Risky Business in Iraq

By John Cookson. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

As ISIS prepares to advance on Baghdad and Iraq slips towards civil war, the world's oil corporations are updating plans to evacuate worried staff, from Dohuk in the north to the southern powerhouse of Basrah.

With one eye on Iraq's turbulent history executives in Houston, London, Moscow and Beijing always knew they might have to pull their people out - although perhaps not now and not under these extraordinary circumstances.

Ever since a Turkish company discovered oil in Kirkuk in 1927,  Iraq - with its 150 billion barrels of proven reserves - would be a commercially tantalising yet risky business for the global giants.

Oil exploration and production is long haul anyway and, as one boss told me: "Iraq is adventure capital, not venture capital."

But hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign investment did pour in since the fall of Saddam in 2003 and until now the biggest industrial revolution in Iraqi history was revitalising a moribund economy and underwriting mega-construction projects like millions of new homes, highways, Sports City and the Baghdad to Basrah high speed rail link.

ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Lukoil, Kuwait Energy and China Petroleum are among major players in the south and east of Iraq.  BP's Rumaila is spread over an astonishing 2000 kilometres and accounts for 12% of Iraq's entire reserves.

Shell's Al Majnoon is another monster, although the field's production potential was slowed by the discovery of thousands of tonnes of explosives and other military hardware left over the Iraq's war with Iran.

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