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BP in Talks to Pump at Iraq Kirkuk Oil Field, Official Says

March 22 (Bloomberg) -- BP Plc is in talks aimed at boosting production at Iraq’s Kirkuk oil field, an Iraqi official said, as the country’s crude exports reached a three-month high of 2.2 million barrels a day.

BP is the “most competent” of the companies bidding to raise output at Kirkuk by 300,000 barrels a day, more than double the field’s current production, Hussain Gholam, the deputy director general of Iraq’s North Oil Co., said in an interview in Baghdad today. If successful, BP would become the first foreign company to develop one of the country’s oldest deposits, which now yields 280,000 barrels a day.

OAO Lukoil, Russia’s biggest non-state oil producer, signed a $998 million agreement with Samsung Group today to develop the West Qurna-2 field.

Iraq’s government has awarded 15 licenses to foreign energy companies since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted President Saddam Hussein in 2003. It plans a new auction of drilling rights in May. Iraq holds the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves, according to BP data that also include Canadian oil sands, and is seeking investment and expertise to help rebuild an energy industry stunted by years of conflict and sanctions.

Exxon Letter

Oil Minister Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi, speaking today at a news conference in the Iraqi capital, reiterated that Exxon Mobil Corp. informed central government officials in a March 5 letter that it had frozen agreements with authorities in the country’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The Oil Ministry, which refuses to do business with companies working in the Kurdish region, is weighing whether to allow Exxon to take part in the next licensing round, he said.

Iraq is pumping more than 3 million barrels a day of crude, Luaibi said, and plans to raise output to 3.4 million barrels a day next year. Exports have reached a high for the year, though volumes are “below our ambitions” because bad weather halted shipments for 10 days this month, he said.

A tanker will start loading 2 million barrels of oil today at a new offshore terminal, becoming the second vessel to receive crude there since the facility began operating on March 7, the minister said.

State-owned North Oil Co., which manages Kirkuk and other northern fields, plans to boost output to as much as 1 million barrels a day from the 580,000 barrels it currently pumps, said Gholam, the company’s deputy director general.

South Oil’s Plan

South Oil Co., which oversees the newer fields of southern Iraq including West Qurna-2, will raise output to 6 million barrels within three years, up from the current 2.3 million barrels, the state-owned company’s Deputy Director General Mahmud Abdelamir Hashim said.

West Qurna-2, which hasn’t produced oil yet, will pump 150,000 barrels a day by November 2013, 400,000 barrels by mid-2014 and 1.8 million barrels in 2018, Hashim told the conference. South Korea’s Samsung will install a crude-gathering facility, a central-processing plant and a water injection unit at the field, Asim Jihad, a ministry spokesman, said at today’s signing in Baghdad.

Lukoil Chief Executive Officer Vagit Alekperov said on March 14 that his company expects to complete the purchase of Statoil ASA’s stake in West Qurna-2 in May and may invite new partners to join the project.

To contact the reporters on this story: Nayla Razzouk in Dubai at nrazzouk2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net

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