Pearl Petroleum Company Ltd and Others v The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeMr Justice Burton
Judgment Date20 November 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] EWHC 3361 (Comm)
Docket NumberCase No: CL-2015000272
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Commercial Court)
Date20 November 2015

[2015] EWHC 3361 (Comm)




Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL


Mr Justice Burton

Case No: CL-2015000272

(1) Pearl Petroleum Company Limited
(2) Dana Gas PJSC
(3) Crescent Petroleum Company International Limited
The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq

Gordon Pollock QC and Zachary Douglas QC (instructed by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP) for the Claimants

Graham Dunning QC and Anton Dudnikov (instructed by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP) for the Respondent

Hearing dates: 28, 29 and 30 October 2015

Mr Justice Burton

The Claimants (whom I shall call Pearl, Dana and Crescent) and the Respondent, the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq ("KRG") are engaged in arbitration proceedings under the LCIA Rules, commenced in October 2013, in relation to disputes arising out of a contract ("the Heads of Agreement") dated 4 April 2007. This is an application to the Court by the Claimants, for whom Mr Gordon Pollock QC and Mr Zachary Douglas QC appear, with the permission of the Arbitrators, (Lord Hoffmann, Lord Collins and Mr John Beechey), under s.42 of the Arbitration Act 1996 ("the 1996 Act") for an order by the Court enforcing a peremptory order made against the Respondent by the Arbitrators on 17 October 2014, whereby the Respondent was ordered to pay to the Claimants the sum of US$100 million. The Respondent, for whom Graham Dunning QC and Anton Dudnikov appear, resists that application and cross-applies for a declaration pursuant to CPR Part 11 that it is immune from the jurisdiction of the court by virtue of the State Immunity Act 1978 ("the SIA").


The Respondent is a constituent region of the Federal Republic of Iraq, and as such it is common ground that it is not itself a State, but is a separate entity within the meaning of s.14 SIA (and no Order in Council has been made giving it immunity as if it were a State pursuant to s.14(5) SIA). By the Heads of Agreement between the Respondent (" duly represented by the Minister of Natural Resources and the Prime Minister of Kurdistan") and, initially, Dana (which subsequently transferred 50% of its interest in the Contract to Crescent, following which Dana and Crescent transferred their interests to Pearl, a Special Purpose Vehicle ("SPV") owned between them), the parties agreed to the exploitation by the Claimants of two gas fields known as Khor Mor and Chemchemal, which are situated in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq ("the KRI"), of which the Respondent is the Government. The term of the contract was not less than 25 years. By 2008 the Khor Mor field had been developed and was producing gas and condensate and by 2011 it was also producing LPG.


There were the following material provisions of the Heads of Agreement. The recitals included the following:

"A. The KRG has entered into a Strategic Alliance Protocol ("SAP") dated 4 th April 2007 with Dana and … [Crescent] (… the "Companies") whereby the Companies will carry out optimization of the development and utilization of natural gas resources in the [KRI].

B. The KRG wishes to appoint Dana to carry out certain works in the field of Khor Mor … and in the field of Chemchemal … in the [KRI]. The work is urgently required to fulfil energy requirements in the [KRI] and in particular to provide urgent gas supplies for use at the power stations under construction at Erbil and Bazian, and thereby help to relieve the electrical power shortage affecting all the people of Iraq.

C. Mr Justice BurtonThe KRG has endorsed a federal draft Oil and Gas Law for Iraq that requires petroleum contracts issued by federal and regional entities, including by the KRG, to meet agreed commercial criteria, in addition to other relevant provisions pursuant to the KRG and the Constitution of Iraq.

F. The KRG, desirous of rapid and optimal economic development of the petroleum gas resources of the [KRI], gas-related industries, and job creation for the benefit of the people of Iraq and the [KRI], has declared its intention to associate and contract with Dana … to take the lead in the development of the gas resources of the [KRI], both for domestic gas utilization as a priority, as well as for export."

The following clauses are of particular relevance:

" 9. The KRG hereby grants Dana the exclusive right during the term of these HoA [minimum 25 years] … to develop and produce Petroleum within the Khor Mor HoA Area and the Chemchemal HoA Area.

