By Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDAD, April 25 (Reuters) – Iraq’s oil minister said on Thursday his country had the capacity to increase its oil production to 6 million barrels per day (bpd) if needed, but it was committed to OPEC-led output cuts and would not take unilateral action to boost supply.
Thamer Ghadhban also said there were no acute oil shortages for the time being, but Iraq would continue to monitor the market to assess any need for additional barrels at the next OPEC meeting, due in June.
“We are very keen to secure oil supplies for consumer states and to maintain market stability,” oil minister Ghadhban said.
On Monday, the United States decided not to renew exemptions from sanctions against Iran granted last year to buyers of Iranian oil, taking a tougher line than expected and triggering a rally in oil prices on fears of oil supply shortages.
“We have plenty of time to assess the markets’ reaction,” Ghadhban said at a joint news conference in Baghdad with the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, agreed to cut output by 1.2 million bpd. They will meet on June 25-26 to decide whether to extend the pact.
Thamer Ghadhban said a panel of energy ministers from major oil producers that includes Iraq, known as the JMMC, will meet on May 19 in the Saudi city of Jeddah to assess the “oil market reactions” and make recommendations before the June meeting.
Asked about the effect of U.S. sanctions on markets, Ghadhban said there was “no need for fear and panic”.
“We have significant capacities to increase production but we will prioritize market stability and removing oil glut,” said Ghadhban.
Birol said the IEA expected Iraq to add 1.2 million bpd in 10 years to reach 6 million bpd of production in 2030.
The minister also said his country sought fair oil prices for producers, adding that he believed prices had improved.
“Oil prices are much better now,” said Ghadhban.
Baghdad would meet soon with authorities from the Kurdistan Regional Government to discuss issues relating to oil exports from the semi-autonomous region, as well as the budget agreement, Ghadhban said.
“We want them (the Kurdish authorities) to hand over oil exports to SOMO (Iraq’s State Organization for Marketing of Oil)”.
Studies were being carried out to increase production capacity from the Kirkuk oilfields by 50 percent, he added.
“Production from Kirkuk oilfields is at around 400,000 barrel per day now,” said Ghadhban.
Ghadhban said Iraq would install a monitoring system on fuel trucks to check movements and prevent smuggling. The system will allow authorities to track fuel trucks around the clock, he said.
(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Rania El Gamal and Raya Jalabi; Editing by Mark Potter and Elaine Hardcastle)