Iraq Qualified 41 Companies for 4th Energy Bid

Source: Reuters 8/7/2011, Location: Middle East

Iraq has qualified 41 companies to participate in its 4th energy bidding round, which is scheduled to take place in late January, Abdul-Mahdy al-Ameedi, director of the oil ministry's contracts and licensing directorate, told Reuters. The 4th bidding round for 12 new exploration blocks is expected to add 29 trillion cubic feet of gas and 10 billion barrels of oil to Iraqi reserves from the auction.

"We eventually qualified 41 companies," Ameedi said.

OPEC member Iraq has already signed a series of deals with oil majors to develop its largest oil-fields and is seeking to boost its production as the country pulls back from years of war and economic sanctions. Ameedi said the next step would be inviting the 41 companies to a roadshow on Sept 11 in Amman, Jordan and presenting a data package with initial tender protocol to companies on Sept 12. Iraq was scheduled to make an announcement of pre-qualified companies on June 30, but some issues relating to company documentation forced further delay. "Some companies posted required documentation to places like Iran by mistake and others asked for more time to sort out bank issues, so we had to delay announcement," Amedi said. Iraq's oil ministry also excluded companies, which have contracts with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) from the qualification process, Amedi said. The Shi'ite-led Iraqi government is embroiled in a protracted dispute with ethnic Kurds in the semi-autonomous northern part of the country over land and the country's vast oil wealth. Iraq deems production-sharing contracts signed by the Kurds to be illegal.

Companies qualified range from oil majors, including BP Plc, ExxonMobil and Italy's ENI, to state-run firms like Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) and India's Oil & Natural Gas Corp. The announcement of the qualifications may also lead to a clash with an Iraqi parliament energy panel chief who said in May he wanted the bidding delayed until lawmakers approve a long-stalled new hydrocarbons law. The hydrocarbons law is aimed at resolving outstanding disputes with the Kurdish region among other issues and is seen as key to guaranteeing more legal security for investors. This 4th bidding round will focus mainly on gas exploration. Iraq auctioned three major natural gas fields to foreign firms last October. Iraq needs to harness gas energy to generate electricity an end chronic power blackouts that still plague the country almost eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.


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