Iraq’s oil exports from its southern ports have jumped by 190,000 barrels per day (bpd) in April, according to shipping data tracked by Reuters, a sign shipments are heading for another post-war record.
Exports from the Basra oil terminal, Khor al-Amaya, and a new Gulf outlet have averaged 2.11 million bpd in the first 16 days of April, the data showed. Iraq said its southern exports averaged 1.92 million bpd last month.
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Iraq is expected to provide the world’s largest expansion in oil export capacity in 2012 as new outlets open. Analysts said the extra flows, if they continue, could keep a lid on prices, which are trading near $120 a barrel.
“That is substantial,” said Paul Tossetti, an oil analyst at PFC Energy. “It could have a market impact if it’s sustained for the rest of the month.”
Iraq’s supply to the market had been held back for years by a lack of port capacity after decades of war and sanctions.
Oil began loading from a new floating single-point mooring (SPM) platform in the Gulf – the first of several – on March 8. So far in April, the facility has exported four 2 million-barrel shipments, more than in all of March.
The extra port capacity is allowing Iraq to sell more of its increasing oil output. Oil companies such as BP (BP.L) and ENI (ENI.MI) have been working to boost production in Iraq, which holds the third-largest reserves in the Middle East.
Until the new Gulf outlet came into operation, industry sources said companies were having to restrain output at the southern oilfields, because shipments were at the limit of capacity.
Iraq exports the bulk of its crude from southern ports. Shipments of crude by pipeline from the Kirkuk field in northern Iraq to Ceyhan in Turkey usually amount to 400,000 bpd and are expected to remain stable around that level.
If shipments from the south are sustained at around 2.10 million bpd for the rest of April, Iraq will be on course to export about 2.5 million bpd.
That would exceed April’s total of 2.32 million bpd, which Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) said was the country’s highest since 2003, the year of the U.S.-led invasion.
Shipments from the north are sometimes disrupted by technical problems and sabotage, although industry sources say this rarely cuts tanker shipments significantly, because vessels are able to keep loading using oil stored at the Turkish port.
Kurdish militants on April 5 claimed responsibility for blasts on a Turkish oil pipeline that temporarily cut off the flow of oil from Kirkuk.