Starting production at Iraq's West Qurna-2 oil field shows Russia's Lukoil views Iraq as one of its most valued assets. Lukoil President Vagit Alexperov said his company positioned itself as a strategic player with the launch of operations at the West Qurna-2 field. "The start of production at West Qurna-2 is strategically important for LUKOIL," he said in a statement Saturday. West Qurna-2 is estimated to hold up to 14 billion barrels of recoverable reserves, making it among the largest undeveloped fields in the world. Lukoil said West Qurna, located near the Iraqi port city of Basra, will begin in phases, with an initial start up volume of around 400,000 barrels of oil per day. A production plateau of 1.2 million bpd is expected to last for nearly 20 years. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said in its March market report Iraq was one of the bright spots in terms of crude oil output. Iraqi oil production from January to February, the last full month for which data are available from OPEC, increased 13 percent to 3.3 million bpd.