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Total Chief Says Kurdish Oil Contracts ‘Better’ Than Iraq

Total SA, Europe’s third-largest oil company, is looking “very closely” at investment opportunities in Kurdistan where contract terms are superior to those on offer in Iraq, Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie said.

“It’s a place where there are important oil and gas reserves and contracts are better” than Iraq, de Margerie said today at a press conference in Paris. Total is looking to see whether there are “interesting” exploration blocks in Kurdistan, he said.

The authorities in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, home to about 40 percent of the country’s 115 billion barrels of reserves, angered Baghdad by signing a contract with Exxon Mobil Corp. The central government has so far refused to recognize production-sharing agreements between foreign companies and the Kurds.

“Kurdistan is in Iraq and it’s up to Iraqis to decide among themselves” whether agreements should be separate, de Margerie said.

Iraq plans to auction 12 exploration areas as part of its fourth bidding round. The concessions, seven for oil and five for gas, cover 90,700 square kilometers, according to an Oil Ministry statement in April. Total has signed contracts in previous bidding rounds.

The latest auction “doesn’t appear very attractive,” de Margerie said. “The reward for investment doesn’t appear for the moment to be enough.”

Companies operating in the Kurdish region are banned from participating in the planned auction.

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