Iraq Plans New Licensing Auction for 3 Gas Fields

(Dow Jones), Apr. 14, 2010

The Iraqi Oil Ministry is planning to hold this year a third licensing auction to develop three discovered gas fields Akkas, Mansouriya and Siba, a senior official at the ministry said Wednesday.

Abdul Mahdy al-Ameedi, director-general of the Ministry's Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate, told Dow Jones Newswires that out of the 44 international companies pre-qualified for last year's first and second bidding rounds, only 15 will be invited to submit bids for the gas fields.

He didn't name them, but described them as "the large integrated firms which can develop both oil and gas fields and those specialized in developing gas fields."

Ameedi said he expected the licensing auction for these three fields to take place by the end of this year. The Oil Ministry is offering a 20-year long technical service contracts similar to those awarded during the first and second bidding rounds.

Iraq awarded 10 oil deals to international companies during the first and second bid rounds last year with the aim of boosting its crude oil production to 12 million barrels a day in six to seven years. Iraq is currently producing 2.4 million barrels a day.

Among the companies which won oil deals are Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA), BP PLC (BP), Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Italy's giat Eni SpA (E), Russia's Lukoil OAO (LKOH.RS) France's Total (TOT), Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. (1662.TO), China National Petroleum Corp. and Malaysia's Petronas.

Both Akkas and Mansouriya fields were included in the first bid round last June.

A consortium led by Italy's Edison SpA (EDN.MI), which was the sole bidder for the 4 trillion-cubic-feet untapped Akkas field in the western Anbar province, was rejected because it sought $38 for each extra barrel of oil equivalent produced while the ministry offered a maximum fee of $8.50 a barrel.

None of the 33 participating companies submitted a bid for the untapped 3.3 trillion-cubic-feet Mansouriya gas field located in the restive Diyala governorate in eastern Iraq.

Siba gas field, with estimated proven reserves of more than 3 billion cubic meters in Basra governorate near the border with Iran, was dropped from the list of oil and gas fields listed in the second bid round which took place last December.

Ameedi said it was decided to offer these gas fields for development because Iraq desperately needs gas to feed its power generators which are providing less than half of the country's need.

The announcement of the new bid round came only a few days after a senior Iraqi oil official said that a Shell gas development project was in trouble. Shell failed last month to sign a 25-year deal with Baghdad to produce gas from southern oil fields which is currently being flared. Both Iraq and Shell agreed to extend negotiations for another six months.

Iraq, which has proven natural-gas reserves of 3.15 trillion cubic meters, has a daily natural-gas production of 1.64 billion cubic feet, 70% of which is flared.

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