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Iraq Oil Explorers Evacuate More Staff After Islamist Surge

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Aug. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Oil explorers in Kurdistan halted operations and evacuated more staff as Islamist militants advanced into northern Iraq.

Afren Plc suspended work at its Barda Rash block on the region’s western border, while Oryx Petroleum Corp. stopped production at its Demir Dagh facility and temporarily halted drilling at two other areas. Genel Energy Plc evacuated some staff and Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd. increased security.

Two U.S. jet fighters struck artillery used by Islamic State militants to attack Kurdish forces defending the road to the regional capital of Erbil, where American diplomats and some military staff are based. President Obama yesterday authorized airstrikes to protect U.S. citizens and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians fleeing Islamist attacks.

“In line with moves by other operators, we are taking the prudent and precautionary step of withdrawing non-essential personnel from our non-producing assets in the region,” Genel said in a statement.

Violence has escalated in northern Iraq after the militants extended their advance yesterday, seizing the Mosul dam and territory close to the Kurdistan region. They have also driven tens of thousands of people from their villages this past week, many from the Yezidi and Christian minorities.

Risk Management

“There hasn’t been a significant change to the security environment, but we do think there will be continuous fighting in the affected areas,” Gala Riani, head of Middle East-North Africa analysis at Control Risks, a risk management and security company, said in a phone interview. “Any companies in the areas that have changed hands are likely to be assessing the situation and may be moving people further within the Kurdish borders.”

Chevron Corp. withdrew some expatriate staff yesterday. Reuters reported that Exxon-Mobil Corp. also evacuated people from the region. The world’s largest oil company declined to comment, saying that it doesn’t discuss security matters.

Afren closed down 0.9 percent at 98.60 pence in London. Genel dropped 2.3 percent to 798 pence and Gulf Keystone lost 1.1 percent to 67.5 pence. Oryx slid 0.7 percent to C$9.96.

Crude oil prices reversed gains of as much as 1.3 percent in London, falling 36 cents to $105.08 a barrel by 11:11 a.m. in New York on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.

West Texas Intermediate declined 1 cent to $97.33 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anna Hirtenstein in London at ahirtenstein@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net Tony Barrett, John Viljoen

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