BAGHDAD, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- It's been 50 years since Peter Redman drilled wells on Iraq's Zubair and Rumaila fields on behalf of British Petroleum, a major stakeholder of the Iraq Petroleum Co., which controlled Iraq's oil until it was kicked out in the 1970s in the nationalization campaign. Now he's back.
On Sunday, Mesopotamian Petroleum Co., of which Redman is deputy chairman, was announced by the state-run Iraq Drilling Co. as a partner in a joint venture aimed at bringing technology, expertise and new-age drilling to an Iraqi sector hurting from three decades of war, mismanagement and sanctions.
Iraq-based Oil Serv is close to signing a service contract as well.
IDC Director General Idriss Muhsen al-Yassiri used his speech on the final day of a three-day energy confab here to outline how his company -- tasked with drilling and revamping Iraq's oil wells -- will assist in Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani's 10-year plan to produce two and a half times the amount of oil currently flowing.
To this end, he's attracted at least four foreign firms in mid- to end-stage negotiations to sign either joint ventures or service contracts.
"We are going to sign a deal in this regard," he said, pointing out Redman and Mesopotamia's Executive Chairman Stephen Remp, who stood up to applause at the Iraq Energy Expo & Conference. "It's going to be fruitful for this country."
Following the speech Yassiri told United Press International he's looking for "a foreign partner to upgrade our expertise and develop our crew."
"We are looking from so many different directions to bring modern technology and modern training," he said. "We have some other partners; maybe we're going to sign with them too. … We are open for everybody who is willing to work in Iraq."
"I was delighted to have been introduced to the conference by Director General Idriss Muhsen al-Yassiri as one of IDC's future strategic partners," said Remp. "It was excellent news to hear that our historic joint venture agreement will be signed imminently.
"We're all eager to start work to help increase Iraq's oil production," he added. "This venture is all about Iraq keeping control of its natural resources but accessing the latest in oil field technology and management in a win-win partnership."
Yassiri also announced Oil Serv, with offices in Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region, will be awarded a service contract shortly after finalizing the Mesopotamia deal, which is signed by the IDC "but is passing through the legal department and (Shahristani) will ratify it."
Details of the joint venture are unknown, and none of the companies' executives would talk specifics, citing confidentiality of ongoing negotiations. Iraq's Oil Ministry has pledged transparency and said it would publish contracts.
The IDC will have a 51-percent stake in the joint venture, with Mesopotamia holding 49 percent -- about as much detail as any company official was willing to disclose.
Yassiri was mum on how much in cash or assets each side would contribute. "There are some assets, but unless the contract's been certified, we cannot reveal any figures."
He said it would be ratified "within a few weeks," and when pressed: "Maybe a week or so."
The new company's purview is equally vague still, dedicated to "a specific area … any specific area in the territory of Iraq. But not all the territory of Iraq. South Oil (Co.) or North Oil (Co.)," referring to the two main state production firms. "Any specific, when we agree to go, then we go."
Amjad Barzanji, Oil Serv managing director, offered few details, citing confidentiality agreements. He said the "multimillion, long-term" contract covered logging and cementing services, and the company was chosen among five competing prequalified bidders.
Two other firms are negotiating a joint venture and service contract, respectively, Yassiri said, but wouldn't name the companies or the scope of the deals.
The entrance of international oil firms into Iraq is a controversial one, however.
The Iraq Petroleum Corp. and its predecessor the Turkish Petroleum Corp. had control over nearly all Iraq's oil production -- increasing or decreasing it to best suit the companies, not the countries -- and strong-armed in its favor payments to the government.
Since 2003 Iraq's oil unions at times have threatened to or actually have stopped production in protest of government moves they viewed as too international oil firm-friendly; the unions say limited access is OK.
And most recently members of Iraq's Parliament and former oil experts now living abroad, among others, are criticizing a planned joint venture between Iraq's South Gas Co. and Royal Dutch Shell. Opponents claim the early stage document, called the Heads of Agreement, signed by the two companies, could give the company rights to all of Iraq's gas and allow it to export instead of feeding the domestic need.
Mesopotamia's Web site is under construction but says the company's "aim is to supply the Iraqi oil sector with the necessary skills and technologies to dramatically boost hydrocarbon production volumes through contract drilling operations, services contracts and/or concessions."
It was founded in 2005, a partnership between Remp's U.K.-listed Ramco Energy, which has exploration assets in Ireland and Montenegro, and Redman's Midmar Energy, the 13-year-old company based and operating in the United Kingdom, according to their respective Web sites.
Mesopotamia will bring to the joint venture "necessary integrated drilling and completion methods and technologies to dramatically boost hydrocarbon production volumes," according to information passed on to UPI by a Mesopotamia shareholder, who added the purpose of the joint venture, to be called "the Iraq Oil Services Co., (is) to operate a large number of drilling rigs in Iraq under contracts for (the) drilling program in the oil fields operated by the state-owned oil companies."