Iraqi exports of oil to Korea are on track at 200,000 barrels per day under term contracts, but Korea should reopen direct flights and lift its travel ban to further strengthen ties, the Middle East country’s oil minister said during his visit here last week.
“Relations between Korea and Iraq are very strong and are developing very fast,” said Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Al-Luaibi in Seoul on Tuesday.
Al-Luaibi said further strengthening of ties could be achieved by reopening direct flights and lifting a self-imposed Korean travel ban in place since 2007. He said those issues were discussed in meeting with Korean officials.
“There are many Korean companies interested in doing business in Iraq, not only oil and gas companies but also construction companies as well,” he said.
Al-Luaibi arrived in Korea on April 27 for a five-day visit here to discuss energy cooperation with South Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Yoon Sang-jick.
Iraqi exports to Korea have steadily risen in recent years as Korea cut imports of Iranian crude to abide by oil sanctions imposed by the United States.
Some 60 million barrels of oil were imported from Iraq in 2010, and 90 million in 2011. Now Korea gets 9.6 percent of its total oil needs from Iraq.
Korean imports of Iranian crude fell to 132,000 bpd in March, a sharp decrease from imports of 240,000 bpd in 2011.
Korea has promises of 250,000 bpd from Iraq in case of emergencies.
Overall, Iraqi oil exports rose in April to 2.6 million bpd as it continued to recover from a devastating 10-year war. Iraqi oil production and export increases serve to maintain world supply as Iranian exports continue to decline.
Total Iraqi oil production in April was 3.1 million bpd. The oil minister expects that production will increase to 4.1 million bpd next year.
By Philip Iglauer (email@example.com