HOUSTON, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. oil company Marathon announced it signed its first agreements with Iraq to explore for oil in the northern Kurdish provinces.
Marathon announced it signed production sharing contracts with the Kurdistan Regional Government for the Harir and Safen block near Erbil. The company added that it was assigned a working interest in the Atrush and Sarsang blocks in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
The contracts mark a first for Marathon in Iraq, which aims to increase oil production to a level that would rival Saudi Arabia.
Baghdad in early October raised its estimated oil reserves 24 percent to 143 billion barrels, briefly ranking third behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela before Iran reclaimed the No. 3 spot.
Iraq in 2009 awarded 11 deals to international oil companies in two bidding rounds. Deals with the Kurdish government, however, are controversial because of legal disputes over oil with the central government.