Iraq Finalises Oil Exports for March

By John Lee.

Iraq's Ministry of Oil has announced finalised oil exports for March of 91,311,929 barrels, giving an average for the month of 2.946 million barrels per day (bpd), down slightly from the 2.960 million bpd exported in February.

These exports from the oilfields in central and southern Iraq amounted to approximately 88,240,184 barrels, while exports from Kirkuk amounted to 3,071,745 barrels.

Revenues for the month were $5.789 billion at an average price of $63.371 per barrel.

February's export figures can be found here.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

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Iraq Pays another $380m Reparations to Kuwait

By John Lee.

The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) made available $380 million to the Government of the State of Kuwait towards the Commission's remaining claim with an outstanding award balance.

The United Nations Compensation Commission is a subsidiary organ of the United Nations Security Council. It was established in 1991 in accordance with Security Council resolutions 687 (1991) and 692 (1991) to process claims and pay compensation for losses and damages incurred by individuals, corporations, Governments and international organizations as a direct result of Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait (2 August 1990 to 2 March 1991).

The Commission received approximately 2.7 million claims and concluded its review of all claims in 2005. Approximately$52.4 billion was awarded to over 100 Governments and international organizations for distribution to the successful 1.5 million claims in all claim categories.

Successful claims are paid from the United Nations Compensation Fund which receives a percentage of the proceeds generated by the export sales of Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products. This rate was set at five per cent under Security Council resolution 1483 (2003) and reaffirmed in subsequent resolutions. Pursuant to Governing Council decision 276 adopted in November 2017, the percentage was set at 0.5 per cent for 2018, 1.5 per cent for 2019 and 3 per cent for 2020.

The rate will remain at 3 per cent until such time as the outstanding compensation has been paid in full. Payments are made on a quarterly basis utilizing all available funds in the Compensation Fund under Governing Council decision 267 (2009).

With today's payment, the Commission has paid $50.7 billion, leaving approximately $1.7 billion to be paid towards the outstanding claim. This category E claim was submitted by the Government of the State of Kuwait on behalf of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and awarded $14.7 billion in 2000 for oil production and sales losses as a result of damages to Kuwait's oil field assets. It represents the largest award by the Commission.

(Source: UNCC)

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The Demise of ExxonMobil in the Iraqi Petroleum Sector

By Ahmed Mousa Jiyad.

Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Demise of ExxonMobil in the Iraqi Petroleum Sector

A recent announcement by the Ministry of Oil (MoO) confirms months of speculation regarding ExxonMobil exiting one of the world's super-giant oilfields, i.e. West Qurna 1 (WQ1).

Ten years ago this highly recognized IOC had golden opportunity to operate three giant oilfields in the southern Iraq with a combined production plateau of 6.275 million barrels daily (mbd); an opportunity unavailable anywhere in the world, but now this company exiting the country empty-handed!!

Why was that? What went wrong? Who is to blame? Should any lessons be learned from this failed venture and what are the implications for Iraq as well as for ExxonMobil?

This article attempts to answer briefly the above questions and provide background review that could help in understand the complexity of the circumstances that contributed to and led to this eventuality.

ExxonMobil back in Iraq

IOCs comeback to Iraqi upstream petroleum began in earnest immediately after 2003 invasion.

ExxonMobil was one of too many IOCs that concluded Memorandum of Understanding/ Cooperation- MoU/C with MoO in 2004. That MoU/C was signed on 27 October 2004, renewed twice and remained valid until end of 2008; it comprises conducting seven joint studies and training. The joint studies includes: phases 1 &2 for the development of Zubair Oilfield; Seismic and evaluation study for exploration (old) block 12; Database; Model Tender Document  for exploration block 12; Rehabilitating Oil Training Center in Baghdad; Balad Oilfield; Deep drilling program for South Rumaila. Also, ExxonMobil committed to provide training for 129 MoO employees, totaling 1068 working days, during 2005 and 2006.

When MoO decided to hold the first bid round, ExxonMobil was one of seven American companies that were qualified, among 35 IOCs, for participating in the bid round that was held on 29 and 30 June 2009.

