September 19, 2010 / 11:58 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-Iraq delays gas auction, more firms join race

* Eight companies need more time to study contract

* Italy’s Eni, Japan’s Mitsubishi join gas race

* Iraq’s Akkas, Siba, Mansuriyah fields on offer

(Adds details, background, Eni and Mitsubishi)

By Ahmed Rasheed

BAGHDAD, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Iraq has postponed an auction for three gas fields for the second time, to Oct. 20, after some companies asked for more time to study contract terms, an Iraqi oil official said on Sunday.

The bidding round was to have taken place on Oct. 1, after being pushed back by a month before.

“Eight companies asked the Oil Ministry to postpone the auction to give them more time to study the final tender protocol after the ministry made some amendments,” Abdul-Mahdy al-Ameedi, head of the Iraqi oil ministry’s licensing and contracting office, told Reuters.

Ameedi also said that Italy’s Eni (ENI.MI) and Japan’s Mitsubishi (8058.T) have paid participation fees for Iraq’s third bidding round, bringing the number of companies expected to join the auction up to 13. One or two more companies are expected to pay the participation fees in the coming few days, he added. [ID:nLDE68I063]

Iraq will tender gas fields at Akkas in the western desert, Iraq’s Sunni heartland and once an al Qaeda stronghold, Mansuriyah near the Iranian border in volatile Diyala province, and Siba in the relatively peaceful southern oil hub of Basra.

The three fields together have estimated reserves of around 11.23 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The companies registered for the auction include Italy’s Edison EDN.MI, France’s Total (TOTF.PA), South Korea’s KOGAS (036460.KS), and Russia’s TNK-BP TNBPI.RTS. Firms had registered for the auction and paid the necessary fees, and received final versions of the model contract earlier this month. [ID:nLDE68E12U]

Iraq, starved of power after years of war, sanctions and economic decline, hopes opening its gas sector to foreign investment will boost its power capacity. More than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion, Iraq’s national grid only supplies a few hours of power each day. (Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Hans Peters)

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