Iraq expects oil exports to reach 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) this month and has
expanded the capacity of its export facilities in the south to 3 million barrels daily, Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi said.
Speaking on a tour of the giant Rumaila oilfield which pumps more than a third of Iraq's daily production, Luaibi also sought to reassure international firms that unrest in other parts of
the country would not affect its southern oil facilities.
As an extra security measure, drones were ready to start flying over the Basra region in what he said was a sign of the priority which authorities assigned to protecting oil facilities
Current daily production was running at 3.15 million bpd, he said, and exports were expected to pick up from last month's dip to 2.423 million bpd, attributed by officials to maintenance
work and expansion of a berth at Basra oil terminal.
"We have managed to expand our export capacity and now our export facilities can handle exporting more than 3 million barrels per day," Luaibi said.
July's expected 2.6 million bpd export level would match the southern exports in May, which were the highest since 2003, when U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
The years of conflict which followed Saddam's fall have put a brake on plans for Iraq, which sits on some of the world's largest oil reserves, to ramp up output.
Iraq's northern shipments have been halted since February due to an attack by insurgents on the Kirkuk Ceyhan pipeline.
But Luaibi said last month's assault by Islamic State militants through northern Iraq towards Baghdad had not had any affect on oil production or export operations further south.
"I met the foreign companies working in Basra and I assured them that the security situation is very stable in the oilfields in the south," the minister told reporters.
Despite this, authorities had taken extra security steps, and Luaibi said two drones were ready to start monitoring the skies over Basra "to provide a clearer picture of the southern
oilfields and energy installations".
"This is the first time Iraq is using drones to fly over the energy installations the south," he said.
Iraq said two years ago it was buying unmanned drones from the United States to help protect its southern oil platforms, and that it expected the drones to be operating by the end of