Only three of the 12 oil and gas blocks auctioned in Iraq at the end of May were awarded amid a disappointing turnout from international oil companies (IOCs).

Baghdad held its fourth round of auctions in the post-war period on 30-31 May with only one IOC, Lukoil, winning a bid for a major oil block as the government acknowledged it had set tough terms for contracts.

On 31 May, the Russia-based group and its Japanese partner Inpex won a deal to develop the 5,500 square-kilometre Block 10 in the southern provinces of Muthanna and Dhi Qar, according to media reports.

The day before, a consortium of Kuwait Energy, Dublin-listed Dragon Oil and Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) won an exploration, development and production contract (EDPSC) contract for Block 9 in Basra province.

Karachi-based Pakistan Petroleum won the contract for gas Block 8 in the eastern Iraq provinces of Diyala and Wasit. The nine other blocks either received no bids or negotiations on terms broke down.

The government said it would open up a fifth round of bidding with 10-15 new oil and gas blocks available and is expected to ease the terms of contracts to attract more IOCs.

The lack of interest is a blow to Iraq’s energy sector as the Opec member looks to increase oil and gas output to boost its economic recovery after years of war and sanctions.