LONDON - The Asian energy invasion of the Middle East looked set to deepen on Tuesday, with China’s state-owned oil company reportedly close to an oil-service deal in Iraq - the first of its kind since the coalition military engagement in the country - while construction firms from Japan and Korea also hoped to get a slice of two big export refinery projects in Saudi Arabia.
China in particular has proven particularly eager to strike deals in the Middle East, at a time when it is looking to feed its booming domestic appetite for energy. Iraq could be its next destination, according to published reports, which said Oil Minister Hussain Al-Shahristani as saying that he would fly to China at the end of August to discuss a $1.2 billion oil-service deal with China National Petroleum Co.
The deal would replace a production-sharing agreement signed under the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and would be the first oil-service arrangement since the 2003 invasion. Shahristani was cited as saying that discussions with China have been taking place for a year.
China has spread capital far and wide in the region: its refining company Sinopec signed a $2.0 billion agreement last year with Iran to develop the Yadavaran oil field, flying in the face of American pressure for sanctions on the Islamic republic. Sinopec also signed a refinery joint venture last year with Kuwait’s national oil company, but costs are already well over budget; the new price tag would be some $9.0 billion. –Agencies