ChevronTexaco Eyes Yr-End News On Project Kuwait

ChevronTexaco Corp. Vice Chairman Peter Robertson said Friday that he hoped "to hear something positive" by the end of this year on its interest in Kuwait's $7-billion north oil fields development plan, Project Kuwait.

Speaking to Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of an OPEC-hosted energy conference here, Robertson said Kuwait had made some organisational changes and he was expecting news on the project by the end of 2004. The company, he said, has had a technical services agreement with Kuwait Petroleum Corp. (KPT.YY) company and has "learned a lot about the geology (of the area). I've been optimistic on the project for seven years."

Wednesday, Kuwait's Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said he hoped to announce a partnership on the project with a western oil major early next year, but the timetable could depend on the level of opposition within the country.

"There is some opposition, but they are not the majority," he told Dow Jones Newswires. Al-Sabah said the plan will be presented to parliament when the session opens Oct. 27.

The ministry hopes to fast-track the proposal through the Parliament and release tenders to western oil companies by the end of December. A decision on the winning bidder could take 45-60 days. "That is our target," Al-Sabah said of the early 2005 award.

Three oil consortia are in the running for Project Kuwait. They are led by BP (BP), ChevronTexaco Corp. (CVX) and ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM).

Project Kuwait would enable the country to increase production by 300,000 barrels a day, lifting output to 3 million barrels a day.

Project Kuwait was originally launched in 1998. It envisaged doubling oil production from five northern oil fields near the border with Iraq - Rawdatain, Sabrya, Ratga, Abdali and Bahra - to around 900,000 barrels a day within five years, from the current 450,000 b/d.

Separately, a company official said ChevronTexaco had been engaged in technical work in Iraq; "We've done some technical work for Iraq's Oil Ministry and we're expected to do more."

The company had brought Iraqi oil technicians for training at its facilities in the U.S. and the Middle East, the official added.