Iraq on Sunday finalized deals with a pair of international consortiums to develop two promising natural gas fields, the latest step by the war-ravaged country to tap its own resources to fuel its growing power demands.
Iraqis have been struggling to rebuild their damaged electricity grid and improve power stations and lines. Blackouts are still common. Last summer, power shortages spurred demonstrations that turned deadly when security forces fired into crowds.
Turkey's TPAO-led consortium will develop the 4.6 trillion cubic feet Mansouriya field in eastern Iraq for $7 per barrel of oil equivalent. It plans to reach a peak production of at least 320 million cubic feet per day.
State-run Kuwait Energy and Korea Gas Corp., KOGAS, are teaming up with TPAO.
The second consortium that groups Kuwait Energy with TPAO will develop the 1.1 trillion cubic feet Siba field in the south. They will be paid $7.50 per barrel of oil equivalent to what they produce, with a peak production level estimated at 100 million cubic feet.
Peak production from the two fields must be sustained for 13 years. The first commercial gas to come on stream must be at least 25 percent of the planned peak production and must be achieved within the first three years.
"The ministry has drawn an ambitious plan to meet the needs for electricity, to meet the needs of gas-dependent industries and to make Iraq one of the leading countries that export gas," said Oil Minister Abdul-Karim Elaibi.
Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Iraq has struggled to develop its oil and gas industry. The sector, which had been ravaged by years of sanctions-induced neglect and damage, saw development efforts move fitfully as looting and sabotage added to the damage it sustained during the war to oust Saddam Hussein. Demand has also exploded as Iraqis can buy appliances never available under Saddam's government.
Insurgents have often attacked oil facilities to undermine the government. Mansouriya field is located in one of the country's most volatile provinces, Diyala, which is east of Baghdad along the Iranian border. Siba field is in southern Iraq, which has generally been more stable than the rest of the country.
However late Saturday an oil storage tank was attacked in the southern province of Basra, two Iraqi oil officials said Sunday. The attack occurred near the Zubair oil field. No casualties were reported and firefighters controlled the blaze. Authorities were investigating whether rockets or bombs caused the attack.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information.
Both deals signed Sunday were snatched during Iraq's third energy bidding round last October that offered three gas fields. The third field was the 5.6 trillion-cubic foot Akkas field near the Syrian border in western Iraq. That deal was initialed with South Korea's KOGAS last Wednesday and still must be approved by the Cabinet before it is finalized.
Iraq produces about 7,000 megawatts of electricity daily _ about half its actual need. That includes about 1,000 megawatts imported from Iran and Turkey.
Last month, Iraq signed a tentative deal with Iran to import 25 million cubic meters of natural gas daily to feed two power plants in the northeastern suburbs of Baghdad for five years. It still needs the backing of Iraq's Cabinet and parliament.
The 20-year deals offer Kuwait its first foothold in Iraq since Saddam invaded the tiny emirate in 1990, sparking the first Gulf War. Since then the two neighbors have argued over border and debt issues.
Turkey's TPAO has now secured three oil and gas deals in Iraq.
Iraq has awarded 15 oil and gas deals since 2008 to international energy companies in the first major investments in the country's energy industry in more than three decades.
The country, which sits atop the world's fourth-largest proven reserves of crude, also holds 126.7 trillion cubic feet of undeveloped gas reserves. For years, Iraq flared _ or burned off _ the gas largely because it lacked adequate facilities to process it.
Associated Press writer Nabil al-Jurani in Basra contributed to this report.