Iraq increased the estimate of its petroleum reserves to 143.1 billion barrels, Oil Minister Hussain Al-Shahristani said today in Baghdad, overtaking Iran to become the world’s fourth-largest holder of crude.
The 24 percent rise in estimated reserves boosts Iraq past Iran, which has 137.6 billion barrels, while leaving it behind Saudi Arabia, Canada and Venezuela. Iraq last estimated its oil reserves at 115 billion barrels, in 2001.
“This is great news for the Iraqi people, and we will relay it to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting countries,” Shahristani said at a news conference at the oil ministry in Baghdad.
Iraq’s oil reserves previously ranked fifth in size, according to BP Plc’s Statistical Review of World Energy, which compiles official government figures. Venezuela raised its oil reserves estimates by 72 percent in 2008, while Canadian figures include vast deposits of oil sands, according to BP.
The government may hope to use the augmented reserves figure “to show the potential of Iraq” to foreign investors, said Ahmed Jiyad, an Iraq specialist at the Center for Global Energy Studies, a London-based consulting firm. It may also want to use the higher estimate to strengthen Iraq’s case for a large production quota within OPEC, he said in a telephone interview from Norway.
No OPEC Quota
Iraq, a founding member of OPEC, does not currently have a quota for crude production. Falah al-Amri, the head of Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Company, suggested that future quota calculations might have been a factor behind the revision.
“The new figure will help advance Iraq’s position within OPEC,” al-Amri told reporters in Baghdad.
Iraq depends on oil for most of it foreign currency earnings, and it currently produces about 2.4 million barrels of crude a day, according to Bloomberg estimates. The government wants to more than double output and hopes to pump 12 million barrels a day within as little as six years.
To achieve this goal, the country will need to upgrade and repair oil fields and installations that have suffered over decades of conflict and a shortage of investment.
To raise output, the government awarded 12 service contracts last year to international oil companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and OAO Lukoil, in the first such licensing rounds since the U.S-led invasion in 2003 toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein.
October Gas Bids
Iraq plans on Oct. 20 to hold its first auction of contracts to develop natural gas, which the country needs as fuel to generate electricity. Italy’s Eni SpA and Mitsubishi Corp. of Japan are among 13 companies registered to bid to develop the Akkas, Mansouriya and Siba gas fields, Abdul Hadi al-Hassani, vice chairman of the oil and gas committee of the country’s parliament, said on Sept. 27.
At the same time, the government aims to modernize and enlarge its export and storage facilities for crude. Officials want to build two new offshore pipelines to increase export capacity in southern Iraq, as well as pipelines linking oil fields in the south with others in the north, said Thamir Ghadhban, chairman of the prime minister’s advisory committee, speaking at a conference in Istanbul on Sept. 27.
Iraq and Turkey agreed last month to a 15-year extension in their arrangement to export Iraqi crude oil by pipeline through the Turkish terminal of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea.
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