Iraq opens first offshore oil facility

Iraq opens first offshore oil facility

Iraq opens first offshore oil facility

Iraq’s Al-Maliki (R), opens a valve at his country’s first offshore mooring facility. AP photo

Iraq, seeking to maximize crude oil exports, started operating the first of four planned offshore mooring facilities, adding 850,000 barrels to its daily capacity for tanker shipments from the Persian Gulf.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki yesterday inaugurated the single-point mooring unit that extends into the sea from the southern oil terminal of Fao. Iraq plans to install all four offshore loading units by 2013, increasing total capacity for exports by 3.4 million barrels a day. The country also exports crude overland by pipeline through neighboring Turkey.

Iraq holds the world’s fifth-largest crude deposits including Canadian oil sands, according to data from BP Plc. The government is trying to attract foreign investment and expertise to help boost energy exports and rebuild an economy shattered by years of conflict, sanctions and sabotage.

Iraq also plans to open export routes for crude through neighboring Syria, following threats by Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf in response to international sanctions on Iran’s energy industry, Thamir Ghadhban, the Iraqi prime minister’s top adviser, said Feb. 2.

Ghadhban, a former oil minister, said Iraq’s capacity to produce crude will increase by 400,000 barrels a day this year to exceed 3 million barrels a day by the end of December. Capacity will rise next year by an additional 500,000 barrels a day, and crude exports in 2013 will reach 2.6 million barrels a day, he said.

Iraq has awarded 15 licenses to foreign companies for drilling rights since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted President Saddam Hussein in 2003. The government plans to hold a new round of oil and gas exploration licenses in May. The Arab nation is the third-largest oil producer in OPEC, pumping 2.75 million barrels a day in January, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.