Iraq’s Oil Ministry has signed a 20-year deal with a consortium led by Italy’s Eni to develop the southern Zubair field near Basra.

It awarded the licence to Eni and its consortium partners, the US’ Occidental Petroleum and Korea Gas Corporation.

A ministry spokesman says civil servants signed an initial agreement with the consortium on 2 November, but the licence still requires cabinet approval.

The consortium plans to increase oil production from 195,000 b/d now to 1.1 million barrels a day (b/d) in seven years. The Zubair field has reserves of four billion barrels of oil.

In October, Eni said the state-run South Oil Company would take a 25 per cent share in the deal. Eni added the Iraqis may extend the service contract to 25 years if they wanted to.

On 3 November, the ministry will formally ratify a deal with the UK’s BP and China National Petroleum Corporation to develop the Rumaila oil field. Iraq’s cabinet has already approved the deal.