Lukoil says no commitments made on Iraqi W.Qurna-1 project

MOSCOW Wed Dec 5, 2012 1:15pm EST

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MOSCOW Dec 5 (Reuters) - Russia's Lukoil, identified by Baghdad as a favoured investor in West Qurna-1, a major oil project abandoned by Exxon, has made no commitment so far, a company official said on Wednesday, the tentative deadline date for bids.

Exxon Mobil Corp has approached all likely buyers for the project and invited bids by Dec. 5, two sources said last month.

"We have not announced our interest or wish to invest or anything," Lukoil Overseas chief Andrei Kuzyayev told an Energy Intelligence conference in Moscow, although he declined to comment directly on the bidding process.

"For us Qurna-1 is a neighbouring project. We are as interested as everyone else in the reasons why Exxon left," he added.

A senior Iraqi oil ministry source said last month the Iraqi government would favour a joint bid by Lukoil and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) if they decided to pursue the project.

Lukoil, Russia's second-largest crude producer, is already developing West Qurna-2.

Exxon was frustrated by tough terms set by the Baghdad government for West Qurna-1, which weighed on the profitability of the project, and riled the Iraqi central government by signing deals with the autonomous Kurdistan regional government.

"No one doubts that Qurna is an elephant," Kuzyayev said.

He also said Lukoil was working to find a partner to replace Statoil in West Qurna-2 but declined to name any candidates.

"We are looking for partners for various regions," Kuzyayev said. "First of all it's for risk management and gaining knowledge but also to expand the market for such a huge amount of oil, including in Asia."

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