U.S. firm Weatherford to start drilling in Iraq

Abu Dhabi, April 21 (Reuters) - U.S. oilfield services company, Weatherford WFT.N will start drilling for oil in southern Iraq in May, a company official said on Tuesday.

Weatherford, which has secured two contracts for drilling in the south, will also start drilling in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on Friday, said Rex Cramer, area manager for Middle East operations at Weatherford.

“Iraq is starting to boom and there will be more work, but this comes with strong competition,” Cramer told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry conference in Abu Dhabi, the capital of fellow OPEC member the United Arab Emirates.

Iraq has opened the doors to foreign oil companies this year through two bidding rounds for oilfield servicing contracts, and has also invited specific foreign firms to compete for development contracts in others.

Iraq needs foreign companies to invest in drilling more oil wells as it does not have the capacity on its own to more than double output of 2.3-2.4 million barrels per day of crude, its oil minister has said.

Iraq, which plans to raise its oil output capacity to 6 million bpd in five-six years, holds the world’s third-largest proven oil reserves, but its fields are largely underexploited due to decades of war, sanctions and underinvestment.

The sectarian slaughter unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion has begun to recede and overall violence is at its lowest levels in six years, but global oil majors say security remains a significant factor with regard to working in Iraq.

“We are concerned, yes but we take measures,” said a Weatherford official who did not wish to be identified.

Some 90 percent of Weatherford’s employees in its offices in the southern city of Basra and Arbil in the north are Iraqi, he said. (Reporting by Reem Shamseddine; Editing by Keiron Henderson)