Iraq could one day be world's number one holder of oil reserves

Sep 11, 2001 02:00 AM

Iraq, starved for two decades of oil investment, said its proven and probable deposits could one day make it the world's number one holder of oil reserves. "Iraq is the only country in the world which has a probable oil reserve which is two times its proven reserve as a result of the absence of exploration effort during the last 20 years," oil Minister Amir Mohammed Rasheed was telling at an oil symposium held in Baghdad.
"Iraq has a proven oil reserve of around 113 bn barrels and a probable reserve of 220 bn barrels," Rasheed said. Saudi Arabia holds the world's largest proven reserves of 260 bn barrels.
Iraq has seen little in the way of exploration since United Nations trade sanctions were slapped on Baghdad after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The previous decade saw a debilitating eight-year war with Iran. Rasheed said Iraq had a two-phased plan to raise its oil production to 6 mm bpd during the coming 10 years.
"As a first stage, and by relying on our own efforts to develop projects, Iraq will raise oil production from the current three to 4 mm bpd," Rasheed said. "In the second stage oil production will be raised to 6 mm bpd through short-term contracts to share production of new and undeveloped oilfields with foreign companies," he added.

Russia's largest oil company LUKoil signed a $ 3.5 bn contract in 1997 to develop the West Qurna oilfield, with reserves put at up to 8 bn barrels, with partners Zarubezneft and Mashinoim-port, once sanctions are lifted. French company TotalFinaElf enjoys exclusive negotiating rights for the huge Majnoon and Bin Umar oilfields in southern Iraq and has been close to signing deals for some time.
Baghdad, under stringent UN trade sanctions, is allowed to sell unlimited quantities of oil to buy food and medicine for its population and is yearly allowed to buy $ 1.2 bn worth of spare parts and equipment for the oil industry. Rasheed also said Iraq has the potential to become the world's second or third largest holder of gas reserves. "Iraq will play an active political and economic role when it is linked with a network of gas pipeline to Europe via Turkey as it has probable reserve that makes it the world's second or third in gas reserves," Rasheed said.
Iraq and Turkey signed in 1997 a preliminary deal to build a gas pipeline between them with annual capacity of 10 bn cm. Rasheed said Iraq's northeast area and the western desert would witness development of important gas fields to run power stations and export the surplus. According to 1997 figures, Iraq has proven gas reserves of 3,000 bn cm.

Iraq said recently it had started technical studies into building a new gas pipeline to export gas to Syria and from there to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Iraq supplies Jordan with its gas and crude oil needs and this is exempted from United Nations sanctions imposed on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Source: Gulf News Online
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