The first ever shipment of Iraqi natural gas destined for export sailed out of the country’s Gulf port of Umm Qasr yesterday in a Panama-flagged gas carrier. Laden with around 20,000 ft³ of condensed gas, its departure is being seen as a key development for the OPEC member state as it struggles to feed a cash-strapped economy whileit fights a costly war against fight against Daesh.
Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihan would not disclose the cargo’s value or its ultimate destination, but said that another shipment would be leaving by the end of the month.
Iraq has long aimed to become a gas exporter but initial plans were thwarted by the Iraq-Iran war when Iraqi export ports were bombed.
In November 2011, Iraq signed a $17bn deal to form the Basra Gas Company joint venture, in which it holds a 51% stake, along with Royal Dutch Shell (44%) and Mitsubishi (5%). The JV’s remit is to gather, process and market gas from the Rumaila, Zubair and West Qurna (Stage One) oil fields in the hydrocarbon-rich province of Basra.
According the International Energy Agency, Iraq has estimated natural gas reserves of 112 trillion cubic meters, making it the 11th largest in the world. It also has the world’s fourth largest oil reserves.