BAGHDAD: Iraq will invite 35 international oil companies to bid for oil and gas service contracts soon, an oil ministry spokesman said on Monday.
Iraq holds the world's third-largest oil reserves and needs billions of dollars of investment to overhaul energy infrastructure and increase oil and gas output after years of sanctions and war.
"The ministry will declare the first round of bidding in the coming period," Asim Jihad, the spokesman, said. "The oil ministry is acting urgently to develop oil fields and increase crude production."
Fields from all regions of Iraq would be offered in the first round, he said, declining to give specific details.
Oil is Iraq's main source of income, and boosting output is key to earning the cash the country needs for reconstruction. Iraq produces around 2.3 million barrels per day of oil, and has 115 billion barrels of proven crude reserves.
Iraq published a list of 35 companies on Monday that it said were qualified to bid in the first licensing round on its Web site, www.oil.gov.iq.
Companies that failed to qualify for the first round could still qualify for the second and later rounds, Jihad said.
Some 120 companies submitted paperwork for qualification. The oil ministry did not list those that failed to qualify.
BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Total all qualified, according to the list. They have been positioning themselves for years in the hope of eventually gaining access to Iraq's abundant reserves.
Iraq is already negotiating separate deals with those companies for two-year oil service contracts at some of the biggest fields that aim to boost the country's oil output by 500,000 barrels per day.
Oil majors will be involved in a role as project managers of the fields, supervising work by Iraqi operating companies. Insecurity in the country stops them from sending in their own ground staff.
None of the companies that have done deals with the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq were on the list. Baghdad claims those deals were illegal and had said that it will bar companies that had signed contracts with the Kurdish region from oil deals in the rest of the country.
Political disputes between the Kurdish region and Baghdad have delayed a vital oil law from being presented to parliament for over a year. As a stop-gap measure, Iraq plans to award short-term oil extraction and service contracts to help lift production.
Iraq invites 35 companies to bid for oil contracts - Source
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