The second set of questions is around the timing. Is it really realistic that this can be done in six or seven years as the oil minister is claiming?
To me, the second set of questions seems the more urgent to answer. While the exact amount of oil in Iraq is highly debatable, there's not much doubt that there's a heck of a lot of it.
One way to think about the timing issues is that each of these field contracts is basically a huge megaproject. What al-Shahrastani is proposing, and what Big Oil is signing up to deliver, is a huge set of megaprojects, conducted in parallel, in a country that was a war zone until fairly recently. The potential for chaos is considerable. The potential for some folks to make an awful lot of money is also considerable.
Consider, for each field, the following things are necessary:
- Drilling of the oil wells and injector wells
- Pipelines to bring injection water from somewhere.
- A water treatment plant to make sure nothing in the injected water will clog the pores in the reservoir rocks and to process any water produced from the field.
- A GOSP facility to separate out the water, oil, and gas brought to the surface
- Pipelines to take the oil from the field somewhere
- A share in export facilities of some kind
- Saudi Arabia started with a lot more oil production infrastructure than Iraq has.
- Saudi Aramco and the Saudi oil ministry had more experience than the Iraqi oil ministry has.
- Saudi Arabia has had no political instability that would affect oilfield development.
- The Saudi projects were all smaller than the largest Iraqi megaprojects.
Therefore, here's a table summarizing the timeline of the recent Saudi megaprojects:
|Nuayyim||0.1mbd||10/2006||5/2009||1, 2, 3|
|Shaybah Ph II||0.25mbd||4/2006||6/2009||1, 2|
You can see that generally these projects take about three years from contract award to completion.
So I think we can divide any potential increase in Iraqi production into two phases. The first phase, for ballpark three years, will have to rely largely on existing infrastructure, and presumably will be limited to some value below the historical high of about 3.5mbd. After three years or so, entirely new infrastructure projects could start to come on line, and production might potentially exceed that value.