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Iraq’s Oil Output Reaches 20-Year High, Minister Says

Dec. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Iraq’s oil production exceeded 2.6 million barrels a day for the first time in 20 years, newly appointed Oil Minister Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi said at a press conference in Baghdad.

The rising output will boost Iraq’s oil exports by 5 percent to 2 million barrels a day next month, Falah al-Amri, head of the country’s State Oil Marketing Organization, said today in an interview in Baghdad. The nation sells about 60 percent of supplies to India, China and other Asian countries where demand is increasing, he said

Iraq, holder of the world’s fifth-largest crude reserves, is seeking foreign investors to help boost oil and gas production, which was affected by insurgent attacks and a lack of spending. Oil output hovered around 2.4 million barrels a day since the 2003 U.S.-led attack that ousted the regime of President Saddam Hussein. The government awarded 12 oil and three gas development contracts to since the invasion.

Al-Luaibi vowed to speed up the increase in output and development of exploration and drillings in collaboration with international companies operating in the country.

“We will work on rehabilitating energy industry-related infrastructure, including oil and gas pipelines,” he said during the handover ceremony with his predecessor, Deputy Prime Minister for energy affairs Hussain al-Shahristani. “We will back the foreign energy companies working in Iraq to raise output, exports and storage.”

‘Within Days’

The delayed contract for the Akkas natural gas field will be signed “within days,” al-Luaibi said. The Oil Ministry had planned to sign an agreement for the field on Nov. 14 with Korea Gas Corp., known as Kogas, and Kazakhstan’s state fuel producer, KazMunaiGaz National Co.

Iraq postponed the deal for Akkas to “clear the misunderstanding” over the planned use of fuel from that deposit, al-Luaibi said in November.

Akkas is the largest of the three fields for which the government awarded licenses on Oct. 20. Kogas and KazMunaiGaz agreed to produce 400 million standard cubic feet of gas a day at a price of $5.50 a barrel of oil equivalent.

Negotiations were continuing with Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Mitsubishi Corp. on a project to capture associated gas at oil fields in southern Iraq, Al-Luaibi said.

“There is nothing new so far on that,” he said.

An agreement with Shell and Mitsubishi is due to be signed by the end of January, Ali Hussain Khudair, the director-general of Iraq’s South Gas Co., said on Nov. 25.

The government gave initial approval on June 29 for the creation of a venture with Shell and Mitsubishi, to be called Basra Gas Co. The venture would be owned 51 percent by state-run South Gas, with Shell holding 44 percent and Mitsubishi the remaining 5 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nayla Razzouk in Amman at nrazzouk2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net

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