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Kuwait Won't Publicly Address Oil Reserve Question -Min

Source: www.gulfoilandgas.com 11/30/2006, Location: Middle East

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Kuwait plans to enlist international oil companies, including Chevron Corp. to help develop the Gulf nation's natural gas reserves and has appointed banks Morgan Stanley (MS) and Lazard (LAZ) to reexamine how Kuwait should go about developing several northern oil fields, the oil minister said Thursday.

"We will invite companies to help us with the gas," Sheik Ali al-Jarrah al-Sabah told DJN in an interview Thursday, adding that number two U.S. oil major Chevron Corp. would be among those companies.

"We're still in discussions but this is what we're planning," said Sheik Ali, who took over as oil minister in July.

The minister said Morgan Stanley and Lazard were hired to reexamine how Kuwait should pursue its long-standing oil production plan known as Project Kuwait. The banks' findings should be completed "at some point" in 2007, he added.

The $8.5 billion project was first proposed in the late 1990s as a way to enlist international companies to help Kuwait boost production capacity to 4.0 million barrels a day by 2020 from around 2.7 million currently.

The plan, however, has been hobbled repeatedly by parliamentary concerns and foot-dragging over the form the contracts would take with companies and how much oversight parliament should have in vetting those contracts.

Some members of parliament, out of purely nationalist sentiment, also simply don't want international oil firms helping Kuwait to develop its biggest resource.

In a departure from his predecessor, Sheik Ali said Kuwait no longer planned to publicly address the issue over the quantity of Kuwait's proven oil reserves, which came into question in January.

Kuwait officially puts its proven oil reserves at about 99 billion barrels, about 10% of the world's total. But a Petroleum Intelligence Weekly article in January, citing internal documents from state-run Kuwait Petroleum Corp, put the reserves at just about half of the official figures.

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