By John Lee.
Iraq has said its oil output could reach up to 10 million barrels per day by 2020, higher than the recent prediction from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Speaking at a ceremony for the publication of the IEA report, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for energy, Hussain al-Shahristani (pictured), predicted that the country's oil production would hit 5 million to 6 million bpd in 2015, rising to 9 million to 10 million bpd by 2020, a level that could be sustained for 20 years.
While higher than the IEA estimates, these figures are below Iraq's previous target of 12 million barrels per day by 2017., which many experts considered unrealistic.
The IEA forecasts 6.1 million bpd by the end of the decade but warning of factors impeding output growth.
"Iraq is in a position to supply about half of global oil demand growth," Shahristani said.
"The conclusions of our studies, and those of independent consultants engaged in the ministry of oil, are that it is feasible and desirable for Iraq to raise its oil production to about nine to 10 million barrels per day by 2020. And Iraq can sustain that production for at least 20 years."
Shahristani's prediction was a reassertion of forecasts that observers have long said is optimistic, with the IEA itself stating that in its "high case", production would reach 9.2 mbpd by 2020, and not rise to 10 mbpd until 2030.
"In our central scenario, Iraq's oil production more than doubles to 6.1 million bpd by 2020 and reaches 8.3 million bpd in 2035," the IEA said.
Iraq currently produces 3.4 million bpd of oil, of which around 2.6 million bpd is exported.
The Paris-based organisation added that Iraq stood to gain almost $5.0 trillion in revenue from exporting oil up to 2035, as long as the country invested more than $530 billion on raising its energy output.
But reaching such a high level of output "will require rapid, coordinated progress all along the energy supply chain," the agency stressed.
(Sources: Associated Press, AFP, NINA)