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Sun 13 May 2007 12:54 AM

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Kuwait finalises oilfield plan

Oil minister says project to develop oilfields in north of country in finishing stages.

Kuwait is in the final stages of drawing up its controversial multi-billion project to develop oilfields in the north of the country, a newspaper on Saturday quoted its oil minister as saying.

The long-planned scheme called Project Kuwait to develop four oilfields with the help of multinational oil companies has met opposition from some parliamentarians. Two years ago, OPEC-member Kuwait estimated the cost of the project at $8.5 billion.

The minister has asked investment banks Morgan Stanley and Lazard to review the project, with a view to submitting a revised plan to parliament again sometime this year.

"We are in the finishing stages," Oil Minister Sheikh Ali al-Jarrah al-Sabah told al-Wasat newspaper. A month ago he said Kuwait would unveil plans for the project within two months.

He said the Gulf Arab state needed the help of international companies because drilling in the northern fields would be difficult.

"If it is not difficult we would not bring them in ... we would not need them in the first place," he said.

Sheikh Ali said all big international companies were still interested in providing technical assistance despite the long decision-making process.

"They are not only keen but devoted to Project Kuwait," he told the paper, adding that some firms had even sought the help of their governments to express their interest.

He did not name any company. Companies that have vied for the contract to boost output from the fields by 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) include BP, Exxon Mobil and Chevron Corp.

Sheikh Ali said state firm Kuwait Oil Co. had been put in charge of oil and gas production in the al-Layah field in northern Kuwait.

KOC is the upstream arm of state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. The scheme has been under discussion since the early 1990s, but opposition figures have said there is no reason to boost output with state coffers fattened by high oil prices.

Kuwait controls nearly one-tenth of global oil reserves. It is the world's seventh-largest oil exporter.

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