Iraq to Accept More Companies to Bid for Oil Deals

(Dow Jones Newswires), May 19, 2008

Iraq is planning to issue a new list of pre-qualified international companies to bid for future oil and gas deals to develop the country's fields, a spokesman for the Iraqi Oil Ministry said Monday.

Last April, Iraq accepted 35 international oil companies to compete for hydrocarbon contracts out of 120 firms that applied to the ministry to qualify.

"There will be another invitation for companies to submit their qualification documentation to compete for the development of smaller oil and gas fields," Assem Jihad told Dow Jones Newswires.

"There is another chance for companies to compete for the second round of licenses," he added.

Jihad said the 35 companies announced in April would compete for the development of Iraq's large oil fields. The ministry is expected to announce the first round of tenders to develop these oil fields in the second half of the year, Iraqi oil officials have said.

The ministry spokesman didn't specify when the ministry would issue the new invitation for companies to send their documentation for qualification, but said it would be as soon as the ministry finished awarding the first round of tenders to develop large oil fields.

"We don't know yet when we will invite companies for the second round of licenses but it will be immediately after the conclusion of the first round of tenders," Jihad said.

Iraq is currently in the final stages of striking what are called Technical Services Contracts with oil majors to help boost crude oil production in the country's largest producing fields.

Iraqi oil sources said these Technical Services Contracts, or TSCs, could be signed as early as June. Each would last two years and could be extended for another year.

Iraq wants to boost production by 600,000 barrels a day in six producing oil fields in northern and southern Iraq. They are Kirkuk in the north, West Qurna 1, Zubair, Missan, Rumaila and Luhais in the south.

Iraq is currently producing between 2.3 million and 2.4 million barrels a day of oil, a tiny fraction of its 115 billion barrels of proven crude reserves, the world's third largest.

Iraqi oil officials have estimated the value of each TSC to be around $500 million.

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