Iraq Ministerial Energy Council has approved a dialogue with US energy giant Chevron to develop four exploration blocks in the southern Dhi Qar province.

The Energy Council in a statement said that the exploration blocks development is important for ‘promoting and sustaining national production, and contributing to supporting the national economy and sustainable development projects’.

Approval by the Opec’s second-largest producer comes as it looks to increase foreign investment in its hydrocarbons sector.

The attempt follows plans by oil majors such as Lukoil and ExxonMobil to exit the country due to security concerns and political instability.

Furthermore, the ministerial council approved the expansion of the Diwaniyah refinery in southern Iraq.

In 2020, Iraq and Chevron signed ‘a framework for entering into exclusive negotiation on an exploration, development, and production contract in the Dhi Qar province’, the US Department of Energy said in a statement at the time.

The deal comes as part of Chevron’s interest in exploring the eastern and western parts of Dhi Qar’s capital city Nasiriyah, reported Bloomberg earlier.

Some of the foreign companies currently working in the south of Iraq include Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil, Lukoil and Italy’s Eni.

Last month, French firm TotalEnergies agreed to invest a total of $27bn in four energy projects in Iraq.

The agreement includes three contracts with the Iraqi Ministry of Oil and one with the Ministry of Electricity. TotalEnergies is one of the few energy firms planning to strengthen its footprint in the country.