Thursday, January 14, 2010

U.S. oil companies launch new Iraq invasion

And they're off! We're talking, of course, about the latest charge by U.S. companies toward financial nirvana in Iraq, where their expertise is apparently essential for the world's second largest proven oil reserves to be re-equipped for full production. Iraq officials are aiming for a five-fold increase in production to more than 11 million barrels a day in the next seven years, according to the New York Times. That level of oil production would rival Saudi Arabia and Iran for No. 1 in the world, the Times said. Such an increase means billions of dollars in contracts for new oil drilling, repairs to thousands of miles of pipeline, updating current facilities and construction of many more -- including, possibly, a new port on the Persian Gulf. U.S.-based oil-services companies Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Weatherford International and Schlumberger have either started sending workers and equipment to Iraq or have plans to, and construction and engineering giants KBR, Bechtel, Parsons, Fluor and Foster Wheeler are not far behind, the Times said. But Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR, which used to be run by former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Bechtel and Parsons were criticized by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction for earlier work in the country, and could be headed for trouble before they're offered more. The companies have denied intentional wrongdoing and say that their experience in Iraq and in other oil-producing countries in Central Asia gives them an advantage, the Times said. “KBR has historic experience on previous oil and gas production projects ranging from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan,” said Heather Browne, KBR’s director of corporate communications, in an e-mail to the Times. “Our pursuit of additional contracts in the region is based on this experience in addition to KBR’s work on Project RIO (Restore Iraq Oil).” David Lesar, Halliburton’s chief executive, said in October that his company was already doing work on oil wells there. “I think you see everybody trying to establish a base there, and we’re no exception,” he said. “Clearly, a great future there and one we will participate in — in a big way.” Iraq has signed 10 production contracts with international oil companies in the past few months and officials say they hope to drill at least 430 oil wells during the next two years, the Times said.

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