Iraq’s Oil Ministry has cleared six new international oil firms to participate in its fourth oil and gas licensing round, which is set to be held in January 2012, raising the total to 46 companies.

The firms were added to the list after submitting additional documents at the request of the Oil Ministry, which prequalified 41 companies in mid-August after documents were submitted in June.

The six new firms are:

  • Dragon Oil (UAE)
  • Glencore International (Switzerland)
  • Gulfsands Petroleum (UK)
  • Romgaz (Romania)
  • Vitol Holding (Switzerland)
  • Zhenhua Oil (China)

US oil firm Hess Corporation was originally included in the list, but was excluded on 3 September due to the company’s contracts with the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (MEED 4:9:11).

Twelve exploration blocks across the country are up for auction in the bid round, which could add as much as 29 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves and 10 billion barrels of oil.  With 11 major oil fields already being developed by international oil firms, Iraq does not need to develop any more oil finds, but the auction aims to add to Iraq’s reserves, raising its profile in terms of Opec production quotas.

Any non-associated gas discoveries are expected to be brought on stream as quickly as possible to respond to the country’s increasing needs for power generation. This would protect Iraq’s national gas grid from any future curtailment on oil output, which would reduce associated gas production.