Development of Iraq's Akkas gas field has been delayed because of the latest crisis in the OPEC member nation, South Korea's energy ministry said on Sunday, quoting project owner Korea Gas Corp.
An official at the state-run gas company who is familiar with the matter also told Reuters the delay began last week as those who worked on pipeline tasks near the battles had fled to safe areas.
"If the civil war expands and the U.S. military joins, it is likely that the development will be halted temporarily...In the worst case, it is possible for us to withdraw," said the KOGAS source, who declined to be identified because the matter was sensitive.
The United States ordered an aircraft carrier moved into the Gulf on Saturday, in case Washington decides to pursue a military option after insurgents overran areas in the north and advanced on Baghdad. An offensive by insurgents that threatens to dismember Iraq seemed to slow on Saturday.
In a statement, South Korea's energy ministry, which held an emergency meeting with related oil, gas and construction firms earlier in the day, said it would set up contingency plans for their projects in Iraq, including Akkas.
So far no major disruption has occurred, it added, including to crude oil imports from Iraq. South Korea imported $9.23 billion of crude from Iraq last year, accounting for 9.3 percent of its total imports, according to the ministry statement.
KOGAS is considering selling a stake of 49 percent in its fully-owned Akkas gas field, news agency Yonhap reported. A company spokesman declined to comment on the report, but a company source confirmed that a plan to reduce debt had been submitted to the government.
(Reporting by Meeyoung Cho)