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Iraq plans to boost its crude oil production by about a quarter to reach pre-war levels of 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) next year, Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum said on Tuesday.

Iraq plans to boost its crude oil production by about a quarter to reach pre-war levels of 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) next year, Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum said on Tuesday.

Output will rise as Japan helps violence-torn Iraq improve its southern oil terminals, the main gateway for overseas shipments, boosting exports to 2 million bpd, officials said after a meeting between the countries’ top energy policy-makers.

Asked by Reuters about next year’s production target, Uloum said: ‘Pre-war levels’, which he said was around 2.6 million bpd. Iraq’s oil production has averaged about 2.1 million bpd this year, the White House has said.

The Iraqi minister did not elaborate, but an official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) later said exports would also rise to 2 million bpd from the current 1.6 million-bpd level as the southern port infrastructure improved.

‘Japan will help Iraq to rebuild and rehabilitate the southern oil terminals and Basra refining facilities,’ Hirofumi Katase, the Director at the Petroleum and Natural Gas division of the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy, a unit of METI, told reporters in a briefing.

He said Iraq had asked the Japanese government to use 20-30 percent of a promised $ 3.5 billion loan — agreed in 2003 but yet to be disbursed — in the oil and gas industry.

Japan agreed last month to write off 80 percent of debts owed to it by Iraq, helping to open the way for resuming the new loans.

RECONSTRUCTION

Efforts to raise oil production in the two and a half years since the U.S.-led invasion have been frustrated by repeated pipeline attacks in the north and a lack of fresh investment in its southern oifields and facilities.

Iraq’s oil exports in November fell to 1.2 million bpd, their lowest level in two years, as repeated bombings kept the northern pipeline shut and bad weather hampered southern exports. The country uses about 400,000-500,000 bpd of crude domestically.

A rise in output would be a huge boost for post-war reconstruction efforts as oil revenues are the sole independent source of hard currency for Iraq, which lays claim to the world’s third-largest crude oil reserves.

Uloum’s forecast echoes that of Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, who said last month that Iraq could quickly boost output by 500,000 barrels daily by the middle of next year by reviving oil wells that had been capped after the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Iraq’s oil output last peaked at around 3 million bpd in 2000, at the height of the U.N.’s oil-for-food programme. Exports were then running at about 2.2 million bpd.

Lawlessness and violence after the U.S.-led invasion have disrupted efforts to rebuild the oil industry, preventing a sustained resumption of supplies via the northern export pipeline to the Turkish Mediterranean coast.

Japan, the world’s third-largest oil consumer, imported about 90,000 bpd of Iraqi crude last year.

Source : today.reuters.com

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