Head of first oil summit in Baghdad eyes future

By BEN LANDO, UPI Energy Editor   |   April 18, 2008 at 4:53 PM   |   0 comments

WASHINGTON, April 18 (UPI) -- In the past few years, Iraq's oil and gas sector has been featured in numerous conferences aimed at linking top government officials with the global energy industry, all of which have taken place outside Iraq.

In October, the Iraqi American Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Oil will bring the meeting home -- a first event at the new convention center at the rebuilt Baghdad International Airport.

The Iraq Energy Expo, www.iraqenergyexpo.com, is "expected" to be attended and opened by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the head of the IACCI said.

Iraq is producing 2.4 million barrels of oil per day, and revenue could reach beyond $50 billion this year if the price of oil stays high. But Iraq needs billions of dollars invested in its oil, gas, refining and electricity sectors to maintain and increase its energy output and meet domestic demand. A draft oil law is stuck in a debate on whether to decentralize governance of the oil sector and to what extent foreign companies should be allowed to invest versus Iraq investing its own money.

Iraq's Oil Ministry has created a short list of 35 companies qualified to bid for technical service agreements on a yet-to-be announced tender for oil and gas fields. It's also negotiating short-term support deals with the world's largest oil companies, aimed at boosting production from five key fields by 100,000 barrels per day over two years.

The I-ACCI, with offices in Los Angeles; San Diego; Washington; Amman, Jordan; and throughout Iraq, works to create "new business through networking forums, and building the capacity of key Iraqi private and public sector elements that are necessary to growing the overall national capacity to support a vital private sector in Iraq," according to its Web site.

Chief Executive Officer Raad Ommar told United Press International the event will bring the biggest names in Iraq oil for the summit.

The Ministry of Oil "will cover all projects, needs (and) each company within (the Ministry of Oil) will have the head of the company in attendance. The whole ministry will have a very large presence and booth.

"On the technical side, we have a list of 65 technical staff and managers from the ministry that will deliver papers. We will start to highlight them on the Web site as we move ahead. We will also have guys like (Thamir) Ghadhban, (Maliki's) adviser on oil and other international experts on Iraq oil to speak."

UPI: What is the goal of the conference?

Ommar: To promote better understanding and cooperation between the Iraqi government and specifically the Ministry of Oil and interested international companies and experts to increase investment, business in the vast opportunities available in Iraq.

Q: What if the oil and gas law is not approved by then?

A: There will be extensive coverage of the law regardless if approved or not and we hope as we move ahead with our project there will be more emphasis to get the law passed.

Q: What does the Oil Ministry hope to gain from this event?

A: The ministry is having a very hard time getting companies for example to take advantage of the investment law for refineries and getting companies to truly start to work in Iraq. They want to show a friendly face, show companies that they are interested in doing business with them and most importantly they want to explain how to do business with the ministry. Many companies find it very difficult to do business with the (government of Iraq), and the (Ministry of Oil) is no exception. So demystifying the process is a key issue.

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(e-mail: blando@upi.com)

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