Iraq signs exploration deals in bid to boost oil, gas production

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Iraq signed several deals with foreign companies aimed at boosting the OPEC member’s oil and natural gas production in the coming years.

The government expects oil output to increase by 250,000 barrels a day once the blocks covered by the agreements start producing, Oil Minister Hayyan Abdul Ghani said on local television on Tuesday. He didn’t give a timeframe.

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Iraq is OPEC’s biggest producer after Saudi Arabia, pumping about 4.5 million barrels each day. Still, some foreign companies have soured on the country due to political instability and stringent bureaucracy.

Crescent Petroleum is one of the firms involved in Tuesday’s signings. Based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, it is set to develop three oil and gas blocks. The first two of those — both in Diyala province in the east — will be able to extract between 150 million and 250 million cubic feet a day of gas, according to Crescent’s executive director for exploration and production, Abdulla al-Qadi.

“The initial plan will start with a fast track gas output from Khashim al-Ahmr-Injana in Diyala,” he said in an interview in Baghdad. “We expect within 18 months from contract signing to start first gas production.”

Crescent will also develop Gilabat-Qumar in Diyala and the Khider al-Mai block in Basra province in the south. Each agreement spans 20 years.

The company already operates in Kurdistan in the north of Iraq, pumping about 500 million cubic feet per day of gas. It hopes to boost output by 50 percent by next year, al-Qadi said.

Iraq also signed deals with two Chinese companies, including Geo-Jade Petroleum Corp., the minister said.

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