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Iraq begins pumping oil in south

Vienna, April 23 (Reuters): Iraq’s giant southern oilfields have started pumping well ahead of schedule and could by mid-May crank out 800,000 barrels per day (bpd), a senior US official said today.

Col Michael Morrow, adviser to US forces chief Gen. Tommy Franks at Central Command in Qatar, said Iraq’s first barrels from four wells in the South Rumaila oilfield are earmarked for power generation and domestic consumption.

“We’re pumping much quicker than our six-week target,” said Morrow of an earlier forecast to restart production from southern oilfields in six to nine weeks from April 6. “Basically we’re on a sliding curve. We had first pumping of 50,000 barrels yesterday and repairs will continue until we hit our target of 800,000 bpd.”

Morrow told Reuters that the goal could be achieved sooner if an export mechanism is put in place.

Iraq’s customers are waiting for the creation of a legal framework for selling crude before tankers load. Before the war Iraq was pumping 2.5 million bpd, 1.7 million bpd in the south and 800,000 bpd from the north.

“The target could be hit way earlier,” he said, adding that initial assessments of Iraq’s vital export outlet at Mina al-Bakr showed the Gulf port in good working order.

Pumping from Iraq’s huge Kirkuk oilfield in the north has yet to resume, but Morrow said production was likely to start up soon since there was only minimal damage to the infrastructure.

Output in the north is expected to reach 800,000 bpd in two to six weeks from April 21, he said.

Natural gas from the south Jambur gas-oil separation plant two in the north is already feeding power stations in Mosul, Kirkuk, Baiji and Baghdad.

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