ExxonMobil formed three consortia and submitted bids for three oilfields but won nothing during the two days of the competition.

The first consortium with Petronas for Rumaila oilfield; eventually BP/CNPC won when they reduced their remuneration fee to the threshold stated by MoO;

The second consortium with Shell and Petronas for Zubair oilfield competing with three other consortia: Eni/Sinopec/Occidental/Kogas; CNPC/BP; Gazprom/ ONGC/ Turkish Petroleum. The third consortium with Shell for West Qurna1 oilfield competing with four other consortia: CNPC/Petronas/Japex; Lukoil/Conoco; Total; Repsol/StatoilHydro/Maersk.

None won during the biding event.

In October 2009, ENI accepted the MoO' maximum remuneration fee and agreed to expel Sinopec from its consortium, because Sinopec agreed, days after the biding event, to a C$8.3bn (US$7.2bn) takeover of Addax, which had a stake in the KR TaqTaq field. Hence, ENI consortium secured the Zubair contract.

As for WQ1 it was a totally different story.

Early October 2009 a BBC Monitoring report quoted Lukoil boss Vagit Alekperov had said, "We have let it be known to Iraq's Oil Ministry that the consortium of Lukoil and ConocoPhillips is ready to enter into direct talks concerning the West Qurna-1 project on the terms that were announced earlier by Iraq's Oil Ministry,"

Probably, ExxonMobil found itself left behind and empty-handed from the first bid round since BP/CNPC won Rumaila; ENI lead consortium secured Zubair and now Lukoil and ConocoPhillips conceding to MoO terms regarding WQ1. Moreover, ExxonMobil had no intention to participate in the second bid round to be held in December 2010.

All the above prompted ExxonMobil/Shell, four weeks after Lukoil and ConocoPhillips announcement, to present similar acceptance of MoO terms regarding the maximum remuneration fee.

The Ministry favoured ExxonMobil/Shell by not considering Lukoil/ConocoPhillips offer promptly, and when ExxonMobil/Shell made their offer it was selected; presumably due to suggested production plateau target-PPT differential that tilted towards ExxonMobil/Shell!!! The Cabinet approved the award of WQ1 to ExxonMobil/Shell on 25 January 2010.

But ExxonMobil negotiated secretly with KRG after the company secured WQ1 contract with the federal ministry and it had signed the second amendment to the contract on 18 August 2010 adding 500kbd to an already high PPT at a higher remuneration fee of $2/b.

ExxonMobil-KRG secret negotiation led to signing six production sharing agreements on 18 October 2011, though it knows of the blacklisting policy by the federal ministry of oil, i.e, ignoring and disregarding the federal government imposed policy.

Contracts with KRG add insult into injury since three of these contracts are related to exploration blocks and fields that fall within the "disputed territories"; these are Bashiqa, Al Qosh and Qara Hanjeer, the other three are Arbat East, Pirmam and Betwata.

That unwise and puzzling move by ExxonMobil led to excluding it from leading the Common Seawater Supply Project-CSSP; reducing its Participating Interest in WQ1 (through the Third Amendment of the contract dated 28 November 2013) and blacklisting it from any future upstream projects such as Nassiriya Integrated Project-NIP.

That unwise action was writing on the wall that had in fact commenced the demise of this giant IOC in the Iraqi upstream petroleum.

The position of ExxonMobil in WQ1 weekend further when Shell exited WQ1 after it had exited Majnoon oilfield in June 2018.

ExxonMobil attempted a comeback to Iraqi petroleum, by exploiting the naivety and narcissism of a former Minister of Oil, Jabbar Luaibi, through Southern Iraq Integrated Project- SIIP. He and ExxonMobil were close to trap Iraq in an Odious Contract. The Ministry of Oil was cautioned of the detrimental consequences of such a contract and luckily for Iraq that contract was dismissed.

