BAGHDAD, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi Oil Ministry Tuesday gave a two-week extra time for foreign oil firms to send in documentation for the second round of licensing for long-term development contracts.
"Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate of Oil Ministry is pleased to announce the extension of pre-qualification process period of the second bidding round up to Feb. 15, 2009," the ministry said in a statement on its website.
Earlier, the ministry put Jan. 31 as the deadline for foreign firms to qualify for the second round of oil field servicing tenders, but officials said the ministry decided to give more time to compensate many national holidays during January.
On Dec. 31, 2008, Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told a news conference that 11 of Iraq's oil and gas fields would be opened for bidding by foreign firms in the second round of licensing for long-term development contracts.
Shahristani named the oil and gas fields as Majnoon, West Qurna Phase II, Halfaya, East Baghdad, Gharraf, Kifil, Kifil West, Merjan, Najmah, Qayara, and the Siba gas field in Basra province.
The Iraqi minister said within three to four years from the contracts being completed by the end of 2009, Iraq's oil production could increase by 2-2.5 million barrels per day, which is almost equivalent the country's current production.
Sharastani's announcement came six months after the first round of licensing bidding was opened, in which Iraq offered six oil and two gas fields for development.
The contracts from the first round are expected to be signed in the middle of 2009 and those for the second round to be signed by the end of the year.
In April, the Iraqi Oil Ministry said only 35 companies and consortia out of 120 applicants were qualified to criteria to bid on its contracts.
Iraq's oil reserve is reportedly to be the world's third largest, which needs billions of dollars investment to overhaul its oil infrastructure and increase oil and gas output after 13 years of sanctions and war.