Iraq’s oil and gas attracts Chinese firms

29 projects aim to develop reserves, attract investments

REUTERS May 12, 2024
A worker walks at Nahr Bin Umar oil field, north of Basra, Iraq.PHOTO: CNBC


Iraq was holding an oil and gas licensing round for 29 projects on Saturday in a bid to develop its huge gas reservoirs to help power the country and lure billions of dollars in investments.

The exploration blocks are spread across 12 governorates in central, southern and western Iraq and for the first time include an offshore exploration block in Iraq’s Arab Gulf waters.

Five fields were won by Chinese companies. Zhongman Petroleum and Natural Gas Group took the northern extension of the Eastern Baghdad field, in Baghdad, and the Middle Euphrates field, the oil ministry said. China’s United Energy Group Ltd won a bid to develop the Al-Faw field in southern Basra, while ZhenHua won a bid to develop Iraq’s Qurnain field in the Iraqi-Saudi border region and Geo-Jade won a bid to develop Iraq’s Zurbatiya oil and gas field in the eastern Wasit.

Two oil and gas fields were taken by Iraq’s KAR Group – the Dimah field, and the Sasan and Alan fields – the oil ministry said. Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia, last held a licensing round, its fifth, in 2018.

The “fifth plus” licensing round includes many projects left over from that round plus a new sixth round with 14 projects, Iraqi Oil Minister Hayan Abdel-Ghani said.

Over 20 companies pre-qualified for the latest round, including European, Chinese, Arab and Iraqi groups. There were no US oil majors involved.

Iraq’s oil production capacity has grown from 3 million to around 5 million barrels per day (bpd) in recent years, but the departure of giants such as Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc due to poor returns means future growth is uncertain.

Developments have also slowed due to growing investor focus on environmental, social and governance criteria. Iraq at one time had targeted becoming a rival to top global producer Saudi Arabia with output of 12 million bpd or over a tenth of global demand.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2024.

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