March 24, 2009 / 9:23 AM / 10 years ago

Iraq asks Total, Chevron, Statoil to bid on oilfield

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has invited France’s Total (TOTF.PA) and U.S. firm Chevron Corp (CVX.N) to jointly bid against Norway’s StatoilHydro STL.OL for a contract to develop its 6 billion barrel Nahr Bin Umar southern oilfield, the Oil Ministry said on Tuesday.

“The Total and Chevron consortium are favored to win this contract because they have together studied a group of Iraqi oil fields, including Nahr Bin Umar,” a senior official in the ministry told Reuters.

The official added that two other fields in that study were Majnoon and West Qurna Phase I, both of which were among fields offered up in two bidding rounds that Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani announced last year.

The first of those rounds will be awarded by the middle of this year and the second by the end. The Nahr Bin Umar contract was nothing to do with those rounds, the official said, adding that the ministry was waiting to receive the firms’ offers.

The field in Iraq’s southern oil hub of Basra produces just 50,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), despite its proven reserves of at least 6 billion barrels, the ministry says. It has the capacity to produce 10 times as much, it says.

A third company would be invited to join in the bidding process but it had not yet been decided which one, the Oil Ministry official said.

Iraq is aggressively courting foreign investment in its oil industry in an effort to modernize creaking infrastructure devastated by decades or war, sanctions and neglect.

Shahristani has said he wants to raise production to 6 million barrels per day in the next five to six years, from its current average of 2.4 million.

“This offer is part of our accelerated plan to boost oil production through EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contracts,” the official said.

A spokesman for Total said it does not comment on ongoing discussions but added Total is interested in Iraqi investments.

StatoilHydro spokeswoman Mari Dotterud said: “We are very pleased with the invitation ... It is clear that the security situation in Iraq has improved, but is still demanding. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Additional reporting by Wojciech Moskwa in Oslo and Tom Bergin in London; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by James Jukwey

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