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Iraq awards projects to China’s Sinopec, UEG, CNOOC Iraq and Anton Oilfield

Chinese energy companies won bids to explore 10 Iraqi oil and gas fields during new licensing rounds, ahead of any other foreign country, Iraq’s oil ministry said Monday.

Seven Chinese companies, including Sinopec, UEG, CNOOC Iraq and Anton Oilfield, won 10 projects including eight oil fields and two with potential oil and gas reserves, while Iraq’s KAR got three fields, the ministry said.

The licensing rounds, which lasted three days and ended Monday, offered 29 oil and gas fields in 12 provinces. Among those on offer was an offshore bloc, the first in Iraqi territorial waters, but it did not receive any bids.

China has gained a major foothold in oil-rich and war-battered Iraq in recent years. It has also expanded its presence in the energy and construction sectors and become one of the largest importers of Iraqi crude.

Iraq — as it seeks to recover from years of war, including the 2003 US invasion and sectarian conflict afterwards — is also among the many partners in China’s vast Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

Under a 2019 “oil for construction” deal, building projects in Iraq are funded by the sale of 100,000 barrels per day of Iraqi oil to China.

According to the World Bank, Iraq has 145 billion barrels of proven oil reserves — among the largest in the world — amounting to 96 years’ worth of production at the current rate.

But Iraq aims to keep exploring to boost its crude reserves to more than 160 billion barrels, Oil Minister Hayan Abdel Ghani said during the launch of the licensing rounds Saturday.

It also hopes the blocs will lead to increased natural gas production to help reduce dependence on imports from neighbouring Iran, a crucial supplier for Iraqi power generation.

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