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Iraq Shuts Down Two Oil Fields, Further Curtailing OPEC Output

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(Bloomberg) — Iraq stopped oil production from two southern fields with a combined capacity of almost half a million barrels a day.

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The shutdowns curtail the ability of OPEC’s second-largest member to pump crude just as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and tight supplies globally send prices soaring.

The operators of Nasiriya and West Qurna-2 have said nearby fields will be able to produce more to compensate for the temporary losses.

Work at Nasiriya, capable of supplying as much as 80,000 barrels a day, was halted on Saturday because of protests that prevented staff from reaching the site, according to a statement from Thiqar Oil Co.

That followed the closure of the huge West Qurna-2 field on Feb. 21 for maintenance. The field, which can pump 400,000 barrels a day, is scheduled to resume normal operations on March 14, though the companies that run it are trying to restart output sooner.

State-owned Basra Oil Co. said the work will enable production from West Qurna-2 to be increased to 450,000 barrels a day. Russia’s Lukoil PJSC has a stake in the field.

OPEC Struggles

The outages come as many OPEC members, including Iraq, struggle to reach their production quotas, causing global energy markets to tighten as demand recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Iraq pumped 4.16 million barrels a day in January, less than its target of almost 4.3 million, Bloomberg reported earlier this month. That was because of bad weather at ports and the country should meet its quota for February, Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar said in an interview on Feb. 21.

Iraq has repeatedly said it is able to pump as much as 5 million barrels-a-day.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners — a 23-nation group including Russia — meet on March 2 to decide on output for April. Major OPEC members such as Saudi Arabia have come under pressure in recent months to raise production faster and rein in oil prices, which temporarily surpassed $100 a barrel on Thursday after Russia attacked Ukraine.

Brent crude fell 1.2% to $97.93 a barrel on Friday, but is still up 26% this year.

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