Iraq oil tops 3 million barrels for first time since 2002

Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Iraq’s crude output rose above 3 million barrels a day last month for the first time since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Iraq pumped 3.08 million barrels a day in July, 115,000 barrels more than the previous month, OPEC’s Vienna-based secretariat said today in its Monthly Oil Market Report. The Persian Gulf state for a second month outpaced Iran, whose output dropped by 173,000 barrels to 2.82 million. Iraq last produced more than 3 million barrels in February 2002, OPEC said after revising its April estimate.

The reduction from Iran came as full sanctions by the European Union started July 1, which led to the third monthly decline in the group’s output. OPEC, which supplies 40 percent of the world’s oil, produced 31.2 million barrels a day last month, versus 31.35 million in June, according to the data, which cites secondary sources.

Iraqi production is increasing as overseas investors such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP Plc develop new fields and rework older deposits. The country has held several licensing rounds for oil and natural gas fields since the end of Saddam Hussein’s rule and more than two decades of stagnation caused by wars, sanctions and underinvestment.

Export Capacity

The country’s production increased the most among OPEC’s 12 members in July. Kuwait boosted supply by 26,000 barrels a day. All others reduced or kept their output stable. Iranian volumes dropped the most.

“At this juncture, we remain prudent on the pace of Iraq’s growth, as logistical capacity has to grow as well to deliver more oil,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, BNP Paribas SA’s head of commodity markets strategy in London. “They are probably not operating at capacity because pipeline availability to deliver oil to the southern export ports is limited.”

Bottlenecks for shipments from southern Iraq, where energy companies are making most of their investments, are easing with the start of two offshore mooring facilities for supertankers. Exports will be capped at 300,000 barrels a day given infrastructure constraints, compared with planned capacity of 1.8 million, the IEA said in May.

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