Iraq Resumes Oil Exports After Pipeline Sabotage

BAGHDAD (AFP), Dec. 24, 2009

Oil exports from northern Iraq resumed Thursday after a temporary halt due to the weekend sabotage of the pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, the oil ministry said.

"The pumping of oil to Ceyhan resumed today with a total of 250,000 to 300,000 barrels per day after repairs were carried out on the sabotaged pipeline and we hope that within hours it will reach its full capacity of 600,000 barrels per day," ministry spokesman Assem Jihad told AFP.

The attack on Sunday took place around 325 kilometers north of Baghdad.

The pipeline usually transports between 420,000 and 450,000 barrels per day of oil, according to Jihad.

Total Iraqi oil exports stand at around 2 million barrels per day, and all its exports from the north flow through the pipeline to Ceyhan.

Improved security along the pipeline has limited the number of attacks in recent years. But after an 18-month lull, sabotage resumed Oct. 26.

Earlier this month, contracts for the exploitation of seven oil fields were awarded to international consortiums in Iraq's second auction since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, bringing to 10 the total number of contracts that have now been awarded.

The oil ministry said that together these should allow Iraqi oil production to rise to 12 million barrels per day, from 2.5 million barrels per day now, a level that would rival the world's largest producers.

But security and dilapidated infrastructure remain key obstacles to Baghdad achieving that target.

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