September 7, 2011 / 8:44 PM / in 6 years

Iraq OKs six more companies for 4th energy bid

* 46 companies qualified for 4th auction

* Iraq to receive bids in late January

* Companies with Kurdish government contracts excluded

BAGHDAD, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Iraq has approved six more energy companies to participate in its 4th energy auction, raising the number of pre-qualified bidders to 46, a senior oil ministry official said on Wednesday.

The auction for 12 new exploration blocs, scheduled for late January, is expected to add 29 trillion cubic feet of gas and 10 billion barrels of oil to Iraqi reserves.

“We have six companies that were not qualified first, but after reviewing their information, we asked them to submit further documents to support their position. We have decided to qualify them after they offered the required documents,” Abdul-Mahdy al-Ameedi, director of the oil ministry’s contracts and licensing directorate, told Reuters.

OPEC member Iraq has already signed a series of deals with oil majors to develop its largest oilfields and is seeking to boost production as the country pulls back from years of war and economic sanctions.

Ameedi said the six new companies were: Dubai-based oil explorer Dragon Oil Plc , Glencore International Plc , Gulfsands Petroleum Plc , China’s Zhenhua Oil, Vitol Holding BV and Romania’s Romgaz.

The Oil Ministry has excluded U.S oil company Hess Corp because the company signed deals with Iraq’s northern Kurdish region. Baghdad maintains that contracts signed by the Kurdistan Regional Government and foreign companies are illegal.

The 4th round will focus mainly on gas exploration. Iraq auctioned three major natural gas fields to foreign companies last October.

Iraq needs to harness gas to generate electricity and end chronic power blackouts that still plague the country almost eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

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