Pickens says U.S. firms 'entitled' to Iraqi oil

WASHINGTON Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:18am IST

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WASHINGTON Oct 21 (Reuters) - Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens told Congress on Wednesday that U.S. energy companies are "entitled" to some of Iraq's crude because of the large number of American troops that lost their lives fighting in the country and the U.S. taxpayer money spent in Iraq.

Boone, speaking to the newly formed Congressional Natural Gas Caucus, complained that the Iraqi government has awarded contracts to foreign companies, particularly Chinese firms, to develop Iraq's vast reserves while American companies have mostly been shut out.

"They're opening them (oil fields) up to other companies all over the world ... We're entitled to it," Pickens said of Iraq's oil. "Heck, we even lost 5,000 of our people, 65,000 injured and a trillion, five hundred billion dollars."

President Barack Obama has pledged to withdraw U.S. troops in Iraq.

"We leave there with the Chinese getting the oil," Pickens said.

Iraq's Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told a Washington conference on Wednesday that his government was happy with the energy auction it held earlier this year. The auction was the first chance for foreign oil firms to compete for Iraqi oil since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

"We're pleased with scale and participation of the IOC (International Oil Companies) and the transparent and public competition," Shahristani said at a U.S.-Iraq business and investment conference.

BP and the Chinese oil company CNPC were the only firms to win a contract in Iraq's bid round this summer, the first chance for foreign oil firms to compete for Iraqi oil since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Seven other oil and gas fields failed to attract bidders on the terms Iraq offered.

But a consortium headed by Italy's ENI (ENI.MI) said last week it signed a deal to develop the giant Zubair field for a remuneration fee of $2 a barrel. At Iraq's oilfield auction in June, the consortium refused to go below $4.40 a barrel.

Two consortiums are still competing for a deal to develop the even larger West Quran oilfield. They are Russia's LUKOIL (LKOH.MM) and ConocoPhillips (COP.N) and another consortium headed by Exxon Mobil (XOM.N). (Reporting by Tom Doggett, additional reporting by Simon Webb; editing by Jim Marshall)

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