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18 bln barrels of oil discovered at Iraq’s West Qurna

Deals

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani reported Thursday that reserves at the West Qurna-2 oil field are now 24 billion barrels, four times as much as were expected, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The oil field is in dispute between Russian oil giant LUKoil and the Iraqi government. “The more we are drilling, the more reserves we are discovering,” Minister al-Shahristani told reporters in Moscow on Thursday.

LUKoil signed a deal to develop the field in 1997 but never started large-scale production. The Saddam Hussein government terminated the contract in 2003. Iraq’s incumbent government is also reluctant to return the rights to the Russian company. LUKoil top executives meet Iraqi authorities on Thursday. Baghdad earlier pledged to give the Russian firm a priority in developing the field, but refrained from detailed promises. Husayn al-Shahristani told reporters that LUKoil’s previous experience in Iraq gives it a competitive edge in gaining new contracts there, but the firm will get no special treatment from the government.

As of late 2006, Iraq had the world’s third-largest oil reserves of 115 billion barrels after Saudi Arabia and Iran, according to BP. Two million barrels is being extracted in Iraq daily with plans to double production by 2010 and triple it to 6 million by 2012. (kommersant.com)

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