The rise and fall of ExxonMobil in KRI was even more dramatic despite the fact that KRG offered lucrative production sharing agreements. Media sources' report that ExxonMobil had conducted geological studies that doubted the existence of enough reserves in most of these blocks. Such results prompted Exxon to relinquish three of its six blocks: Betwata in 2015, and Qara Hanjeer and Arbat East in 2016.

Of Exxon's six blocks, Bashiqa may be the most promising.  However, in 2017, it transferred half of its 80 percent interest in this block - along with operatorship - to DNO and early this year it agreed to sell 32 percent to DNO, which practically and effectively ends ExxonMobil involvement in this block. Finally, ten years on with no much progress in AlQosh and Primam.

ExxonMobil adventure in Kurdistan Iraq ended, mostly, miserably!

To sum up, in that first biding round the company had three valuable opportunities and, analytically and legally, it and its partners could have won all three super-giant oilfields (Rumaila, Zubair and WQ1) with a combined production plateau of 6.275 million barrels daily-mbd against a combined minimum PPT proposed by MoO of 2.758 mbd; it won nothing during the bidding event!!!!!!!!!.

Instead, ExxonMobil sought a divisive course of action in the domestic Iraqi politics by concluding ill-fated PSAs with KRG; was that due to lack of vision, or geopolitical nativity or arrogance that still reflects a "Seven Sisters" mentality, or a hidden political agenda aiming at disintegrating the country; who knows!!!!!

What went wrong with ExxonMobil and its economic model?

Many views argued that the fiscal terms of the Iraqi long term service contract-LTSC for WQ1 are tough enough that eradicate the Internal Rate of Returns-IRR of the economic model which the IOC premised its final investment decision-FID on it.

This might be partially true as the comparative analysis of LTSC with other types of contract, particularly the production sharing contracts-PSCs indicates the "Government take" are higher under the LTSC than the PSCs. This, from international energy political economy perspectives is good for Iraq and, moreover, that corresponds with the Iraqi constitutional provision that calls for "develop the oil and gas wealth in a way that achieves the highest benefit to the Iraqi people" (Article 112, Second)

Nevertheless, contractually and analytically LTSC for WQ1is identical in structure, contents and fiscal terms, except the particularities of WQ1 oilfield,  to all LTSCs for the brown fields offered under the first bid round, i.e, Rumaila, Zubair and the 3 Missan oilfields- Buzurgan, Abu Ghrab and Faqa. This leads one to question why ExxonMobil finds the fiscal terms unfavorable while other IOCs continue in the redevelopment of the oilfields.

It took almost one year to prepare for the first bid round and the final text of the LTSC was thoroughly examined by all qualified IOCs for that bid round. Logically and imperially, all IOCs should have formulated their economic model and bid on what the LTSC offers. It is rather surprising to claim, ten years later, that the offered fiscal terms do not match with the company economic model!!

The economic model of any IOC is its own making; reflecting its vision, its global profile, strategic positioning, strengths, and stakeholder/shareholder's interests among other things. Accordingly, the level of IRR is the fiscal measure upon which the FID premised. Majors or Big Oil usually have high IRR, due to their international profile , their integrated structure across the value chain of petroleum industry and the "opportunity cost" of a particular investment.

IRR under LTSC fiscal terms depends mostly and directly on: production level, capital cost-investment, cost recovery and remuneration fee; indirectly it depends on oil prices through the term of "deemed revenues" provision that impact the quarterly cost recovery and remuneration fee entitlement.

Oil price fluctuates, and nothing new about that at all; its fluctuation like a "Yu-Yu" is more normal and usual than otherwise. Iraqi oil export price averaged at $53.19 a barrel during the 12 months period November 2008-October 2009; the time that IOCs considered oil prices in their economic model. During the period from July 2008 to March 2021 Iraqi oil export price averaged at $69.55 a barrel; hence the argument that IRR eradication was attributed to oil prices and, accordingly on cost recovery and remuneration fee is not convincing.

What remains is the impact of oil production level on IRR value. Oil production levels have implications and direct impact on capital cost, cost recovery and remuneration fee, and hence on IRR.

