28 December 2006
BAGHDAD - Iraq’s oil minister said on Thursday the country has exported an average 1.65 million barrels per day of crude this year, nearly 150,000 bpd higher than estimates from shipping and industry sources.
Hussain al-Shahristani told the cabinet in an annual review meeting that insurgent attacks idled the main export pipeline in the north for most of the year leaving Iraq dependent on the south for urgently needed oil revenue.
“If we had managed to pump oil through the northern pipelines we would have produced around 3 mln bpd and exported around 2.25 mln bpd,” he said. Production this year averaged 2.3 million bpd, according to Shahristani.
Industry sources say Iraqi exports of some 1.5 million bpd this year are up 100,000 bpd on the average volume in 2005.
Iraqi officials are aiming for a bold production target of 4.3 million bpd within the next four years, but sabotage and lack of foreign investment may make that goal unachievable. They hope Iraq’s oilfields pump 6 million to 8 million bpd by 2015.
Iraq desperately needs foreign investment to revive its shattered economy, which relies heavily on oil export revenues. The country straddles the world’s third largest oil reserves.
Shahristani said Iraq’s long awaited oil law that sets policy to help lure foreign investment will be presented to the government at the start of January. Iraqi officials have said the law would be before parliament before the end of this year.
Senior sources said last week a tentative deal would allow the regions to negotiate contracts with foreign investors but give the central government the final say.
The contract issue is vital to Iraq’s future as a solution favouring the regions would devolve power over its most valuable resource to the majority Shias and the Kurds whose regions are home to the country’s most coveted oilfields.
Minority Sunni Arabs, dominant under Saddam Hussein before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, fear regional devolution will leave them with nothing.
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