16. For the purpose of this Article, "Dispute" shall mean any dispute, controversy or claim (of any and every kind or type …

If the Dispute cannot be resolved by negotiation within sixty (60) days after the date of the receipt by each party to the Dispute of the Notice of Dispute any party to the Dispute may seek settlement of the dispute by mediation in accordance with the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) Mediation Procedure, which Procedure shall be deemed to be incorporated by reference into this Article, and the parties to such Dispute shall submit to such mediation procedure:

(a) If the Dispute is not settled by mediation within sixty (60) days of the appointment of the mediator, or such further period as the parties to the Dispute may otherwise agree in writing, any party to the Dispute may refer the Dispute to, and seek final resolution by, arbitration under the LCIA Rules, which Rules shall be deemed to be incorporated by reference into this Article.

(b) Any arbitration shall be conducted by three (3) arbitrators.

(e) Arbitration shall take place in London, England. The language to be used in any prior negotiation, mediation and in the arbitration shall be English. During the arbitration procedure and until the arbitral decision, neither entity shall act in a manner that may affect the rights of the other Party under these HoA … The arbitral award may include an award of specific performance and may be enforced by any court of competent jurisdiction, including the Kurdistan Region. Any award shall be expressed in US Dollars."

There were (inter alia) the following " Key Commercial Terms" contained in Annexure 2:

" ? In the event Dana is unable to export and market the LPG's [or] Condensates by any act or omission of government (including foreign neighbouring governments) and/or for political reasons beyond the control [of] Dana then the KRG shall purchase and lift (or arrange for the lifting by the domestic companies/users) and pay for the liquid petroleum products at international FOB Med market prices as quoted by Platts Oilgram Report or similar journals within 30 days from the month ends. [Identified by the parties as "Bullet 7"].

? The KRG waives on its own behalf and that of the KRG any claim to immunity for itself and assets."

The history


Disputes arose in about 2009 between the parties relating to the nature and extent of the Claimants' rights in relation to the two fields and the prices payable to the Claimants by the Respondent for condensate and LPG produced at Khor Mor and sold to the Respondent. The Claimants contended that by September 2013 the Respondent had underpaid for product produced and lifted in a sum of US$1.12 billion.


In 2013 the Claimants initiated mediation proceedings in accordance with clause 16 of the Heads of Agreement, and when the Respondent declined to participate in it, the Claimants commenced arbitration proceedings. The Respondent's response to the mediation and arbitration was that instead of continuing to make relatively regular payments to the Claimants for the product produced and lifted, albeit on the Claimants' case substantially short of what was due under the contract, the Respondent stopped making any payment, whilst continuing to require the Claimants to deliver up product. The structure of the contract was such that a quantity of gas which was produced was supplied free for the benefit of the Respondent, so that the only source of revenue from which the Claimants could recover their capital investment and their annual running costs was the revenue which they received from their produced condensate and LPG sold and lifted by the KRG, the by-products of the gas production. The sudden cessation of any payment was ascribed by the Respondent to the existence of counterclaims dating back in some cases to 2009.


On 21 March 2014 the Claimants applied to the Arbitrators for an interim measures order pursuant to Article 25 of the LCIA Rules, which provided, inter alia, for the Arbitrators to have the power on the application of any party " (c) to order on a provisional basis, subject to final determination in an award, any relief which the Arbitral Tribunal would have power to grant in an award, including a provisional order for the payment of money or the disposition of property as between any parties". The application was that the Respondent be ordered to resume payments for product lifted, pending the resolution of the parties' disputes. A major ground of this application was the serious financial damage which the Claimants alleged would be suffered by the Claimants, in the case of Dana involving potential bankruptcy, in the event that the Respondent continued with its refusal to make any payment for product which it lifted. The Claimants' case was that by the making of an order for interim measures the Tribunal should restore the status quo by which the Respondent was paying for the condensate and LPG which it was lifting. I set out relevant passages from the Claimants' application:

" 2. The Claimants seek an order to compel the Respondent … to restore the status quo ante and prevent...

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