A report in the Turkish press on Sunday said that “the Turkish authorities have given permission to Siyah Kalem Company to import natural gas from the Kurdistan region for 26 years. The project will be shared with three other companies: Pearl Petroleum, Austrian OMV [Österreichische Mineralölverwaltung], and Hungarian MOL [Magyar Olaj].”
The project is one of the largest of its type in the energy sector in the Kurdistan Region. Kurdistan produces 160 million cubic meters of natural gas annually to supply the electricity power plants in Erbil and Chamchamal.
Asharq Al-Awsat contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources in Kurdistan to confirm the report, but they refused to make an official comment. An official at the ministry speaking on the condition of anonymity that “he had no information about the project, or if anything was signed.”
This development comes amid reports of an expected visit to Turkey by Kurdistan Regional Government president Massoud Barzani the strengthening of economic relations and regional development to discuss with Turkish officials.
In the mean time, the prime minister of Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechervan Barzani, said his government was “moving towards allocating part of the oil and gas revenue to the improvement of the people’s living standards.”
In a speech he made at the graduation ceremony of trainee police officers in Erbil, Barzani said “the regional government is working on improving people’s living standards . . . and that it aimed in the near future, to give each citizen a share of the oil and gas revenue.”
On a related issue, the Ministry of Natural Resources in the Kurdistan Region has confirmed that “it expected employment in the oil sector in Kurdistan to rely mainly on local labor by 2017.” The ministry added in a statement that “surveys conducted by the Ministry on Employment in the oil and gas sectors in the region showed that more than 10,000 people worked in the oil industry in Kurdistan, 7,200 of them local and 2,800 foreign.”
The surveys also showed that there were 800 foreign experts among the 3,000 workers in the exploration and drilling sector, in addition to 2,000 foreign workers in the petroleum refineries and petrochemical production sector among the total of 5,000 workers.
The ministry also announced a program aimed at replacing foreign workers with members of the local workforce and expected the percentage of local workers in the oil sector in general to reach 90 percent by 2017.