OPEC producer Iraq aims to halt gas imports within three years as it is pushing ahead with projects to tap its massive natural gas resources, the country’s Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Sudani was quoted on Wednesday as saying. 

Speaking after the signing of oil and gas development agreements with two firms – two Chinese and one UAE- on Tuesday, Sudani said gas imports are draining Iraq’s coffers as they cost 8-10 billion Iraqi dinars ($5.5-6.8 billion) a year.

He was quoted by the official Iraqi news agency as saying gas shortages resulting from war damage and lack of field development have caused persistent electricity supply deficits and forced Iraq to turn to energy imports. 

“We have decided to enter the global gas market and we will push ahead with projects to develop our gas resources and stop gas flaring because shortages in domestic gas supply are the main cause of our electricity supply problems,” he said. 

“We are saddled with heavy gas import bills at the expense of other sectors…but we believe we will be able to achieve self-sufficiency in gas supplies within three years.” 

Sudani revealed that Iraq, which controls the world’s fifth largest extractable crude oil deposits, is on the verge of “announcing important projects in housing, services, development and other sectors.”

(Writing by Nadim Kawach; Editing by Anoop Menon)