Despite having the world's third-largest conventional oil reserves, and with the lowest cost of oil field development in the world at around $2 a barrel, Iraq production was uneven at best, as the oil sector has suffered from war, sanctions, mismanagement and red tape.
Now, however, as Iraq continues to celebrate ongoing oil production increases, the world is watching closely. Iraq’s energy sector holds the key to the country’s future prosperity and can make a major contribution to the stability and security of global energy markets.
Iraq is reemerging as one of the world’s leading oil producing nations, both in terms of reserves and production, according to the latest BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy. While the total global crude oil reserves increased only 2 percent from the 1,622 billion barrels estimated at the end of 2010 to 1,653 billion barrels by end 2011, Iraq’s reserves increased almost 24.4 percent to 143 billion barrels from 115 billion barrels. No other country witnessed such a dramatic spike in reserves.
Iraq’s Oil Ministry announced that it had raised its estimate of the country’s proven oil reserves by the same amount in October 2010. The older statistics had not been revised since 2001 and were based on 2D seismic data from the 1980s. Although the Oil Ministry’s estimate was not included in the 2011 statistical review, it has now been accepted by BP.
The most significant revision was for the West Qurna fields in the south of Iraq, which are now estimated to contain 43.3 billion barrels, rather than 21.4 billion, as previously thought. The estimate for the Zubair field has also been revised, from 4 billion to 7.8 billion barrels.
With international oil companies working on reappraisals of Iraq’s producing fields, and huge areas of the country remaining relatively unexplored, particularly in the western deserts, this figure is likely to be revised further upwards over the next few years.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s proven reserves of conventional natural gas amount to 3.4 trillion cubic meters, representing 1.5 percent of the world total, placing Iraq 13th among global reserve-holders. Around three-quarters of these proven reserves consist of associated gas, with the rest in a small number of non-associated fields.
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