Despite ongoing violence and sabotage against its oil installations, Iraq has boosted oil production to the highest level since 1979. And, a doubling of oil exports is in the pipeline as the country builds new terminals.
As a sign of economic recovery, Iraq was able to boost oil production above three million barrels per day (bpd) in March, the country's deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said in a speech at the oil ministry Monday.
The output was described by al-Shahristani as "the highest since 1979" and comes in the wake of government attempts to increase oil production to 3.4 million barrels per day throughout 2012.
According to figures released by the oil ministry, Iraq exported 65.3 million barrels of crude in January, which was an average of 2.1 million bpd, earning the country $7.12 billion (5.4 billion euros).
Al-Shahristani said exports would be increased to 2.6 million bpd in 2012 after a new Gulf export terminal was up and operating in the next few days.
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The new offshore oil terminal – once fully operational – will be capable of exporting 900,000 barrels per day, according to oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad.
He told the AFP news agency that the terminal was part of a plan to increase Iraq's "production and export capacity."
"The second of five new terminals will hopefully be completed this year," he said, adding that the eventual goal was for Iraq to export "five million barrels per day from the South alone."
Iraq, which sits on the world's fourth-largest oil reserves, has signed deals with major oil firms to boost production levels to as high as 12 million bpd by 2017. The output would make Iraq rival top global exporters Russia and Saudi Arabia.
However, the International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that Iraq could achieve a production target of 6.5 million bpd by 2015, but that it could take up to 20 years to boost it to 8 million bpd.
"That can be higher and lower depending on global oil markets," IEA chief economist Fatih Birol told Reuters news agency.
"If this 8 million bpd doesn't take place, we will definitely be in difficulty in terms of tightness in global oil markets," he added.