- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

Iraq’s oil production, which the Bush administration had hoped would help offset the cost of postwar reconstruction, is on the rise but still a half-million barrels per day less than when Saddam Hussein was in power.

Before the war, the production of crude oil in Iraq peaked at about 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd), and the country had the capacity to pump 3.1 bpd, according to the Pentagon.

Senior military officials say that as of late September, Iraq’s daily output reached a postwar peak of just under 2 million bpd with the goal of pumping 3.1 million bpd by December.

The world’s leading oil producer is Russia, pumping about 8.3 bpd. Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest known oil reserves, but the kingdom varies its daily output dramatically from 6 million to 8 million bpd. The United States pumps about 6 million bpd.

Once Saddam was toppled and U.S. forces began the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, the “oil infrastructure required lots of maintenance, lots of work,” according to the nation’s top military officer.

Speaking at a Defense Forum Foundation luncheon Friday on Capitol Hill, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that “when the electrical power was not reliable, then you have trouble with this piece of it.”

“Electricity is what has to happen,” he said. “We’ve got to repair that infrastructure that was neglected for so long.”

Though Iraq’s electrical output has improved significantly since the end of major combat, it may temporarily drop off during the coming months as a result of what Gen. Myers called the “Autumn Overhaul Outage Program,” which involves taking major electrical generators off-line for repairs.

At the start of the war, senior Bush administration officials told Congress that Iraq’s own resources, particularly oil, would significantly help fund the country’s reconstruction.

Seeking congressional approval for an initial $75 billion for the war, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee a week after U.S. troops had entered Iraq.

He told lawmakers that “when it comes to reconstruction, before we turn to the American taxpayer, we will turn first to the resources of the Iraqi government and the international community.”

Iraq is also starting to ready its northern pipeline, which carried almost one-third of the nation’s oil through Turkey. The director-general of the Northern Oil Company, Adel al-Qazzaz, yesterday told the Associated Press that Iraq briefly resumed oil flow over the weekend to test the lines.

The Baghdad newspaper Al-Sabah quoted an unidentified source in the Iraqi Oil Ministry as saying exports would resume through the 600-mile northern pipeline at the end of the month.

The source said Iraqi officials expect to pump an average of 250,000 bpd through the northern pipeline initially, well below the average of 800,000 bpd before the war.

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