20100118 shell petronas oil deal 95826435 18
Signing a deal (left to right): Vice President of Malaysia's Petronas, Datuk Abdullah Karim, Shell CEO Peter Voser, and Shell Upstream Int. Vice President, Middle East and Africa, Mounir Bouaziz. -- Jan 17, 2010 - 


Steve Chiotakis: On the other side of the planet, a contract's been awarded to develop the largest oil field in Iraq. The Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell and its partner, a Malaysian state-run oil company, have finalized this 20-year deal. We're gonna to bring in Marketplace European Correspondent Stephen Beard, he's with us live from London right now. Good morning, Stephen.

Stephen Beard: Good morning, Steve.

Chiotakis: So how big a prize is this?

Beard: It is quite a prize. I mean, this is an absolutely gigantic oil field -- one of the largest in the world, actually -- with reserves it's believed at 12.6 billion barrels. The field is currently producing only 46,000 barrels a day. Shell and Petronas have promised to increase that 40 times to 1.8 million barrels a day.

Chiotakis: And how difficult will it be, Stephen, to develop this field?

Beard: It's not going to be easy. It's located very close to the border with Iran. It was actually caught in the crossfire of the Iran-Iraq War, that's why it's not been properly developed. There's still some mines and other explosives laying around that will have to be cleared. Some potential friction also with Iran over the ownership of the field. And then the security situation in Iraq, generally better than it was, but says Chris Grabowski of Peak Oil Consulting, it won't be easy for Shell and Petronas to operate there:

Chris Grabowski: Driving around the roads, it's a dangerous exercise. And oil companies and their workers, as we know, are targets for people who want to extort money, hijacking, or just wish to make some political point rather.

He reckons it'll take Shell well over a decade to fully develop the oil field.

Chiotakis: All right. Marketplace European correspondent, Stephen Beard. Stephen, thanks.

Beard: OK, Steve.