Iraq delays 4th energy auction to Apr 11-12-official
* 37 international firms bought data package (Adds details, quotes, background)
By Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDAD, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Iraq has delayed its 4th energy bidding round to April 11-12, when 12 new gas and oil exploration blocks will be auctioned to international energy firms, a senior oil ministry official said on Wednesday.
The auction had been scheduled for March 7-8.
"We have decided to push back the bidding process in order to give companies more time to consider the (proposed) final contract model and also in response to requests by many firms to postpone the auction," Abdul-Mahdy al-Ameedi, director of the oil ministry contracts and licensing directorate, told Reuters.
Iraq has qualified 46 energy companies to participate in the auction, which is expected to add 29 trillion cubic feet of gas and 10 billion barrels of oil to Iraqi reserves.
Ameedi said 37 energy companies bought a data package with the initial tender protocols during a roadshow held in Amman in September. The final model contract will be issued in March.
"After discussing the contract terms with interested firms in Amman, the oil ministry has made further amendments and changes to the model contract and the companies need time to study the changes," Ameedi said.
The fourth bid round will help Iraq maintain and increase reserves to offset expected depletion and could strengthen its case among its OPEC peers to set an export quota for Baghdad.
Iraq sits on the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. Its estimated gas reserves of 112 trillion cubic feet are the world's 10th largest, according to U.S. Department of Energy data.
Iraq signed contracts with oil majors to develop its dilapidated oilfields after two bidding rounds in 2009, and held an auction for gas fields in 2010. Officials have said they believe future auctions should focus on the nation's largely untapped gas resources.
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