WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraq’s oil minister said on Wednesday his country’s oil exports should hit a record of about 3.1 million barrels per day in April as output from the country’s southern fields stays strong and weather conditions improve.
“In April if nothing disturbs exportations we will hit 3.1 (million barrels per day) Oil Minister Adel Abdel Mehdi told reporters.
Iraq’s oil exports in March averaged 2.98 million bpd, up from less than 2.6 million bpd in February. Baghdad blamed the lower exports on stormy weather. But consumers also said then there were some quality issues with the oil.
Mehdi was in Washington with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi on his first visit to Washington as leader.
Despite the record production, Iraq’s oil exports are still below the 3.3 million bpd target in Baghdad’s 2015 budget. Iraq hopes its strategy of producing a new stream of heavy Basra oil will boost production and exports, and Mehdi said he already has customers lined up to take the Basra crude.
Mehdi said there are hundreds of Islamic State militants in parts of the country’s largest oil refinery in Baiji since battles with government forces at the plant last week. But he said the government “still controls the main part of the refinery.” Additional government troops are approaching the refinery which represents half of the country’s ability to process crude, but which has been shut since June.
The minister hinted he does not see any indications the OPEC oil production group will cut crude output anytime soon despite burgeoning spare supplies in both the United States and China. The Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait “will have the last say” on whether the group will cut production, he said.
Last November at an OPEC meeting in Vienna, Saudi Arabia forced through an agreement that the group would keep output steady, sending global oil prices lower. The group’s next meeting is in June.
Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Eric Walsh