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Chinese companies win more bids to explore for Iraq oil and gas


By Moayed Kenany, Adam Makary and Timour Azhari

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -Chinese companies won five more bids to explore Iraqi oil and gas fields, Iraq’s oil minister said on Sunday, as the Middle Eastern country’s hydrocarbon exploration licensing round continued into its second day.

Chinese companies have been the only foreign players to win bids so far, taking licenses covering 10 oil and gas fields since Saturday, while Iraqi Kurdish company KAR Group took two.

The oil and gas licences for 29 projects in total are mainly aimed at ramping up output for domestic use, with more than 20 companies pre-qualifying, including European, Chinese, Arab and Iraqi groups.

Iraq wanted this licensing round – the country’s sixth – in particular to increase output of natural gas, that it wants to use to fire power plants that rely heavily on gas imported from Iran. However, no bids were made on at least six fields with gas potential, potentially undermining those efforts.

Also notably no U.S. oil majors have been involved, even after Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia met representatives of U.S. companies on an official visit to the United States last month.

Among specific awards, China’s CNOOC (NYSE:CEO) Iraq won a bid to develop for oil exploration Iraq’s Block 7, that extends across the country’s central and southern provinces of Diwaniya, Babil, Najaf, Wasit and Muthanna, said oil minister Hayan Abdul Ghani.

ZhenHua, Anton Oilfield Services and Sinopec (OTC:SHIIY) won bids to develop the Abu Khaymah oilfield in Muthanna, the Dhufriya field in Wasit and the Sumer field in Muthanna, respectively, the minister said.

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China’s Geo-Jade won a bid to develop Iraq’s Jabal Sanam field for oil exploration in Basra province, Iraq’s oil minister added.

Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest oil producer behind Saudi Arabia, has been hampered in its oil sector development by contract terms viewed as unfavourable by many major oil companies, as well as recurring military conflicts and growing investor focus on environmental, social and governance criteria.

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