by Kadhim Ajrash , Khalid Al Ansary , and Mohammed Sergie
Iraq pumped 4.57 million barrels a day of oil in February and plans to boost output later in the year even as the OPEC member reaffirmed its commitment to the group’s decision to cut production to counter a global glut.
The country plans to increase output to 5 million barrels a day by the end of 2017, Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luaibi said Wednesday at a news conference in the southern city of Basra. Iraq exported 3.87 million barrels a day from its southern and northern shipment hubs in February, the ministry’s spokesman, Asim Jihad, said in an emailed statement.
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Oil prices last week broke below $50 a barrel for the first time since December as rising U.S. shale oil supply muted the impact of reductions in output from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and 11 other nations that started on Jan. 1. Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer in the group, raised production last month, though the kingdom kept output below its ceiling under the cuts agreement and said it moved extra supplies into storage.
The expected increase in shale oil poses a challenge to Iraq, Al-Luaibi said. The country is committed, however, to OPEC’s agreement to pare output to control global oversupply and support prices, the Oil Ministry’s Jihad said in the statement.
The ministry is in talks with Exxon Mobil Corp. to develop the Ratawi and Omar oil fields, which together can produce half a million barrels a day, Hayyan Abdul-Ghani Abdul-Zahra, director general of state-run South Oil Co., told reporters in Basra. Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer, also plans to expand exports this year, Abdul-Zahra said.
Missan Oil, another producer in southern Iraq, wants to almost double output to 700,000 barrels a day by 2020 from its current level of 385,000, the company’s Director General Adnan Sajet told reporters in Basra. The Oil Ministry will invite bids to develop three fields in southeastern Maysan province — Dujail, Kumait and Rifaie — in the second half of 2017, he said.