Iraq is one of the world's most petroleum-rich countries and, in the future, it could become one of the main producers. Iraq's petroleum resources are estimated to be 184 billion barrels, which include oil and natural gas reserves, and undiscovered resources. With its proved (or remaining) reserves of 113 billion barrels of oil (BBO) as of January 2003, Iraq ranks second to Saudi Arabia with 259 BBO in the Middle East. Iraq's proved reserves of 110 trillion cubic feet of gas (TCFG) rank tenth in the world. In addition to known reserves, the combined undiscovered hydrocarbon potential for the three Total Petroleum Systems (Paleozoic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous/Tertiary) in Iraq is estimated to range from 14 to 84 BBO (45 BBO at the mean), and 37 to 227 TCFG (120 TCFG at the mean). Additionally, of the 526 known prospective structures, some 370 remain undrilled. Petroleum migration models and associated geological and geochemical studies were used to constrain the undiscovered resource estimates of Iraq. Based on a criterion of recoverable reserves of between 1 and 5 BBO for a giant field, and more than 5 BBO for a super-giant, Iraq has 6 super-giant and 11 giant fields, accounting for 88% of its recoverable reserves, which include proved reserves and cumulative production. Of the 28 producing fields, 22 have recovery factors that range from 15 to 42% with an overall average of less than 30%. The recovery factor can be increased with water injection, improved and enhanced oil recovery methods (IOR and EOR) in various reservoirs, thus potentially increasing Iraq's reserves by an additional 50 to 70 BBO. Reserve growth is a significant factor that has been observed, to some extent, in nearly all Iraqi oil fields. Historically, producing fields have shown an average growth of 1.6 fold (or 60%) in their recoverable reserves over a 20-year period (1981-2001). With periodic assessments of reservoirs, application of available technology, and an upgrading of facilities, increases in reserves are expected in the future.
Additional publication details
Petroleum reserves and undiscovered resources in the total petroleum systems of Iraq: Reserve growth and production implications