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Iraq resumes oil exploration after long halt

Iraq resumes oil exploration after two decades in an attempt to determine whether more oil reserves lie beneath its territory, says an Oil Ministry official.

business Updated: Aug 08, 2008 19:30 IST

Iraq resumed oil exploration Friday after two decades in an attempt to determine whether more oil reserves lie beneath its territory, an Oil Ministry official said. Iraq has confirmed reserves of an estimated 115 billion barrels but it is believed that the actual oil reserves could be twice as high.

During a ceremony attended by Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, a seismic team began work Friday in the Gharraf field in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.

"The confirmed reserve of this field is one billion barrels and we believe that it will be doubled after this exploration mission," said Assem Jihad, the ministry's spokesman.

Jihad said that the Gharraf team is one of three groups of geophysicists, geologists and engineers that will explore oil fields in the Nasiriyah area.

The other two seismic teams will search for oil in other fields which officials believe could prove to have reserves of eight billion barrels.

"It is a new move that aims at boosting the oil sector after the improvement in the security situation," Jihad said. Jihad said Iraq had only used about a fifth of the country's 500 possible oil-producing sites, adding that finding more proven reserves would help the government develop plans for investment to increase production.

Years of U.N. sanctions and war prevented Iraq's oil industry from keeping pace with other major producers such as Saudi Arabia.