BAGHDAD, Nov 27 (Reuters) – Iraq on Monday invited foreign companies to bid for contracts to explore and develop oil and natural gas reserves in nine new blocks as the OPEC nation seeks to boost its output capacity.

“We invite all international companies to participate,” Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi told a news conference in Baghdad. “This new exploration bidding round aims to maximise reserves.”

Five blocks are located at border areas with Iran, three with Kuwait and one is offshore in Gulf waters, a presentation by oil ministry officials at the conference showed.

Luaibi said the areas had previously been “neglected” because they were the site of conflicts between Iraq and its neighbours in the 1980s and 1990s.

The bidding terms will be finalised by the end of May and the ceremony to open the bids will be held on June 21, 2018, the presentation said.

The foreign companies’ opinions will be taken into consideration when formulating the new contracts, Luaibi said.

The terms will be different from previous service contracts, which Baghdad is moving away from because they remunerate companies regardless of oil prices fluctuations.

Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia, depends on oil sales for over 90 percent of its public budget. The country’s finances suffered when oil prices collapsed in 2014.

“We are keen to make significant changes to the new exploration model contracts, and to adopt a new commercial and financial model different from the service contract,” Luaibi said, adding the list of qualifying foreign bidders would be announced on Nov. 29.

Iraq’s oil output capacity should reach 5 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of 2017, Luaibi said earlier this year.

Its current capacity is about 4.8 million bpd and its production about 4.4 million bpd, in line with an agreement by oil exporting nations to curb output in order to support crude prices.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)





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