BAGHDAD (Dow Jones)--Iraqi crude oil exports surged to 1.619 million barrels a day in April, the second highest monthly level since the postwar recovery due to a combination of maintenance to export pipelines, repair of some export berths and improved weather, a senior Iraqi oil official said Monday.
"We were able to export a total of 48,578 million barrels or 1.619 million b/d in April which is the second highest monthly level reached after the fall (of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003)," Falah Alamri told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview.
Alamri said the first highest level was registered in March 2004 when Iraq was able to export an average of 1.626 million b/d according to SOMO records.
A combination of bad weather, power cuts and technical problems, including lack of tug boats, and damage to oil facilities have been slowing Iraq's southern oil exports for most of the time since Iraq resumed oil exports after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
The Iraqi oil industry has been hard-hit by 13-years of economic sanctions, negligence and looting after the U.S.-led war in 2003.
According to independent figures, Iraq's average oil exports were 1.48 million b/d in 2004 and 1.41 million b/d in 2005, well below the pre-war average of around 2.1 million b/d.
Alamri said SOMO, in charge of Iraq's oil sales, and the South Oil Company, running Iraq's oil production from the south, have embarked on a number of projects to increase output and exports, jointly investing in a maintenance plan to improve export pipelines running from oil fields to loading facilities at Basra and Khor al-Amaya terminals.
"We have also hired three new tug boats." The tugs are used to escort vessels in and out of the two terminals. In the past lack of tugs had delayed Iraq's southern oil exports as there were only three aging tugs and they were often out of service.
He said the Iraqi Oil Ministry is in the final stages of reaching a deal with a Turkish company to provide a power station to end the power shortage in crude oil loading terminals. He gave no further details.
Alamri also said some loading berths at Basra terminal were repaired and now working at full scale.
Alamri said work continues to improve production and export capacity at southern oil fields.
Separately, a second Iraqi oil official said Iraq's crude oil output from the south in April went up to 1.880 million b/d from 1.750 million b/d in March.
The second official said production from northern oil fields in April increased to 305,000 b/d from 290,000 b/d in March. But the official said there were no exports from the north, although authorities managed to briefly pump crude oil twice in April via the northern pipeline to Turkey's Ceyhan port bringing stores to around 2.14 million barrels.
Sabotage to oil pipelines and facilities has kept Iraq's oil exports from the north shut for all but a few days this year and last year.
By Hassan Hafidh, Dow Jones Newswires; + 88 216 2115 7191; email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires