Shell gas deal sees movement, not finality

Iraq's cabinet gave an initial authorization to the natural gas joint venture being negotiated between the Oil Ministry, Royal Dutch Shell and Mitsubishi, but – contrary to some media reports – a final contract is far from certain.
Vice President of Malaysia's Petronas, Datuk Abdullah Karim (2nd L) initials a contract as Peter Voser, the CEO of Shell, Mounir Bouaziz, Shell Upstream Vice President for Middle East and Africa, and Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani (R) look on, following the signing of a contract for the Majnoon field in southern Iraq on January 17, 2010, in Baghdad. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

BAGHDAD - A natural gas joint venture between Iraq and Royal Dutch Shell, which was first announced in the fall of 2008, was given the preliminary OK from the Council of Ministers on Tuesday.

The controversial deal would help Iraq capture and use massive amounts of natural gas that is currently being flared off as a waste byproduct of crude oil production. Even more of this “associated gas,” as it is called, will become available as the country’s oil development expands.

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