The Chinese National Petroleum Co. has stakes in three Iraqi oil projects, which have a combined output of about 1.6 million barrels of oil per day. An industry official working in close association with CNPC told newspaper China Daily on condition of anonymity that the company was also interested in taking a stake in the West Qurna I project.
"It's just too sensitive to release anything now," the official said.
U.S. supermajor Exxon Mobil is keen to sell its interest in West Qurna to take on a greater role in fields in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The Kurdish and central Baghdad governments are at odds over oil laws, however, and Baghdad said it considered unilateral deals there illegal.
Lin Boqiang, director of energy economics at China's Xiamen University, said work in Iraq carries inherent risk.
"Good oil resources in other areas of the world have already been carved up by international oil giants and there are not many choices left for Chinese companies," he said.