More than 70 companies have registered to compete for oil extraction and service contracts to help develop Iraq’s oil reserves. The news comes just days before the International day of Solidarity against Iraq’s controversial Oil Law.

Big oil firms such as Royal Dutch Shell and BP have been positioning for years to gain access and signed up for the register in advance of yesterday’s deadline.

The Oil Ministry will announce which companies it has accepted as qualified to bid for future contracts in March, although this could be put back as Iraq’s controversial Oil Law remains deadlocked with no end to the impasse is in sight.

The law remains stalled by bitter rows between Baghdad and the largely autonomous Kurdistan region in the north over who will control the fields and how revenue will be shared.

Ali Hussain Balou, head of the parliamentary oil and gas committee, says he hopes a final draft would be ready for debate in parliament when the legislature returns from its winter recess in the third week of March, although that too could be delayed again.

Let’s see what happens after the protests later this week….