WASHINGTON, April 25 (UPI) -- Iraq oil sales earned $500 million more in March than February because of increased oil prices, despite a slight drop in exports, Oil Ministry data shows.
The average price Iraq oil fetched last month was $95.02 per barrel, up from $89.79 per barrel in February, both below average global prices, which were more than $100 per barrel. Iraq earned $5.6 billion from oil sales in March.
According to the U.S. State Department's Iraq Weekly Status Report, Iraq has brought in $19.4 billion this year through April 20, about half what it earned in all of 2007.
This was somewhat offset by a drop in exports by 18,000 barrels per day to nearly 1.92 million bpd last month. Iraq is still at a higher steady export and total production rate than much of the post-2003 timeframe of less than 2 million bpd.
The global energy information firm Platts reports overall production in March was 2.37 million bpd, down from 2.4 million bpd in February. It hasn't averaged less than 2 million bpd since August.
This is largely due to an enhanced repair and security scheme along the northern pipeline sending crude from Kirkuk to domestic refineries and an export terminal in Turkey. This was in the cross-hairs of insurgents and sloppy smugglers so often the pipeline was offline more often than online until last summer.
Last month it was the northern flow that dipped, however, from 393,000 bpd in February to 319,000 bpd. In the south, where intra-Shiite fighting is intensifying but not directly affecting oil infrastructure, Iraq was able to increase production from 1.54 million bpd to 1.59 million bpd in March.
Iraq's Oil Ministry is in negotiations with BP, Shell, Chevron, Total and ExxonMobil for technical support contracts aimed at increasing production by 100,000 bpd in each of five key oil fields over the next two years.
It's also readying a bidding round later this year to bring in international investment and increase production from an undisclosed number of oil and gas fields.
Ben Lando, UPI Energy Editor