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Thu 7 Feb 2008 11:37 AM

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Oil majors pile into Iraq

Royal Dutch Shell and Repsol YFP join Big Oil list to compete for production contracts in Gulf state.

Oil major Royal Dutch Shell and Spanish energy company Repsol YPF have both registered to compete for contracts to develop Iraq's huge oil reserves, company sources said on Wednesday.

Big oil firms have been positioning themselves for years to gain access to the world's third largest reserves, among the cheapest oil to produce in the world.

Iraq has given companies until Feb. 18 to submit documents that will qualify them to compete in tenders for service contracts to help develop its oil infrastructure. The deadline was extended from January 31.

"Shell has submitted its prequalification documents, as per the original deadline," a Shell company source said.

A spokesman for Repsol in Madrid confirmed that Repsol had also submitted its documents.

Shell and Repsol join BP on the register. BP chief Executive Tony Hayward said on Tuesday that his company had signed up.

BP has no plans to send personnel into Iraq until the security situation improves, but would be interested in service agreements and cooperation with the country, a BP spokesman said on Wednesday.

French energy group Total was also interested in participating in the tenders, company spokeswoman Patricia Marie said on Wednesday. She was unable to confirm if the company had already submitted its documents.

Norway's StatoilHydro said last month that it would register, but a spokeswoman was unable to confirm on Wednesday if it had already done so.

All five companies have held memoranda of understanding with Iraq's central government to provide technical assistance and training.

BP has undertaken a study of the Rumaila oilfield, one of Iraq's largest. It has also studied possibilities at other fields and in gas and alternative energy.

Shell has studied the giant Kirkuk oilfield in the north and the Missan area of southern Iraq. Shell has also worked on a masterplan for development of Iraq's gas reserves.

Total had exclusive negotiating rights for the huge Majnoon and Bin Umar fields under Saddam Hussein. (Reuters)

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