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Iraq holds oil and gas licensing round for 29 projects

Iraq is holding an oil and gas licensing round for 29 projects in a bid to develop its huge gas reservoirs to help power the country and lure billions of dollars in investments.

The exploration blocks are spread across 12 governorates in mostly central and southern Iraq and for the first time include an offshore exploration block in Iraq’s Arab Gulf waters.

China’s Zhongman Petroleum and Natural Gas Group (ZPEC) 603619.SS won the northern extension of the Eastern Baghdad field, in Baghdad, and the Middle Euphrates field that straddles the southern Najaf and Karbala provinces after submitting the lowest offers, the oil ministry said.

Iraq’s KAR Group won a bid to develop the Dima oil field in eastern Maysan province, the oil ministry said.

Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia, last held a licensing round, its fifth, in 2018.

Saturday’s “fifth plus” licensing round includes many projects left over from that round plus a new sixth round with 14 projects, Iraqi Oil Minister Hayan Abdel-Ghani said.

More than 20 companies pre-qualified for Saturday’s round, including European, Chinese, Arab and Iraqi groups but no U.S. oil majors.

Iraq’s oil production capacity has grown from 3 million to around 5 million barrels per day (bpd) in recent years, but the departure of giants such as Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc from a number of projects due to poor returns means future growth is uncertain.

Developments have also slowed due to growing investor focus on environmental, social and governance criteria.

Iraq at one time had targeted becoming a rival to top global producer Saudi Arabia with output of 12 million bpd or over a tenth of global demand.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Moayed Kenany, Clauda Tanios, Adam Makary and Timour Azhari; Writing by Timour Azhari; Editing by Alison Williams and Mark Potter)

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