In a sign of how far interest in Iraq’s upstream has fallen, Shell was the only western major to put in a (single) bid for any of the 29 blocks on offer in the past weekend’s licensing rounds. Political dysfunction, stifling bureaucracy and continued security concerns more than offset any potential interest generated by improved contract terms. If this was intended to serve as a reset, it has instead reinforced a perception that Iraq is no longer an attractive investment destination for oil firms.

Baghdad held its Licensing Round 5+ (LR5+) and Licensing Round 6 (LR6) concurrently over three days from 11 to 13 May. A total of 13 blocks were ultimately awarded, with 10 of these taken by Chinese firms. State giants Sinopec and CNOOC took one block apiece, but the remaining Chinese firms participating are far from household names. Politically-connected Kurdish conglomerate, Kar Group, emerged as the only non-Chinese winner (see table). (CONTINUED - 2403 WORDS)