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Iraqi oil poised to become game-changer

October 09, 2012
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PARIS — Iraq’s energy sector holds the key to the country’s future prosperity and can make a major contribution to the stability and security of global energy markets, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says in a just-released special report of the World Energy Outlook – the first time that the IEA has conducted a comprehensive review of the energy sector of a major Middle East producer.

The IEA’s Iraq Energy Outlook finds that Iraq makes by far the largest contribution to global oil supply growth over the coming decades, with current production of three million barrels per day (mb/d), more than doubling by 2020 and going on to reach more than eight mb/d by 2035. Iraq becomes a key supplier to fast-growing Asian markets, mainly China, and the world’s second largest oil exporter by the 2030s, overtaking Russia.

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Developments in Iraq’s energy sector are critical for the country’s prospects and also for the health of the global economy." says IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol, the report’s chief author. "But success is not assured, and failure to achieve the anticipated increase in Iraq’s oil supply would put global oil markets on course for troubled waters."

Catching up with rising demand for electricity is a critical domestic challenge, as prolonged power cuts are still experienced on a daily basis in many parts of the country. The report estimates that, if planned new capacity is delivered on time, electricity generation will meet Iraq’s demand for power in 2015. Natural gas can play a much more important role in Iraq’s future and a vital first step will be to reduce the amount of gas that is currently flared. Once domestic needs are met, Iraq can also provide a cost-competitive source of gas supply to neighbouring countries, to European markets and to Asia, according to the report.

Meeting the anticipated levels of oil, gas and power supply over the period to 2035 will require over $530 billion in energy investment in Iraq, with the annual investment need highest in the current decade. But Iraq stands to gain much more – almost $5 trillion in revenues from oil export over the same period (an average of $200 billion per year). Revenues of this magnitude can transform Iraq’s future prospects, with the potential to stimulate much-needed economic growth and diversification. To achieve these ambitions, Iraq will need strengthened institutions and human capacity, a stable regulatory framework and sound long-term strategies for the energy sector, and efficient, transparent management of revenues and spending.

The Iraq Energy Outlook has been produced in close co-operation with the federal government of Iraq, the regional and provincial governments and officials across many government bodies, including fact-finding visits by the IEA team to Baghdad, Erbil and Basrah.

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