Shell and Total are reportedly competing with each other to create a major gasfield in one of Iraq's most war-torn areas.
The Times reported the energy companies see the development as a potential source for petroleum exports to Europe. The result of the pending project will serve as a good indicator for future investment in Iraq.
The Iraqi government is said to have held talks with a number of potential companies last week regarding development of the Akkas field in Anbar province, north-west of Baghdad, and wants the field operational again as soon as is viable.
"The Iraqi ministry of oil has requested Shell to facilitate a long-term production test for the Akkas gasfield," a Shell statement read.
Total was unavailable for comment but the Times said it is understood to be interested in the field.
The results of the test will allow the government to better ascertain the size and quality of the reservoir - information which would help if it decides to invite bids from companies to develop the field.
According to estimates, the gasfield has a capacity of up to 50 million cubic feet a day a figure that could be boosted to 450 million cubic feet per day on further development.
Sunni tribal groups are dominant in Anbar province and the community has been blamed for numerous anti-US attacks since the 2003 invasion.
Security concerns have lessened in the last six months, in part because of last year's US troop surge, and oil companies are now beginning to look again at the area.
Akkas is 40km from Syria, where Shell has been active for 25 years and works with the government and Chinese and Indian partners.
Syria is a potential export route to Europe, but the security and political uncertainties may scupper any western oil companies' plans.
Whatever the outcome, the project will be followed closely by others considering entry into the Iraqi market.