Sources in Baghdad have told Iraq Business News that Exxon Mobil has decided to abandon its contract at the giant West Qurna-1 oilfield in Southern Iraq, in favour of pursuing its interests in Iraqi Kurdistan.
In recent days the Iraqi Ministry for Oil has claimed to have received a second letter from Exxon in which it says it has "frozen" its contracts with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG); the KRG, on the other hand, denies that this is the case, and has described Baghdad's claims as "rubbish".
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson said earlier last month that the company was committed to both exploring in Kurdistan, as well as to expanding its West Qurna output.
If this latest rumour is true, it would be a huge blow to the government of Nouri al-Maliki, and could jeopardise the planned 4th round of energy licences due to be auctioned at the end of May.
Exxon is the lead contractor at West Qurna-1, with a 60% stake, while Shell has 15% and the remaining 25% belongs to the Iraqi state.