Iraq's oil production had risen to more than three million barrels a day for the first time since 1979, the Iraqi ministry of oil announced last week.
The increase in production came mainly from three giant oil fields in Basra province -- Rumaila, Zubair, and West Qurna -- that are currently undergoing rehabilitation by foreign investment companies, according to Sabah al-Saedy, deputy director-general of the ministry's licensing department.
In 2009, the Iraqi government signed development contracts with several international oil companies to rehabilitate and raise the production of these three fields.
In 2011, Iraq's oil production averaged around 2.6 million barrels a day, of which 2.2 million was exported.
Oil production at the Rumaila field, whose rehabilitation contract had been awarded to Britain's BP and China's CANC, has risen from 1.066 million to about 1.3 million barrels a day.
The present volume of production at the Zubair field, which is being developed by a consortium of oil companies led by the Italian ENI, is about 250,000 barrels a day, whereas the initial production of the field was 184,000 barrels a day.
The West Qurna oil field, which is being rehabilitated by American Exxon Mobil and British-Dutch Shell, saw its production rise from 244,000 to 350,000 barrels a day.
The Iraqi government said it wants to raise production of these fields in the near future to more than six million barrels a day, and is planning to reach more than 12 million barrels a day by 2017.
Al-Saedy said other oil fields will soon start production, such as the Halfaya field in the province of Maysan, which is expected to reach about 70,000 barrels a day by next June.
"The present rise in production will raise the average of Iraqi oil exports to between 2.6 and 2.7 million barrels a day," Abdul Illah al-Ameer, an oil consultant at the office of the deputy prime minister for energy affairs, told Mawtani.
"Within the next two years, Iraq will be able to raise its oil export capacity to about 4 million barrels a day, which is the quota allocated to it by the Organisation of Petroleum Producing Countries (OPEC)," he said.
If Iraq export capacity surpasses this quota, al-Ameer said it would become necessary to start discussions with OPEC to increase Iraq's share in a way that reflects the country's huge oil reserves and production capacity.
Iraqi officials have indicated the intent to build four offshore oil export platforms opposite the Basra coastline to absorb the expected increase in oil production. The overall export capacity of the four platforms is expected to reach 5.4 million barrels a day.
"When the daily amount of Iraqi oil production increases, its oil exports increase too, and consequently this generates larger financial revenues that could be used to fund more development and reconstruction projects," Secretary of the Iraqi parliament's energy committee, Kassim Mohammad Kassim, told Mawtani.
He said Iraq faces major infrastructure challenges, particularly in the service sectors such as electricity, housing, education, and health, as well as in the implementation of national plans and strategies to fight poverty and unemployment.
"Overcoming these challenges will require huge funds that cannot be secured except through the cultivation of all of our natural resources and the diversification of our national economy, so that we will not be solely dependent on oil revenue," he said.
"The increase in oil production achieved so far will help meet the deficit in this year's Iraqi state budget, which is expected to be around $15 billion."