Iraq realises its natural gas potential and hopes to export to EU

Iraq hopes to export fuel - with the EU a possible buyer.

Iraq is taking steps to tap its natural gas resources.
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The hydrocarbon story in Iraq has so far centred on oil, but the country is starting to realise the potential of its natural gas abundance.

The country holds an estimated 111.9 trillion cubic feet of proven reserves, ranking it 11th largest worldwide, according to the BP statistical review of energy.

The Shell-led Basrah Gas Company (BGC), a joint venture between the South Gas Company (51 per cent), Shell (44 per cent) and Mitsubishi, was established in 2008, and will be responsible for the collection and processing of associated gas from the Rumaila, West Qurna-1 and Zubair oilfields.

Currently, the fields collectively flare up to 700 million cubic feet a day (cfd), a figure that will increase in line with rising oil production.

Yet Iraq's natural gas activities this year have not been confined to the huge oilfields in the south.

In June 2005, the government inked a deal with a group headed by Kuwait Energy to develop the Siba gasfield, also in southern Iraq, with capacity expected to reach 100 million cfd. A consortium around Turkey's national oil and gas company was contracted to develop the Mansuriya gasfield in the east of the country.

In the same month, the government initialled an agreement with South Korea's Kogas for the development of the Akkas field in the western Anbar province.

Kogas will have sole responsibility for the project after the Kazakh company KazMunaiGas pulled out of the deal.

The government is also looking at the export market. Apart from the liquefied natural gas export plans mooted in the agreement with Shell, it is looking at exports through pipelines.

In May, Iraq entered into a strategic energy partnership with the EU, in which the government agreed to explore possible exports of natural gas to Europe in return for a guaranteed market for an anticipated surplus of natural gas in the coming decades.

Negotiations between the two sides are expected to start before the year is over.