Iraq should have the biggest GDP among Mid East oil producing nations, but it is ranked near the bottom in income-per-capita among Arab nations. Why?
The World's Biggest Oil Reserves, by Christopher Helman: "The once and future king of the world's oil fields, Ghawar, in Saudi Arabia, ranks first on our list. It is thought to have had more than 100 billion barrels of recoverable oil in place. At 160 miles long and 16 miles wide it confounds even the most experienced geologists. With something on the order of 60 billion produced over the past 60 years, you'd be excused for thinking that Ghawar was sliding into its twilight years. Yet the Saudis insist that Ghawar is still going strong, producing 4.5 million bpd from six main producing areas with the ability to do 5 million bpd if called upon.
The secret to Ghawar's longevity is water injection. Starting in the 1960s Saudi Aramco began injecting water underneath the oil around the outer borders of the field. Today the water flood is up to millions of barrels a day, with the oil floating up to the top of the reservoir on sea of water. In conversations with Forbes in 2008 Aramco executives insisted that by continuing to treat Ghawar with kid gloves they'll be able to coax 4 million bpd out of her for many years to come.
Coming in second is West Qurna, in Iraq, home to an expected 21 billion barrels of oil. This month a joint venture between ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell were awarded the contract to develop the 9 billion barrel first phase of the West Qurna oil field. They will aim to raise output from 300,000 bpd to 2.3 million bpd. It's tough to make the case that the two biggest oil companies from the countries that invaded Iraq in 2003 are getting a sweetheart deal. The contract calls for the government of Iraq to retain ownership of the field and the oil. Exxon and Shell, as contractors, are to be paid just $1.90 for each a barrel they produce.
Third is Majnoon, also in Iraq. At 13 billion barrels, these massive reserves are in a relatively small area near the Euphrates River in southern Iraq. The field's abundance was so mind-boggling that it was named Majnoon, Arabic for "crazy." This easy oil hasn't been developed in part because of its location so close to the Iranian border. In the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war, managers reportedly buried the wells, concerned that they might be targeted by Iranian forces. The field produces just 50,000 bpd now, but has the potential to do 1.8 million bpd.
The Rumaila field in Iraq, with 17 billion barrels, is the forth-largest field. In November, British giant BP and China National Petroleum Corp. won the first oil contract of the post-Saddam era to redevelop Rumaila. Located on the border with Kuwait, the field is already producing 1 million bpd, half of Iraq's total production. The partners intend to spend some $15 billion to treble that to 2.85 million bpd. That output would be enough to put Rumaila in second place worldwide after Saudi Arabia's Ghawar."