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Iraq To Move Up Second Energy Bidding Round

Workers carry out checks at the Kirkuk oil field.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Iraq plans to bring forward a second bidding round for major energy contracts, a spokesman has said, and it may also give foreign firms another chance to bid for oil fields that were not awarded during an energy auction this week.

The country's second major bidding round for energy deals "was supposed to be at the end of the year but we have moved it up. We will announce the new date. It could be in the next few months," said Oil Ministry spokesman Asim Jihad.

That auction will be the follow-on to the tender held in Baghdad on June 30 for eight major oil and natural-gas fields.

The auction awarded just one field to a foreign group led by BP, a disappointment to those who had hoped the round would help Iraq quickly revive a struggling oil sector and boost production of about 2.4 million barrels per day.

The auction revealed a deep gulf between what the Iraqi government was willing to pay and what foreign firms expected to earn for developing the fields, most already in production.

Jihad said the unawarded oil fields might be offered in another bidding process, or could be added to the second round and in some cases might even be developed by a future national oil company if the company is revived.

The second round is seen as even more lucrative than the first because the fields on offer have not yet been developed.

Jihad said that the government planned to develop two major gas fields, Akkas and Mansuriyah, on its own after neither was awarded to a foreign bidder in the June 30 auction.

"Akkas and Mansuriyah will be developed by the national oil company after approval of the new oil law," Jihad said.

The creation of a new national oil company would be dependent on parliament passing long-delayed hydrocarbon legislation. The laws have been held up for years by feuds between the central government in Baghdad and minority Kurds in northern Iraq.

There are few signs the impasse will soon be broken.