RUMAILA, Iraq: Iraq expects oil exports to reach 2.6 million barrels per day this month and is taking special security precautions in its oil-rich south, Oil Minister Abdel-Karim Luaibi said Wednesday.
Speaking on a tour of the giant Rumaila oil field that pumps more than a third of Iraq’s daily output, Luaibi said drones were ready to start flying over the Basra region in what he said was a sign of the priority assigned to protecting oil facilities and operators.
He said current daily production was running at 3.15 million bpd and that exports were expected to pick up from last month’s dip to 2.423 million bpd, attributed by officials to maintenance work and expansion of a berth at Basra oil terminal.
July’s expected 2.6 million bpd export level would match the level of southern exports in May which were the highest since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
Iraq’s northern shipments have been halted since February due to an attack by insurgents on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline.
But Luaibi said last month’s sweeping assault by ISIS had not had any effect on oil production or export operations further south.
“I met the foreign companies working in Basra and I assured them that the security situation is very stable in the oilfields in the south,” the minister told reporters.
Despite this, authorities have taken extra security steps, and Luaibi said two drones were ready to start monitoring the skies over Basra “to provide a clearer picture of the southern oilfields and energy installations. ... This is the first time Iraq is using drones to fly over the energy installations the south.”
Iraq said two years ago that it was buying unmanned drones from the U.S. to help protect its southern oil platforms, and that it expected the drones to be operating by the end of 2012.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 17, 2014, on page 8.