Iraq oil exports hit 16-month low despite higher production

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Iraqi crude sales hit a 16-month low in July as exports along a northern pipeline stalled even as production rose, the oil ministry said on Wednesday.

Iraq exported 72 million barrels of oil, or about 2.322 million barrels per day (bpd), ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said - the lowest daily average figure since March 2012.

The country earned $7.3 billion from the exports.

Much of the decline came via the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, which is a frequent target of attacks by militants. Exports along the pipeline had been as high as 547,000 bpd in June 2011, but averaged just 168,000 bpd last month.

But while exports fell, production is on the rise, reaching 3.25 million bpd in July compared to 2.94 million bpd during the same period last year, the ministry said in a statement.

Jihad also said that Iraq intends to build a new pipeline from the northern city of Kirkuk to the Turkish border in order to add much-needed export capacity.

Nine foreign companies have submitted bids for the pipeline, which will have a capacity of 600,000 bpd and be built parallel to an existing pipeline to Turkey.

The new pipeline is needed because the existing one has been repeatedly attacked by militants, and also because Iraq wants to boost its export capacity, Jihad said.

Iraq is dependent on oil exports for the lion’s share of its government income, and is seeking to dramatically ramp up its sales in the coming years to fund the reconstruction of its battered infrastructure.

Officials are aiming to increase production capacity to nine million bpd by 2017, a target that the IMF and International Energy Agency have warned is optimistic.

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