Iraq opens offshore oil facility


Baghdad:  Iraq, seeking to maximise crude oil exports, opened the first of four planned offshore mooring facilities in the Arabian Gulf and intends by March to add 200,000 barrels a day to its capacity for loading tankers there.

The new single-point mooring unit, extending into the sea from the southern oil terminal of Fao, has a potential export capacity of 850,000 barrels a day, Falah Al Ameri, chairman of the State Oil Marketing Organisation, said in an interview.

Hussain Al Shahristani, deputy prime minister for energy affairs, said in a separate interview yesterday that Iran probably won’t shut the Strait of Hormuz. “This would affect all the countries, including Iran itself,” he said of that nation’s threats to close Hormuz in response to sanctions over its nuclear programme. “We are working with other countries to contain the situation and make sure crude exports in the region are not affected.”

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.

The four offshore units would increase the country’s export capacity by a combined 3.4 million barrels a day by 2013. Iraq, with a narrow coastline pinched between Kuwait and Iran, plans to install an undersea pipeline to each unit and load oil aboard tankers capable of mooring there. The nation also exports crude overland by pipeline through neighbouring Turkey.

“We are ready to market these new capacities, particularly in promising markets in Asia where our crude exports to China currently average 500,000 barrels a day,” Al Ameri said during a ceremony that Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki attended to inaugurate the facility.

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