Oil exports from Iraq rose to a record 2.8 million barrels per day (bpd) on average in February, Deputy Prime Minister for energy Hussain al-Shahristani told reporters on Saturday.
The increase is likely to restore some confidence in Iraq's oil revival, which slowed last year due to technical and security problems, as well as an ongoing resource row between Baghdad and the country's autonomous Kurdish north. A sustainable rise could weigh on global oil prices.
The February figure was up from 2.228 million bpd the previous month thanks to the completion of work on expanding the capacity of the southern Basra port, from which the bulk of Iraq's crude is shipped.
"These projects which we carried out relating to development and production have enabledIraq to produce 3.5 million barrels per day and to export 2.8 million barrels per day, which is an historic figure," Shahristani told reporters at the Basra refinery during a ceremony for the opening of new units. One of the new units will increase Basra refinery's capacity by 70,000 bpd to 210,000 bpd.
Iraq set an export target of 3.4 million bpd for 2014, including 400,000 bpd from the autonomous Kurdistan region, implying production of 4 million bpd, including oil used domestically.
Production in February reached 3.5 million bpd, and Shahristani blamed the shortfall on the Kurds, who are at odds with the Iraqi central government over oil rights and stopped exporting via the national network more than a year ago.
Since then, they have been exporting smaller quantities on their own terms by truck, whilst building a separate pipeline to Turkey, infuriating Baghdad, which claims sole authority to manage all Iraqi oil.
Current Kurdish production capacity stands below 400,000 bpd, and around one third of that is refined locally.
Of the 2.8 million bpd exported in February, 2.5 million came from Basra, Shahristani said. The rest was exported from the northern Kirkuk oilfields via a pipeline to Turkey that has repeatedly been sabotaged.
Iraq also used to export between 10,000-12,000 bpd of crude by truck across the border to Jordan, but conflict in the western province of Anbar put a halt to that this year.