Japanese firms Nippon Oil Corporation, Inpex and JGC Corporation are poised to sign an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) deal with Iraq for the development of the southern Nasiriyah oil field by the end of 2009.

The contract is the first of five oil fields which the Iraqi government plans to award to foreign energy companies, in a plan to increase oil production over the short-term.

A Baghdad-based government source says a deal could be signed in December following talks between the firms and the Iraq Oil Ministry in the fourth week of November.

“There are still some issues to be clarified but it is not far away now from being awarded,” says the source.

Baghdad estimates the Nasiriyah field has the potential to produce 100,000 barrels a day of oil within 18 months.

Iraq is hoping to award short-term deals for the Nasiriyah, Nahr bin Umar, East Baghdad, Tuba and Rafidain fields over the next 12 months.