* Big Oil executives in Baghdad despite security threat
* Three of Iraq's largest oilfields up for grabs on day 1
* Security tight at oil ministry after Tuesday's bombings
By Missy Ryan and Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDAD, Dec 11 Deal makers from the world's
largest energy firms assembled amid tight security at Iraq's
Oil Ministry on Friday to compete for deals to develop some of
the country's most prized oilfields.
Iraq will offer three of the world's largest fields on the
first day of its two-day auction, a rare opportunity for oil
firms, from Western majors to Chinese and Indian state-owned
giants, to gain access to cheap Middle East oil reserves.
The deals have the potential to boost Iraq's capacity by
millions of barrels per day and make it a rival to top oil
producers Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Baghdad desperately needs the billions of dollars of
revenue these and other deals would generate to rebuild after
decades of war, international sanctions and years of neglect
Competition was expected to be fierce as the second auction
since the 2003 U.S. invasion includes the last of Iraq's
supergiant fields - reservoirs holding 5 billion barrels or
more. They are among the last untapped fields of their size in
The auction is one of the largest ever held, with about as
much oil on offer in this bid round alone as all that held by
Executives from the world's top oil companies have braved
the security threat to bid in Baghdad. Forty-four companies
were expected to send top-level representatives. They include
Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), BP (BP.L),
Chevron (CVX.N) and Total (TOTF.PA).
A series of car bombs killed 112 people in the capital on
Tuesday, police said, a bloody reminder of the threat oil firms
would face in deploying staff to remote fields across the
Iraqi army helicopters buzzed overhead while convoys of
armoured SUVs carrying the oil executives hidden behind tinted
windows raced through town.
Iraqi police trucks and squads of police dressed in
commando gear deployed at dawn to line the streets leading to
the Oil Ministry, blocking off many side roads.
Crowds of uniformed police and army personnel milled around
at the ministry next to Iraq army Humvees and police pickup
trucks. The auction, which will be held in a large auditorium,
did not start on time.
The giant fields on offer on the first day of the auction
were southern fields Majnoon and Halfaya and central field East
Baghdad, part of which lies under Baghdad's Sadr City slum.
Also on the block were a cluster known as the Eastern
Fields in volatile Diyala province, and Qayara, a reservoir in
the northern province of Nineveh, where Sunni Islamist
insurgents like al Qaeda are still on the prowl and Kurd-Arab
disputes have led to considerable tension.
(Writing by Simon Webb; Editing by Michael Christie)