WASHINGTON, April 30: Once foreign energy companies return to Iraq after it is safe for their workers, the country should be able to triple its crude oil production to 6 million barrels per day, Iraq’s former oil minister said on Friday.
Iraq’s current oil output is about 1.8 million bpd, down sharply from a sustained 2.5 million bpd just before the US-led war began in spring 2003. Issam Chalabi, who served as Iraq’s oil minister from 1987 to 1990, said Iraq’s oil output should reach 6 million bpd by 2012, but only with the help of foreign investment after the country becomes more secure.
Iraq is trying to boost production and bring in the needed billions in oil revenue to help rebuild the country, but insurgents keeping blowing up pipelines and other oil facilities.
“I think the top priority is security,” Chalabi said in a briefing on Iraq’s oil sector at the Middle East Institute.
The violence has scared big oil companies, like Exxon Mobil, from doing significant business in Iraq.
“I think foreign firms have put the Iraqi file on the shelf for today,” Chalabi said.
Chalabi said he favoured privatizing Iraq’s downstream oil sector, which includes refining facilities, but the country’s upstream oil production and exploration should be under state control for at least 10 more years. “Don’t touch the upstream now,” he said. —Reuters