For WQ1 the MoO requests a minimum plateau target of 600kbd during the first bid round. ExxonMobil presented 2.325mbd, i.e., nearly four folds what MoO had envisaged!! Moreover, soon after signing the contract ExxonMobil requested adding further 500kbd leading to higher plateau target at 2.825mbd.

ExxonMobil should have known that such unreasonable unattainable plateau target within the contracted timeframe weakens the logical premises of its economic model and the assumed IRR; it was a problem of its own making and shed much doubt about the validity and soundness of its model not the LTSC stringent fiscal terms.

However, Amendment 4, signed on 19 February 2014, to WQ1 contract, provides further relieves from the terms of the contract such as reducing the plateau target, performance factor and R-Factor among others that provide significant fiscal incentives to WQ1 consortium.

All the above refutes the argument that put the blame squarely on the terms of the contract in the deteriorating IRR and ExxonMobil economic model.

Even if one, for the sake of the argument, accepts for a while the tough terms of WQ1 contract, what about ExxonMobil economic model for KRG' PSCs!!

All commentators and oil experts agree that KRG' PSCs provide lucrative terms for the benefits of the IOCs. Why then ExxonMobil fails measurably there too?

Was that demise due to wrongly-premised economic model or "inside-misguidedness"!! Media sources revealed that Ali Khedery, a former American diplomatic advisor in Iraq who subsequently joined Exxon as director of public and government affairs for ExxonMobil Kurdistan Region of Iraq Limited (EMKRIL), Exxon's KRG-focused subsidiary, "had facilitated the negotiations that brought the company to Kurdistan." Was ExxonMobil victimized by its own staffer!!!!???

ExxonMobil Exit and MoO Options

Contractually, to exit WQ1, ExxonMobil should invoke the termination Article 8 in WQ1 service contract, particularly sub-article (8.2) and, therein, sub-article (8.1 (c)). If ExxonMobil wishes to assign its rights and obligations, as it seems doing so far, it should comply with the provisions of Article 28-Assignment.

Available information indicates that the company launched the contractually exiting process in January by sending a formal letter to notify MoO it had found prospective buyers; ExxonMobil and MoO had three months, until 28 April, to agree on a course of action.

The ministry has three options: the first is to accept the prospective buyers found by ExxonMobil; 20 percent to CNOOC and 12.7 percent to PetroChina-CNPC. This means increasing CNPC participating interest to 45.4% and increase China position in WQ1 to 65.4%.

The second option is to find another American company to acquire ExxonMobil share; this what the Ministry has publically announced and it seems to favour Chevron, but Chevron  was reportedly not hugely encouraged to invest in WQ1. (But again Chevron was blacklisted by the Ministry due to the company' involvement in KRG oilfields, though such blacklisting was revoked, unofficially, during the time of former minister Jabbar Luaibi. He paving the way for this company to enter the upstream petroleum through direct backdoor. By the way the Iraqi team in MoU/C with Chevron 2004-2008 was chaired by Jabbar Luaibi).

The third option is to acquire ExxonMobil share by the Ministry through Basra Oil Company-BOC or any other national companies affiliated under the Ministry. This option is similar to what was done when Occidental - Oxy relinquished its participating interest in Zubair oilfield

In any of these options, the Ministry should extract a "capital gain tax-CGT" from the total value of the sold share. The Iraqi tax authority decides the CGT rate, the estimation equation and the compounding rate to arrive at the present values taking into consideration three related variables: the value of the sold share (minus) the present value of the invested capital (plus) the present value of the recovered invested capital (cost recovery).

In my article written almost twelve years ago assessing the first bid round I wrote the following: "What is rather surprising is the somewhat weak contribution of the American oil companies. While they topped the 35 qualified IOCs with 7 companies, only three had participated in the bidding. Were they expected to capitalise on the American military presence and political pressure to have guaranteed access to the Iraqi oil? Or they simply have their own capacity, technical and financial limitations? Or Iraq is not on their strategic priority screen? Or they are trapped in a mind-set of own making that centred on production sharing agreements and "reserves booking"? Or they are not used to this type of open bidding and transparency, and they prefer behind closed doors deals? Only time would provide the satisfactory answer." (MEES 52:33 17 August 2009)

Any lessons learned, Ministry of Oil????????

