As the world rapidly runs out of oil, one place seems to be swimming in the stuff, and no prizes for guessing who that is …

Iraq has dramatically increased the official size of its oil reserves after new data suggested that they could exceed Saudi Arabia’s and be the largest in the world.

The Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister has said that new exploration showed that his country has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, with as much as 350 billion barrels. The figure is triple the country’s present proven reserves and exceeds that of Saudi Arabia’s estimated 264 billion barrels of oil.

Barham Salih said that the new estimate had been based on recent geological surveys and seismic data compiled by “reputable, international oil companies . . . This is a serious figure from credible sources.”

Salih also added “There is a real debate in the Government and among political leaders about the type of oil management structures we should have. I am for liberalising this sector and allowing the private sector to come in to develop these vast resources.”

But it is these private companies – such as Shell – that everyone is worried about. That is why there is a protest taking place today outside Shell’s AGM – the message: Hands off Iraqi Oil.