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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraq to Hit 800,000 bpd in May

APCrude leaking at a pumping station near the Babagurgur oil fields in Kirkuk, Iraq.
VIENNA, Austria -- Iraq's giant southern oil fields have started pumping well ahead of schedule and could by mid-May be cranking out 800,000 barrels per day, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

Colonel Michael Morrow, adviser to U.S. forces chief General Tommy Franks at Central Command in Qatar, said Iraq's first barrels from four wells in the South Rumaila oil field 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 the southern oil fields in six to nine weeks beginning 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 barrels per day," Morrow said.

Morrow said 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 from 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 oil field 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 No. 2 in the north is already feeding power stations in Mosul, Kirkuk, Baiji and Baghdad.

Freshly pumped crude oil will head initially to Iraqi refineries. Morrow said the 140,000 bpd Basra refinery is expected to be up and running within a week.

Before the plant restarts, repairs on a leaky pipeline between the 3R gas-oil separation plant and the Az-Zubair pumping station need to be finished.

That should happen in two to three days, with the refinery up shortly after that.

Morrow said Iraqi workers were now part of the team helping the project beat the clock.

"The Iraqis are back helping," he said. "They know the system and how to get it back up."

Some 400 Iraqis went back to work at the South Oil Company, Morrow said, adding that the Iraqi leadership is now working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers task force to restore iraqi oil.

"We're a joint venture," he said.