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Lukoil Wants Chinese Partner for West Qurna Phase 1

Source: Reuters 1/15/2013, Location: Middle East

Russian company LUKOIL would like a Chinese firm to succeed Norwegian group Statoil as its partner in an Iraqi oil field, meaning there would be a ready buyer for crude produced there.

"We are less interested in (investment) money than in long-term marketing of our output," chief executive and largest Lukoil shareholder Vagit Alekperov told reporters.

"For us ... the most appropriate partners are from China, where there is stable growth in oil consumption, and West Qurna volumes are very large, so they need to be placed efficiently."

Last year, Statoil agreed to sell its 18.75 percent stake in West Qurna Phase 2, making Lukoil the sole foreign partner in the oil field with a 75 percent holding. The deal made Statoil the first big Western oil group to abandon one of the lucrative oil deals offered by Iraq in recent years.

Lukoil, which oversees the largest share of oil reserves in Iraq among foreign companies, has been the subject of reports it could acquire U.S. group ExxonMobil's stake in West Qurna Phase 1.

Iraq's oil ministry has told Lukoil is favoured a Russian-Chinese pairing to develop West Qurna Phase 1, which became available in November when ExxonMobil said it was to withdraw from the $50 billion project.

Qurna is part of a portfolio of foreign projects assembled by Lukoil to offset declines in its home in western Siberia, the Soviet-era oil heartland where companies are struggling to maintain output with prevailing conventional technology.

Lukoil, Russia's No. 2 oil company and the largest energy producer outside state control, has lobbied for access to new hydrocarbon provinces, particularly in the Arctic offshore zones which could contain vast new fields and are the legal preserve of state companies Gazprom and Rosneft.

Alekperov was speaking in the northern gas industry hub of Novy Urengoi, where industry leaders were meeting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Kommersant daily reported they would discuss access to Arctic offshore zones for private companies, favoured by the Natural Resources Ministry, which controls licensing of hydrocarbon deposits, and opposed by Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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