Iraq extends agreement with Shell on natural gas venture

An engineer at an oilfield in Basra. Iraq intends to boost its oil output capacity to 12 million bpd. (AFP)

Iraq has extended a memorandum of understanding with Royal Dutch Shell on a natural gas venture around the southern oil hub of Basra for six months from March 2010, Iraq's oil minister said yesterday.

"We will resume talks with Shell after the election," the minister, Hussain Al Shahristani, said after he cast his vote in the country's second full parliamentary election since the 2003 US-led invasion.

"The Shell contract is in its final form after Shell accepted our remarks and demands," he said. He gave no further details but said that a final deal would be left to the new government after the national election concludes.

"We informed Shell that talks must continue but because there is not enough time now, the next elected government will continue our job."

Iraq has been working to finalise a multi-billion-dollar joint venture between its South Gas Company, Shell and Mitsubishi, which would capture huge amounts of gas currently being wasted through burning and use it in the domestic market or for exports.

Iraqi officials said last month that the initial agreement was set to expire on March 22, but that Shell had requested an extension.

Shell, Europe's largest oil company, signed in January final contracts for the development of supergiant Iraqi oilfields Majnoon and West Qurna Phase One.

The deals are part a series Iraq has signed with international oil companies in a bid to boost oil output capacity to 12 million barrels per day (bpd), from about 2.5 million bpd now. Iraq's proven natural gas reserves are 112 trillion cubic feet, a 2007 report from the US Government's energy statistics unit said.



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