The petroleum company Rosneft, a Russian government owned company, has confirmed that last week it signed an agreement between itself and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The agreement will be for the future development of infrastructure pertaining to gas and oil production. Rosneft will also be responsible for designing Kurdistan’s new gas pipeline. The deal was signed during the International Economic Forum held in St. Petersburg. It could potentially lead to increased oil production in Kurdistan by upwards of an additional 10,000 barrels a day by the end of the year according to Rosneft.

Rosneft released a statement in regards to the planned pipeline saying, “This is a key project to the monetization of the exploration and production opportunities Rosneft has been evaluating since signing a Gas Cooperation Agreement with the [KRG].” On October 18, 2017 the Gas Cooperation Agreement was made official, just two days after Kirkuk came under the control of Iraqi military forces and proxy paramilitary militia; the Iranian supported Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF). Prior to this, Kirkuk was under Kurdistan’s control and protected by the Peshmerga. Kirkuk is home to vast oil fields that almost immediately began exporting to Iran after the cities turn-over. The power play came in response to Kurdistan’s proposed independence referendum that would vote for the autonomous region’s secession from Iraq.

Russia has becoming the biggest investor in petroleum in the region by using state-run companies such as Gazprom, Rosneft and Lukoil in this way over the last few years. Rosneft’s statement continued by adding that, “Rosneft will focus its analysis on how to participate in [the Kurdistan Region’s] integrated gas business in such areas as exploration and production, transportation and trading.” With this aggressive business model and continuous expansion in the Middle East’s petroleum market, Russia appears to be aiming for monopolization of the region. KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani announced that contracts with Russian oil were being discussed back in February but has said nothing else on the matter up to this point.

Featured image: At the opening ceremony of the new deep-water terminal at the Rosneft’s Tuapse Oil Refinery. Vladimir Putin, Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin (left) and a Rosneft employee pressed the symbolic start button for loading the first tanker. By [CC BY 4.0]