Saturday, January 8, 2011

Iraq to begin preparation for oil new bid round

Iraq will start preparations next week to hold a fourth licensing auction to award several oil and gas exploration contracts to international companies, a senior Iraqi oil official said Saturday.

"God willing, we hope to hold the fourth bid round this year," Abdul Mahdy al-Ameedi, head of Iraq's Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate, told Dow Jones Newswires.

Ameedi, whose office engineered three rounds in the last two years that led to awarding 15 oil and gas fields, didn't say how many exploration blocks would be offered in the new auction, but said it would include oil and gas ones.

Earlier, the country's newly appointed oil minister Abdul Kareem Luaiby said that Iraq would offer some 12 blocks.

"The plan is to tender for blocks in governorates where no fields were offered in the first three rounds such as Najaf and Kerbala governorates," he said, adding that Western Anbar province, home to the Akkas gas field could also be included.

Iraq has so far held three successful petroleum bidding rounds over the last two years that led to the award of some of the country's prized oil and gas fields throughout the country. These would help more than quadruple the country's production.

New oil fields explorations are needed to compensate for the huge amount of crude oil that the country is expected to extract from oil fields currently being developed by international companies, Iraqi oil officials said.

Exxon Mobil Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!xom/quotes/nls/xom (XOM 75.59, +0.41, +0.55%) , Russia's OAO Lukoil , Royal Dutch Shell PLC /quotes/comstock/13*!rds.b/quotes/nls/rds.b (RDS.B 66.23, +0.26, +0.39%) , BP PLC /quotes/comstock/13*!bp/quotes/nls/bp (BP 46.08, -0.15, -0.32%) , Total SA /quotes/comstock/13*!tot/quotes/nls/tot (TOT 53.54, -0.62, -1.14%) , Eni SpA /quotes/comstock/13*!e/quotes/nls/e (E 44.24, -0.32, -0.72%) , China National Petroleum Corp., and Malaysia's national oil company Petronas are gearing up work to start substantial production from supergiant fields such as West Qurna phase 1 and 2, Majnoon, Rumaila, and Zubair, all in southern Iraq.

Ameedi has earlier announced that Iraq's crude oil production increased by 300,000 barrels a day to 2.7 million barrels a day. He expected Iraq's oil output to hit 3 million barrels a day by 2011.

Iraq, which depends on oil revenue for more that 90% of its national expenditure, last year raised its figure for proven oil reserves by nearly a quarter to 143.1 billion barrels--the world's third largest.

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