Analysis: Beneath Iraqi soil, an oil boom awaits

The U.S. Army's former chief analyst for Iraq oil shares his view of the country's geology.
Oil seeps from the ground above the Tawke oil field in Iraqi Kurdistan. (BEN LANDO/Iraq Oil Report)

In 2004, the U.S. Army placed me in charge of evaluating the entire Iraqi infrastructure system, from oil and natural gas to electricity. Part of my job was to estimate the country's resource wealth and figure out how to help Iraq rebuild its energy sector. I concluded that Iraq ranks right up at the top of hydrocarbon-rich countries worldwide, and has the potential to overtake any country in production.

Out of approximately 87 major fields discovered to date, fewer than 30 are producing. The others never really produced at all, yet some of these are classified as super-giant fields with over 12 billion barrels of proven reserves each. When I arrived in the country, several Iraqi engineers informed me that they had only ever produced enough oil to meet their OPEC quota of 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd). They could do that out of just a few fields.

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