BASRA, Iraq -- The common sight of fires burning high above the horizon throughout Iraq may soon become a thing of the past, according to attendees of the United States Division-South Oil Conference held Feb. 13, 2010, at the U.S. Division - South headquarters here.

Key leaders from United States Forces-Iraq Civil Military Operations Directorate and other leaders from USD-S gathered at Contingency Operating Base Basra to discuss how best to leverage ongoing civil capacity projects to increase Iraqi oil industry prospects.

Estimated to have the world's third-largest oil reserves, much of the hope for Iraq's future is attached to the success of the oil industry.

Iraq's oil industry has never captured the natural gas associated with harvesting crude oil. The most economical way to deal with natural gas emissions is by "flaring," or burning it.

In addition to economic concerns, flaring is a significant source of greenhouse gasses.

Kevin Ross, a member of the USF-I oil team, said the black smoke seen rising toward the sky is actually natural gases being wasted at the rate of 4,000 milli-watts per day, gasses that could be refined to produce $12 million a day in revenue.

Now, with the help of USD-S, Iraq has begun to address this opportunity by teaming with some of the largest international companies in the oil industry to begin building operating companies in Iraq.

"A new day is dawning in Iraq," said Col. Rick Waddell, Energy and Services Division oil chief for USF-I. "With its international partners, Iraq is working to grow into the number-one oil producer in the world."

Another positive benefit to creating a natural gas market in Iraq is the employment and education opportunities for the people.

The process of refining natural gas into a usable resource will require educated professionals and technicians from within the country.

In addition, projections indicate importing international oil companies will bring more than $120 billion worth of economic stimulus in the way of life support requirements for oil company personnel.