Iraq Approves 41 Firms For Next Oil Auction

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Iraq's oil ministry has granted approval to 41 international energy companies to participate in the country's next round of oilfield auctions, which are scheduled for January 2012. Twelve exploration blocks in oil-rich Iraq, an OPEC member, are expected to be bid on at the auctions.

Among the companies that will participate in the auction are Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A), BP (BP) and Total (TOT), Europe's three-largest oil companies respectively. Eni SpA (E), Italy's largest oil company, will also be among the European oil majors participating in the January auction.

Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX), the two largest U.S. oil companies, also received permission to participate in the auction. Occidental Petroluem (OXY), the fourth-largest U.S. oil company, and PetroChina (PTR) are among the participants, as well.

The ministry said the chosen companies are among 50 firms who submitted applications and documents to take part in the bidding round, according to the Wall Street Journal. Iraq is believed to be home the world's third-largest oil reserves. The contracts that will be awarded will be services contracts, not production-sharing agreements as many oil majors would prefer, the Journal noted.