Iraq's South Oil Exports Head for Record in October

Source: Reuters 10/19/2012, Location: Middle East

Iraq's oil exports from its southern ports have rise by 120,000 barrels per day (bpd) so far in October versus last month, according to shipping data, suggesting the country is on course to reach its highest export rate in decades.

Exports from Iraq's south have averaged 2.30 million bpd in the first 18 days of October, the data show, up from 2.18 million bpd in September. Shipments in August of 2.25 million bpd were the highest since before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Iraq exports most of its oil from the south, where the opening of new export outlets and investment by foreign companies in oilfields are increasing shipments. A rise in Iraqi supplies this year helped to keep a lid on prices as Western sanctions targeted Iran's exports.

"They have the production and the export capacity, so they are ramping up," said a source at a Western oil company, which buys Iraqi oil. "And for once, Iraq is having smooth export programmes and operations."

Including around 400,000 bpd from Iraq's northern fields, Iraq looks on course to export more in October than September's level of 2.6 million bpd - which was its highest total exports in more than 30 years.

Iraq is aiming to boost shipments to above 2.8 million bpd this month, an Iraqi oil official said last week. To get there, it would need to crank up southern exports even more in coming days, and increase shipments of Kirkuk crude in the north.

Exports of Kirkuk were scheduled at 430,000 bpd in October, a trader said, higher than September. Helping boost supplies, Iraq's Kurdistan region decided to keep its exports flowing as part of a deal with Baghdad to end a payments dispute.

Crude produced in Kurdistan is fed into the Kirkuk export stream shipped from Ceyhan in Turkey. Delays to loadings, caused by intermittent flows through the pipeline from Iraq to Turkey, have so far been relatively minor, said a buyer of the crude.

"So far, it's very smooth," a trader said, referring to Kirkuk exports.

Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region agreed last month to settle a dispute over oil payments after the Kurdistan Regional Government promised to continue exports and Baghdad pledged to pay foreign companies working there.

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