ExxonMobil has won a $50bn deal to develop one of the world’s most prized untapped oil reserves in Iraq.

Exxon was awarded the contract to extract oil from the West Qurna reservoir near Basra in Iraq’s south during an extended tender process.

West Qurna is considered the jewel in the nine Iraqi oil and gas fields up for grabs, with verified reserves of 15bn barrels, and a strong chance that exploration will reveal significantly more.

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain Shahristani told reporters in Iraq that the contract stipulated a $25bn investment and $25bn more in operating fees, according to The Guardian.

It is also expected to yield up to 100,000 jobs in the impoverished deep south of the country.

ExxonMobil has agreed to ramp up oil production from present levels of 270,000 barrels a day to 2.25 billion barrels a day within seven years.

In the opening round in July, BP and CNPC won the rights to develop the Rumaya oilfield, also near Basra.

Iraq has verified reserves of about 115bn barrels.

ExxonMobil was awarded 80% of the West Qurna contract, with Shell. A second licensing round is scheduled for December, in which contracts to develop up to five more fields will be open to bids.