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A helicopter flies over oil storage drums aboard an offshore oil platform in the Persian Gulf's Salman Oil Field, operated by the National Iranian Offshore Oil Co., near Lavan island, Iran, on Thursday, Jan. 5. 2017.

The oil producer paid nothing for its barrels last month

A helicopter flies over oil storage drums aboard an offshore oil platform in the Persian Gulf's Salman Oil Field, operated by the National Iranian Offshore Oil Co., near Lavan island, Iran, on Thursday, Jan. 5. 2017.

Oil’s crash below zero last month may have been short-lived — and confined to the US — but it helped ensure that at least one producer was paid absolutely nothing for its crude.

The sun sets over crude oil storage tanks at the Juaymah tank farm, operated by Saudi Aramco, in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018.

Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd., which operates the 36,000-barrels-a-day Shaikan field in northern Iraq, invoiced the Kurdish regional government a “nil amount” for what it pumped in April. The London-listed firm said the monthly average price for Dated Brent was less than the discount for its crude. Gulf Keystone had agreed to sell Shaikan crude at about $21 a barrel below Brent during the month.

It’s unclear whether the company or Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region ended up footing the bill for the difference, small as it probably was. A spokesman for Gulf Keystone didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other producers in the Kurdish enclave, including Genel Energy Plc, did get paid last month. Even so, at least a few energy firms operating elsewhere are likely to have met the same fate as Gulf Keystone.

South Sudan’s a possible case in point. The war-torn nation’s Dar Blend and Nile Blend grades of crude often price at a discount to Dated Brent. Operators also have to pay hefty fees to Sudan to transport oil through its territory — those alone can amount to around US$25 a barrel.

The consolation for such companies is that oil’s surge in the past month — Brent futures are up about 70 per cent to almost US$35 a barrel — means they should get at least something for their efforts in May.