MIDDLE EAST: Iraq increases oil exports in 2007, expects higher production in 2008

Iraq's oil output shot up in November 2007 and the ministry in charge of production forecast on Wednesday that it will reach 3 million barrels per day by the end of 2008.

Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said Iraq's average production was 2.4 million barrels per day in November. Exports stood at around 1.9 million barrels per day, sold at an average price of US$83.87 per barrel. In January, output was 1.9 million barrels. There were no figures available for december or detailed month-by-month figures for the rest of the year.

Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that removed Saddam from power, Iraqi production has mostly hovered between 1.7 million and 2 million barrels per day, according to the International Energy Agency. It's prewar production was 2.58 million barrels per day.

Jihad added that the exports, about 1.6 million bpd from Basra in the south and more than 300,000 bpd from Kirkuk in the north had grossed a total of US$4.94 billion in November, which made up more than 90 percent of Iraq's revenues.

"The ministry's ambition is to increase the production for more 3 million bpd by the end of 2008 and to pass the national oil law which will enable us to draw foreign investment to our oil resources," Jihad told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

He added that resuming oil shipments through a pipeline from Iraq's Kirkuk oil fields into the Turkish Ceyhan export terminal, which was often halted in past years due to sabotage, had given Iraq more flexibility to increase production.

But the year has had more downs than ups.

Iraq's political factions last February drafted the first version of a bill to regulate the country's oil industry in an effort to share its revenues among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities.

But the effort bogged down in parliament, mostly over delicate power sharing issues involving the central government in Iraq. The Kurds, for example, want a greater say in managing oil fields in their self-ruled area of the north.

Sunni Arabs fear that they will be left out of oil profits as the provinces where they are dominant have few proven reserves. Most of Iraq's oil reserves are in the Kurdish north and the largely Shiite south.

U.S. officials view the oil law as a catalyst for investment and a means of tamping down sectarian violence. In August, Iraq's semiautonomous regional government of Kurdistan passed its own oil law and signed more than a dozen production-sharing contracts with international oil companies. The Oil Ministry has said it considers these deals to be illegal and has threatened to blacklist the foreign companies that are involved.

The oil ministry on Wednesday also asked international oil companies to submit by Jan. 31 all necessary registration documents to allow them to bid for participation in the development of Iraq's oil fields.

"The Oil Ministry has invited all international petroleum companies willing to work in Iraq to register by submitting required documentation," Jihad said in a statement.

The ministry said only registered and qualified companies would be allowed to bid for oil field development projects.

"Registration of companies in the Republic of Iraq is a necessary step to enable them to take part in any round of production licenses that the ministry is intending to issue," he said.

Iraqi oil officials said recently they hoped to issue tenders to develop the country's vast oil fields at the beginning of 2008. They said the oil ministry was preparing contract models for the first group of oil fields.

Via: Associated Press

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