Big Oil Drooling Over Iraq Contracts

Firms booted out in '72 eye nation's vast untapped reserves
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2009 1:48 AM CDT
A refinery worker controls a valve on a pipeline at an oil refinery in Basra.   (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
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(Newser) – Iraq is preparing to welcome back the foreign oil companies it ejected over 30 years ago, and the firms are giddy with anticipation, the Wall Street Journal reports. Contracts to revive production at neglected oil fields go up for auction next week, and competition is expected to be fierce. Oil firms believe Iraq's dozens of untapped fields represent the biggest opportunity in a decade, despite security and political risks.

The contracts up for grabs offer a fee for boosting production instead of a share of profits, which oil companies would prefer, but the firms are keen to get their foot in the door. Political squabbling has threatened to delay the plan. But Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, who has developed a reputation as a by-the-book stickler for correct procedure, has the support of  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and insists the auction will proceed.