Click here to download the full report in pdf format.

Mr Jiyad is an independent development consultant, scholar and Associate with the former Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES), London. He was formerly a senior economist with the Iraq National Oil Company and Iraq's Ministry of Oil, Chief Expert for the Council of Ministers, Director at the Ministry of Trade, and International Specialist with UN organizations in Uganda, Sudan and Jordan. He is now based in Norway (Email: mou-jiya(at)online.no, Skype ID: Ahmed Mousa Jiyad). Read more of Mr Jiyad's biography here.

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Dana Gas Resumes $600m Expansion in Iraq

Dana Gas and its partner Crescent Petroleum have announced the full resumption of the expansion project at the Khor Mor field in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), which the companies jointly operate on behalf of the Pearl Petroleum consortium.

The KM250 expansion involves further investment of US$600 million to add 250 million cubic feet per day of much-needed additional gas production to supply the local power stations. The project construction work had been put on hold due to the COVID pandemic but is now on track for a new target start date of April 2023, after agreement to lift the force majeure with both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the contractor [Exterran].

Under a Gas Sales agreement signed in March 2019 with the KRG Ministry of Natural Resources, Pearl Petroleum will sell the additional quantities of gas to supply the power stations with affordable and environmentally cleaner fuel, and further enhance electricity supplies. Today over 80% of the KRI's electricity generation is enabled by the gas produced by the companies.

Current production at the Khor Mor field is 440 million cubic feet per day of natural gas as well as 15,700 barrels per day of condensate and 1,020 tonnes of liquified petroleum gas (LPG), or a total of 110,400 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day, making it the largest overall producer in the KRI and the largest private sector upstream gas operation in Iraq. After the KM250 train, there are plans to add a further KM500 train which would take production to almost 1 billion cubic feet per day by 2024.

Total investment to date exceeds US$2 billion with total cumulative production of over 332 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe), which has resulted in significant fuel cost savings and economic benefits for the Kurdistan Region and Iraq as a whole. In addition 43 million tonnes of CO2 emissions have been eliminated by displacing liquid fuels, which in turn has made a positive contribution to tackling global climate change as well as reducing local air pollution.

Mr. Majid Jafar, CEO of Crescent Petroleum and Board Managing Director of Dana Gas, commented:

"After a year of delay due to the COVID pandemic, we are pleased to fully resume the KM250 expansion project to invest US$600 million and grow the gas production almost 60% within 2 years from now, supporting the local electricity provision even further. Despite the challenges the whole world has faced over the past year we have kept our operations safe and managed to grow production and we are grateful to all our staff and to the KRG for its support."

Dr. Patrick Allman-Ward, CEO of Dana Gas, added:

"With our partners in Pearl Petroleum we are proud to be investing further in the gas sector of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, delivering a reliable source of cleaner energy, and supporting local economic development. The continuing receipt of payments in a timely manner gives confidence for our continued investment commitment as we enter the next exciting phase of growth with the Khor Mor expansion, which will be carried out under strict health protocols to ensure the safety of our staff and service providers."

(Source: Dana Gas)

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Fire Kills 82 at Baghdad Hospital

By John Lee.

A fire at a Baghdad hospital treating COVID-19 patients has killed at least 82 people, and left more than 100 injured.

The blaze, at the Ibn Khatib Hospital, was caused on Saturday night when an oxygen tank is said to have exploded.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has suspended the Minister of Health, the Governor of Baghdad, and the Director General of Rusafa Health Department, pending investigations, which are to be concluded within five days.

(Sources: Govt of Iraq, BBC, Reuters)

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Iraq-Lebanon Fuel Oil talks “Shrouded in Mystery”

By Noam Raydan, for Amwaj Media. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq-Lebanon fuel oil talks remain shrouded in mystery

Despite Lebanon's deepening financial crisis, its politicians remain committed to the same stop-gap measures that have crippled the country's dilapidated electricity sector. Lebanese officials continue to experiment with ad hoc solutions to the power sector, which has long been a drag on the national budget.

