Iraq Oil Ministry Qualifies 41 International Firms for New Bid Round

AMMAN (Dow Jones Newswires), Aug. 8, 2011

The Iraqi oil ministry has qualified some 41 international companies to compete for 12 exploration blocks in the next bidding round which is scheduled to be held in January, the ministry said in statement Monday.

Iraq, which sits on the world's third largest oil reserves, has estimated that the new blocks would add some 10 billion barrels of oil to Iraq's current reserves of 143 billion barrels, and some 29 trillion cubic feet of gas to its current reserves of 112.6 trillion cubic feet.

Among the companies qualified by the ministry for the licensing auction are some of the world's oil majors such as BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Lukoil, Total, China National Petroleum Corp., or CNPC, Eni, Occidental Petroleum Corp. (OXY) and Chevron.

The list also includes nine Japanese firms. They are, among others, INPEX, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp., or JOGMEC, Mitsui Oil Exploration Co. Ltd, JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp., or JX-NOEX, Itochu, Mitsubishi, and Japan Petroleum exploration Co. Ltd, known as Japex.

Two Arab companies are listed by the ministry. They are Mubadala Oil & Gas of the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait Energy of Kuwait.

The ministry said the chosen companies are among 50 firms who submitted applications and documents to take part in the bidding round, scheduled to be held in January next year.

Many of the listed companies have won deals to upgrade Iraq's vast oil and gas fields. Baghdad has held three bidding rounds in the past two years to auction off 15 of the country's most prized oil and gas fields.

Three of the announced blocks are located in the western Anbar province while two others are shared by the Anbar, Nineveh and Najaf governorates. The sixth is in Nineveh governorate in northern Iraq. These six are believed to contain gas resources, oil ministry officials said.

The remaining five blocks, believed to contain crude oil resources, are located in other governorates including Basra, Dhi Qar (Nassiriyah), Muthanna (Samawa), Babil, Najaf, Wasit and Diyala provinces, the officials said.

The size of the blocks range from 5,500 square kilometers to 9,000 square kilometers, they added.

Iraq needs to boost gas production and build more gas-fired power plants to increase its power output, currently at 6,500 megawatts, which represent less than half the country's needs.

Although international companies would prefer production-sharing contracts for exploration blocks, Iraqi oil officials said the deals would be based on a service contract, which means winning companies will be paid a flat fee for their services rather than be given a share in the resources. But it would be slightly different from the 20-year service contract offered in the previous three bidding rounds, they said.

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