* May shipments at 2.6 mln bpd, flat vs April level
* Shell’s Majnoon to resume operations at start of July
BAGHDAD, May 26 (Reuters) - Iraq oil exports averaged 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in May, affected by attacks on a northern Kirkuk pipeline while production was 3.15 million bpd for the month, the oil minister said on Sunday.
Iraq needs to boost exports to consolidate its position as OPEC’s second-largest producer, but infrastructure bottlenecks and repeated attacks on its northern export line have so far kept the country short of a 2013 target of 2.9 million bpd.
May exports are flat compared with the previous month’s shipments of 2.6 million (bpd), and total oil production of 3.1 million bpd.
“Unfortunately exports have been affected by terrorist acts against Kirkuk export pipeline,” Oil Minister Abdul-Kareem Luaibi told reporters.
Crude oil flows from Iraq to Turkey on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline were interrupted in May due to repeated attacks by insurgent groups. The pipeline carries Iraq’s medium sour Kirkuk grade to Turkey’s port of Ceyhan in the Mediterranean.
The May attacks have forced Iraq to increase oil police patrols along the export pipeline to Turkey in a bid to stop militants from bombing it, another oil ministry official said.
“Recent attacks have caused real problems with oil exports from Kirkuk. We decided to boost security forces along the pipeline.”
Luaibi also said output from the country’s Majnoon oilfield, operated by Royal Dutch Shell, would resume at the start of July after maintenance, with initial production of 100,000 barrels per day (bpd).
“Majnoon’s restart was exacted in early May, but we think now more work is still needed to resume operations in the start of July,” Luaibi said.