Iraq's southern oil industry was decimated in the 1990/1991 Gulf War, with production capacity falling to 75,000 bbl/d in mid-1991. That war resulted in destruction of gathering centers and compression/degassing stations at Rumaila, storage facilities, the 1.6-million bbl/d (nameplate capacity) Mina al-Bakr/Basra export terminal, and pumping stations along the 1.4-million bbl/d (pre-war capacity) Iraqi Strategic (North-South) Pipeline
Main sources of Iraqi associated natural gas are the Kirkuk, Ain Zalah, Butma, and Bay Hassan oil fields in northern Iraq, as well as the North and South Rumaila and Zubair fields in the south. The Southern Area Gas Project was completed in 1985, but was not brought online until February 1990. It has nine gathering stations and a larger processing capacity of 1.5 billion cubic feet per day.
According to the Oil and Gas Journal, Iraq's refining capacity was 597,500 bbl/d as of January 1, 2005, compared to a nameplate capacity of 700,000 bbl/d. Overall, Iraq has eight refineries, none of which were damaged during the March-April 2003 war itself. The three largest refineries are the 310,000-bbl/d Baiji, 150,000-bbl/d Basra, and 110,000-bbl/d Daura plants.
In the Persian Gulf, Iraq has three tanker terminals: Basra port (formerly known as Mina al-Bakr), Khor al-Amaya, and Khor az-Zubair (which mainly handles dry goods and minimal oil volumes, plus natural gas liquids and liquefied petroleum gas). Basra is Iraq's largest oil terminal, with two pipelines (48-inch and 41-inch), plus four 400,000-bbl/d capacity berths capable of handling very large crude carriers (VLCCs).
Prior to the toppling of Iraq's Ba'athist regime, Iraq reportedly had negotiated several multi-billion dollar deals with foreign oil companies mainly from China, France, and Russia. Deutsche Bank estimated that $38 billion worth of contracts were signed on new fields -- "greenfield" development -- with potential production capacity of 4.7 million bbl/d if all the deals came to fruition (which Deutsche Bank believed was highly unlikely).
Under optimal conditions, and including routes through both Syria and Saudi Arabia that are now closed or being utilized for other purposes, Iraq's oil export infrastructure could handle throughput of more than 6 million bbl/d (2.8 via the Gulf, 1.65 via Saudi Arabia, 1.6 via Turkey, and perhaps 300,000 bbl/d or so via Jordan and Syria).
Historically, Iraqi production peaked in December 1979 at 3.7 million bbl/d, and then in July 1990, just prior to its invasion of Kuwait, at 3.5 million bbl/d. From 1991, when production crashed due to war, Iraqi oil output increased slowly, to 600,000 bbl/d in 1996. With Iraq's acceptance in late 1996 of U.N. Resolution 986, which allowed limited Iraqi oil exports in exchange for food and other supplies ("oil-for-food"), the country's oil output began increasing more rapidly, to 1.2 million bbl/d in 1997, 2.2 million bbl/d in 1998, and around 2.5 million bbl/d during 1999-2001.
The northern Kirkuk field, first discovered in 1927, forms the basis for northern Iraqi oil production. Kirkuk, with an estimated 8.7 billion barrels of remaining reserves, normally produces 35o API, 1.97 percent sulfur crude, although the API gravity and sulfur content both reportedly deteriorated sharply in the months just preceding the war.
According to the Oil and Gas Journal, Iraq contains 115 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, the third largest in the world (behind Saudi Arabia and Canada), concentrated overwhelmingly (65 percent or more) in southern Iraq. Estimates of Iraq's oil reserves and resources vary widely, however, given that only about 10 percent of the country has been explored.
Iraq now finds itself in a period of uncertainty and transition after more than three decades of Ba'ath party rule. Following the end of Saddam Hussein's rule in the spring of 2003, Iraq was governed for a year by the "Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA)" led by the United States and the United Kingdom. On June 28, 2004, the CPA transferred power to a sovereign Iraqi interim government, with national elections held on January 30, 2005. On May 3, 2005, the new transitional government was sworn in, with Ibrahim Jaafari as Prime Minister.