The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has approved the field development plan for the Shaikan field, operated by London-listed Gulf Keystone, which could see production rise to 250,000 barrels a day (b/d) by 2018.

Phase one of the Shaikan field development is expected to begin in July at 40,000 b/d, increasing to 150,000 b/d in the next three years and 250,000 b/d by 2018.

In March, Gulf Keystone was building a 20,000 b/d production facility (PF-1), which is tied to the Shaikan-1, 3 and 4 producing wells. A second 20,000 b/d facility, PF-2 is also under construction. It will process crude from the Shaikan-2 and 5 producing wells, as well as Shaikan-10, the company’s first development well.

The field is one of the most important in the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq. The KRG plans to raise production to 1 million b/d by 2015 and 2 million b/d by the end of the decade.

“Gulf Keystone has done outstanding work during the exploration phase, exceeding its minimum contractual requirements from two wells to seven wells, and making substantial progress in defining and delineating the Shaikan field,” said a Ministry of Natural Resources spokesman in a 26 June statement.

Gulf Keystone has a 51 per cent interest in the Shaikan block, which is situated about 85km northwest of Iraqi Kurdistan capital Erbil. In 2011, an independent review by Houston-based Dynamic Global Advisers estimates the Shaikan field contains 8 billion barrels of crude.