(Adds Exxon details, paragraphs 8-10)
By Simon Webb
DUBAI, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Oil major Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) and Spanish energy company Repsol YPF (REP.MC) have both registered to compete for contracts to develop Iraq’s huge oil reserves, company sources said on Wednesday.
Big oil firms have been positioning themselves for years to gain access to the world’s third-largest reserves, among the cheapest oil to produce in the world.
Iraq has given companies until Feb. 18 to submit documents that will qualify them to compete in tenders for service contracts to help develop its oil infrastructure. The deadline was extended from Jan. 31.
“Shell has submitted its prequalification documents, as per the original deadline,” a Shell company source said.
A spokesman for Repsol in Madrid confirmed that Repsol had also submitted its documents.
Shell and Repsol join BP (BP.L) on the register. BP chief Executive Tony Hayward said on Tuesday that his company had signed up.
BP has no plans to send personnel into Iraq until the security situation improves, but would be interested in service agreements and cooperation with the country, a BP spokesman said on Wednesday.
Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), the world’s largest oil company not controlled by a state, said on Wednesday it is interested in helping to develop Iraq’s oil reserves. Still, it declined to comment on whether it has registered yet to compete for contracts there.
“If the Iraqi government decides it wants international oil companies to partner with them in developing their resources, Exxon Mobil would be interested in participating,” spokesman Len D‘Eramo said in an e-mailed statement.
D‘Eramo said Exxon would pursue profitable business opportunities as they arise in Iraq, just as it would in other countries in which it is permitted to operate. He said it was premature to discuss specific opportunities in Iraq.
French energy group Total (TOTF.PA) was also interested in participating in the tenders, company spokeswoman Patricia Marie said on Wednesday. She was unable to confirm if the company had already submitted its documents.
Norway’s StatoilHydro (STL.OL) said last month that it would register, but a spokeswoman was unable to confirm on Wednesday if it had already done so.
BP has undertaken a study of the Rumaila oilfield, one of Iraq’s largest. It has also studied possibilities at other fields and in gas and alternative energy.
Shell has studied the giant Kirkuk oilfield in the north and the Missan area of southern Iraq. Shell has also worked on a masterplan for development of Iraq’s gas reserves.
Total had exclusive negotiating rights for the huge Majnoon and Bin Umar fields under Saddam Hussein. (Additional reporting by John Acher in Oslo, Joe Ortiz in Madrid, and Michael Erman in New York; editing by Anthony Barker, Gary Hill)