Iraq March Crude Exports Rise to Highest Since 1980

Iraq’s crude oil exports in March rose to the highest level since 1980, a year after former President Saddam Hussein came to power, an Oil Ministry spokesman said.

The Middle East country exported 71.827 million barrels, or 2.317 million barrels a day, in March, Asim Jihad said in an e-mailed statement. The exports generated $8.475 billion, with an average price of $118 a barrel, he said.

“The exported quantities in March reached a level that Iraq hadn’t seen since 1980,” Jihad said, adding shipments were boosted by a new offshore terminal started operating in February.

Iraq holds the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves, according to data from BP Plc that include Canadian oil sands. The Arab nation depends on crude exports for money to rebuild the economy after decades of war and sanctions. Iraq has awarded 15 licenses for oil- and gas-drilling rights to foreign companies in the post-Saddam Hussein era, and it plans a new licensing auction in May.

The gain in exports came even as the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region isn’t supplying the agreed quantities, sabotage attacks targeted the northern export pipeline and bad weather slowed tanker shipments in the south, Jihad said.

Record Revenue

Iraq in March exported 59.427 million barrels, or 1.917 barrels a day, by sea from its southern Basra terminal and 12.42 million barrels, or 400,000 barrels a day, from the northern oil hub of Kirkuk through a pipeline to Turkey, Jihad said.

The nation’s revenue in March was the highest level in the nine years since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, according to Falah al-Amri, the head of the country’s State Oil Marketing Organization. Iraq generated $6.6 billion selling oil in February, according to the organization’s data.

“We expect export levels to increase further this month,” al-Amri said in a telephone interview in Baghdad today.

Export volumes had decreased in January and again in February because bad weather halted marine shipments for several days each month, he said.

Asim Jihad said on Feb. 23 that Iraq expects to export more than 2.6 million barrels a day by the end of 2012. The third-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries plans to increase daily oil production to 3.4 million barrels a day by the end of the year, up from about 3 million barrels in 2011, he said.

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