natural resources: “The regions in the structure of Iraq may use the natural wealth that their region contains.”

Fast-forward to 14 May 2006 to the opening ceremony of the Taqtaq oil fields in the presence of Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and his deputy Omar Fatah. Taqtaq is no longer a sleepy village near Koya; it is a hub of oil industry activity. During the ceremony the various dignitaries offered their opinions on the Taqtaq oil fields.

Dilshad Abdulrahman, KRG Special Projects Supervisor, said: “The project should be completed by the end of this year, by the beginning of 2007 the plant will be producing 200 000 liters of oil a day.”

He added that in a couple of months time, they expected to start work on another two wells in Taqtaq. Abdulrahman then went on to say that some of the oil would be used to power a new electricity plant to help stem the growing shortage of electricity in the region.

Omar Fatah spoke about the importance of such projects for the region and congratulated the group on their hard work, reminding the crowds that it was President Jalal Talabani who put the ball back in motion in September 2005 following the pause taken during the war.

Prime Minister Barzani then spoke about the history of oil in the region saying that it was known in the 1960s that this area had oil: “From the 1960s, we knew that there was oil in this land, but we waited for freedom and our independence to conclude it.”

Barzani then went on to emphasize the importance of the provision in the constitution for the regions to be able to explore and harness the natural resources such as oil or gas in their region. Officials from TTOPCO were also there, Mehmed Sepil, Chief Executive of Genel Energy was keen to thank the KRG for their efforts in this project and he added that the group was hoping to expand beyond its 100 employees creating further jobs in the region.

The exploration and exploitation of oil in the Kurdish region has always been a contentious issue. Neighboring countries and indeed internal neighbors feel threatened by the prospect that the Kurds may actually be able to access and profit from their oil wealth. Saddam Hussein tried to “Arabize” the city and oil of Kirkuk during the notorious Anfal campaign of the 1980s, but he was only following in the footsteps of previous Baath regimes.

Many in the region view the Kurds accessing their oil wealth as a precursor to independence, which in the case of Iraq would deplete its national oil wealth. The external neighbors, namely Iran and Turkey have a two-fold fear of an independent Kurdistan. Not only would it cause unrest among the Kurds in those countries but it also raises the question of Kurdish natural resources (and profits) within their territories. Who would have thought that a village as small as Taqtaq could ruffle so many feathers?

Printed with permission. From Soma
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