Minister: Iraq to boost crude oil production by year's end

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Addressing an energy conference in Baghdad, Oil Minister Jabar Ali Al-Luaibi didn't give details on which of the country's oil fields would supply the increased output. Last Thursday, with one day left in the month, Iraq's production was 4.46mn bpd for March, Falah al-Amri, director general of Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO), told reporters.

OPEC will meet May 25 in Vienna to make a decision on whether to extend production cuts.

After hitting the three-week high, oil prices started the week on the negative ground over the reported surge of Libyan production and as the United States dollar left pressure on the commodity.

The resumption of activity also stalled a rally that Gene McGillian, manager of market research for Tradition Energy, says was about to occur "on the signs that the OPEC production agreement will be extended".

A preference for low-sulfur oil produced in the Americas by China's private refineries, or so-called "teapots", helped boost imports from the region, while increasing U.S. shale output and production cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have made it economical for traders to send huge volumes of crude from west to east. "The national oil company was looking to push that to 1.1 million barrels a day by August, but unfortunately you will have these stoppages in Libya", said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity strategy at BNP Paribas SA.

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This depressed outlooks for upstream development, with investment dropping globally from $670 billion in 2014 to $383 billion in 2016 leading to "fewer new discoveries today", he said. After meeting Saudi Ambassador Jamal Ibrahim Nasef in Caracas, he said: "With Saudi Arabia we have a historic alliance for oil price stability in the energy world".

Iraq's budget for this year stands at about 100.67 trillion dinars (US$85.13 billion), running with a deficit of 21.65 trillion dinars, based on an estimated oil price of US$42 per barrel and daily export capacity of 3.75 million barrels.

Last week, unnamed armed factions had blocked production at the Sharara and Wafa fields in western Libya, cutting the country's total output by 252,000 bpd.

Iraq's share of the cuts is a 210,000 b/d reduction from October levels of 4.561 million b/d. The reason for such action goes back to the rise in oil reserves of the USA on the basis of recent reports. Analysts expect crude inventories dropped by 530,000 barrels at the end of last week, with distillates down by 1.12 million barrels and gasoline supplies showing a 1.462 million barrels decline.