Iraq’s southern oil exports fall far below target

Exports from Iraq’s southern terminals have averaged 1.80 million barrels per day (bpd) so far in February

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Iraq’s southern oil exports have fallen short of planned rates in February as poor weather delays shipments, making OPEC’s second-largest producer unlikely to hit this month’s record exports target.

Exports from Iraq’s southern terminals have averaged 1.80 million barrels per day (bpd) so far in February, according to shipping data seen by Reuters and an industry source. Exports in all of January were 2.39 million bpd.

The decline means that Iraq’s plan to export a record 3.3 million bpd in February from the south looks unlikely, although shipments could recover during the rest of the month without further weather delays.

“The weather has been horrible lately,” said a trade source.

Cargoes are facing loading delays of up to 12 days, the source said, similar to last week.

Iraq’s southern oilfields produce the bulk of its oil and the terminals are its main outlet to world markets. Located far from the parts of the country controlled by ISIS, they have kept pumping despite the unrest.

Exports from the southern terminals in December reached 2.76 million bpd - a record high.

Iraq also exports smaller amounts of Kirkuk crude from the Turkish port of Ceyhan, which are not subject to any unusual shipping delays. These were offline for most of 2014 and resumed in December following a deal between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Lower exports from Iraq’s southern ports has supported the value of Russian Urals crude in the Mediterranean, although some traders say the effect has been limited due to otherwise ample crude supplies.

“There are alternatives available, plus stored barrels,” said the trade source.

Total Iraqi exports hit a record in December and the government aims to push them higher in 2015. Smooth progress is not certain.

Iraq has missed targets in the past and as well as bad weather, technical problems and unrest can disrupt supplies.