US oil firms Aspect Energy and Marathon Oil Corporation have discovered oil at the Atrush block in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

The Altrush-1 well, 89 kilometres northwest of the provincial capital, Irbil was drilled to depths of 11,000 feet and encountered almost 400 feet of net pay. Flow rates were established at more than 6,000 barrels of oil a day from the three horizons, according to an 13 April company announcement.

Marathon acquired a 20 per cent stake in the block in October, 2010, its first foray into the country’s oil and gas industry. As one of the US’s main mid-size oil firms, with significant international experience, the agreements are widely seen as a vote of confidence for the region (MEED 24:10:10).

Marathon signed production-sharing contracts for two open oil and gas exploration blocks in Iraq in October last year, agreeing to take on the operatorship and an 80 per cent ownership of two open blocks, Harir and Safen, The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will hold the remaining 20 per cent interest.

Marathon has also taken a 25 per cent stake in the Sarsangblock operated by another US firm, HKN Energy.