Among the more controversial plans is the government's attempt to import fuel oil from Iraq. Aside from its unsuitability for power plants in Lebanon, partly due to its high sulfur content, talks between Baghdad and Beirut over fuel supplies have been fraught with contradictory and factually inaccurate statements.

The full report can be viewed here (registration required).

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COVID-19 hits Iraqi Labour Market, Enterprises

COVID-19 Dealt Heavy Blows to Iraqi Labour Market, Enterprises in 2020: IOM, FAO, ITC Study

In early April, Iraq surpassed 900,000 COVID-19 cases.

Necessary efforts to contain the spread of the virus throughout 2020 led to a reduction in economic activity; compounded by pre-existing economic challenges, drops in oil prices and the public health COVID-19 crisis, it is estimated that Iraq's economy contracted by 9.5 per cent in 2020.

To measure losses and investigate how small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Iraq are coping with the economic impact of COVID-19, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Trade Center (ITC) conducted a panel study in 2020 on 893 SMEs representing 16 sectors in 15 governorates in Iraq.

The study focused on the food and agriculture sector in order to determine variance in outcomes and effects on these firms when compared to non-agricultural businesses. The primary data used in this study was collected using ITC's COVID-19 corporate survey.

The new report Panel Study: Impact of COVID-19 on Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises in Iraq showcases the main findings from three rounds of data collection, covering the effect of border closures and lockdowns on revenue, production, and employment; accessibility of resources or ability to sell products; and mechanisms adopted to cope with the crisis.

Almost all firms in the study reported a decline in production or sales between February 2020, the pre-COVID-19 period, and the end of the year. Firms suffered large losses in revenue early on (an average decline of 67% by June).

Although revenue partially recovered between July and October, it did not reach pre-pandemic levels (firms reported a revenue drop on average of 23% between February and November). SMEs also reported incurring new debt over the year due to the pandemic, primarily through informal means such as borrowing from friends and family.

The labour market also suffered due to COVID-19. On average the number of employees in SMEs reduced by 27 per cent between February and June. By August, employment numbers began to recover but remained below pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2020, with the number of male and female employees, including full- and part-time, decreasing on average by seven per cent between February and November.

Furthermore, the reduction in employment temporarily widened the gender gap in the labour market. In February, there was 1 woman for every 15 men working in the surveyed SMEs. The gap reached 1 woman for every 19 men by August, but then decreased to 1 for 13 in November 2020.

Over the course of the study period, the mechanisms SMEs adopted to cope with the financial difficulties of the pandemic changed. Initially, SMEs laid off employees. Later, requesting leniency in repaying financial responsibilities and increasing marketing efforts emerged as the dominant strategies. In June, more than half of SMEs' reported being at risk of shutting down permanently (65%). By December, those reporting this risk reduced to less than a third (31%).

The same 893 SMEs were surveyed three times in 2020: 22 June to 7 July, 9 to 18 September, and 29 November to 15 December.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the European Union.

(Source: UN)

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Chinese Company to Develop Iraq’s Mansuriyah Gas Field

By John Lee.

The Chinese company Sinopec (China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation) has won a contract to develop the Mansuriyah gas field in Diyala.

The field, near the Iranian border, is expected to produce 300 million standard cubic feet (Mmscf) per day of gas, which will be used for electricity generation.

In 2010, an agreement had been signed for the field to be developed by Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) (37.5%), Iraqi Oil Exploration Company (25%), Kuwait Energy (KEC) (22.5%), and Kogas (15%). This consortium stopped development in 2014 due to security concerns, and the agreement was reportedly cancelled in 2020.

Under the new 25-year deal agreed on Tuesday, Sinopec will have a 49-percent interest in the field, with Iraq's state-owned Midland [Middle, Central] Oil Company having 51 percent.

The contract may be extended for an additional five years.

According to the Ministry of Oil, Sinopec's bid was he lowest submitted.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

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