* Exxon not on final list for 4th energy bidding round
* Bidding for 12 blocks set for May 30-31, mostly gas
By Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDAD, April 19 U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil
did not make the final list of 47 pre-qualified bidders
for the next round of Iraq energy exploration rights because it
had signed a deal with the semi-autonomous Kurdish north, an
Iraq oil official said on Thursday.
Exxon, the world's largest publicly traded energy company,
was still on the list in early February but has since been
removed, while Syrian General Oil has been added as a
pre-qualified bidder, the oil ministry said on its website.
"Exxon Mobil was disqualified from the fourth bidding round
because of its contract with the Kurdistan Regional Government,"
Sabah Abdul-Kadhim, head of the legal section of Iraq's
Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate, told Reuters.
"We made it clear to Exxon Mobil from the beginning that
they should cancel contracts they signed with Kurdistan,
otherwise they would face tough measures from the oil ministry."
Baghdad was infuriated last October when the Kurdistan
Regional Government (KRG) announced that Exxon had signed up for
six KRG exploration blocks. The central government considers
such deals illegal.
Kadhim said any company that signed deals with the KRG would
not be allowed to participate in any bidding rounds organised by
Iraq's oil ministry.
The KRG and Baghdad have had long-running disputes over
political autonomy, oil rights and contested territories, and
tensions have risen recently after a clash over oil exports.
Last year Iraq's Oil Ministry excluded U.S.-based Hess Corp
from competing in the auction after it had signed deals
with the KRG.
Iraq's fourth round of bidding has been repeatedly delayed
but is now due to be held May 30-31. It covers 12 new
exploration blocks, which are expected to add 29 trillion cubic
feet of gas and 10 billion barrels of oil to Iraqi reserves.
Iraq's oil and gas fields have suffered from decades of
neglect because of war and economic sanctions.
Iraq improved the terms of the blocks in February after
several prospective bidders complained that the deals were
The forthcoming auction will focus mainly on gas
exploration rights, and the blocks are mostly in remote parts of
western and central Iraq, making them riskier investments since
the sites are harder to protect against insurgent attacks.
Companies will be able to extract gas discovered in the
blocks immediately, but the Iraqi government has retained the
option to prevent companies from extracting oil in exchange for
paying them compensation.
Exxon could not be reached for immediate comment.
The company has a large and growing portfolio of
conventional and unconventional gas assets around the world,
many in less challenging environments than Iraq.