Iraq has delayed an auction due next year for a dozen oil and gas exploration blocks to provide bidders with more information about the areas on offer and contracts, the oil ministry said on Monday. "The bidding round was supposed to start at the end of January 2012, but it has been delayed until the first week of March 2012," ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said. He added that the delay was "to give time for the companies to review the details of the contracts, and also because of Christmas vacations in Europe." Jihad said the postponement would give prospective bidders "more time to study the nature of the contracts and information about the exploration blocks." Iraq announced the sale, the fourth of energy contracts to foreign majors since 2009, in April. A total of 12 exploration blocks are on offer -- seven gas and five oil. The blocs are located in the provinces of Basra, Najaf, Babil, Muthanna, Diwaniyah and Dhi Qar, south of Baghdad, Nineveh and Diyala to the north and Anbar to the west. Iraq is looking to dramatically ramp up its energy output, as crude sales account for the vast majority of its government revenues. Baghdad currently exports around 2.2 million barrels per day of oil (bpd), with that figure set to rise by 300,000 bpd early next year. The government says it will be capable of production of 12 million bpd by 2017, from current output of 2.9 million bpd.