(EnergyAsia, November 13 2015, Friday) — Iraq’s hydrocarbon-rich Basra province is establishing a regional company to attract foreign direct investment to build up its oil, gas and infrastructure for the long-term development of the economy.

“Basra Company is the vehicle through which the provincial government will optimise utilisation of resources and position Basra as the economic engine of Iraq,” said Ali Al Faris, chairman of the Basra Council’s oil and gas committee at a conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

“We will be looking to work with international businesses that are capable of developing oil and gas fields which are not covered under current licensing, as well as cooperating with the federal government to improve production, refineries and transport. The company will also work on promoting investment in other key sectors including water, electricity, education, heath, agriculture and transport.”

Mr Al Faris and other Iraqi officials, who spoke at the Basra Oil, Gas and Infrastructure Conference, said the province wants investors to develop underutilised and degraded oil and gas fields along with new infrastructure projects. The conference marks the start of a round of international engagement for the Basra Council and Governorate as they look to promote opportunities in the region.

Basra is home to 70% of Iraq proven gas reserves, estimated at almost 112 trillion cubic feet, making it the 12th largest in the world, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Basra also holds 59% of Iraq’s oil reserves, much of it undeveloped as a result of years of sanctions and war.

Iraqi officials are eagerly promoting the province and the city as ready to accept foreign investment due to “dramatic improvements” in the security situation in recent years.

Iraq’s Federal government is in the process of awarding development contracts for major hydrocarbon fields in Zubair, Rumaila (north and south), West Qurna, Majnoon and Siba in Basra and other fields in Maysan Governorate. Baghdad also has oversight for the development of the Al-lahis, Nahur Umr, Ratawi, Toba, Suba, and Sinbad fields.

“Many of these fields have suffered from neglect, leading to low productivity. Current operators have limited capabilities to maximise their potential, providing opportunities for partnership and development,” said a Basra Council statement. The new Basra Company will aim to attract global players and investors to bring new and extisting fields up to international best standards.

Mr Al Faris said: “We are looking to work with legal consultants to develop best practice legislation, as well as technical, financial and business firms to work on feasibility studies, geological surveys and other areas central to the success of the company.

“We are studying a range of options for financing, including partnerships with local and international investors to finance the projects of Basra Company, which could be wholly owned by the council or in partnership with South Oil Company and South Gas Company, as well as other local companies. An IPO is also being considered to allow Basrawis to own shares in the company.”