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Iraq's oil exports up more, output may double by '20

LONDON--Iraq's oil exports are expected to rise to their highest in decades this month and production is on course to more than double by 2020, as it cements its place as OPEC's second-biggest producer after Saudi Arabia.

The International Energy Agency said Iraq will provide the largest contribution to global suppply growth in coming decades, and its production would reach 6.1 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2020 from around 3 million bpd now under what it called its central scenario.

That prediction would be half of that implied by Iraq's targets signed with foreign oil companies, and the Paris-based IEA highlighted the risk of production rising more slowly than expected, leading to higher global prices.

The IEA, which advises 28 industrialised countries on energy, prepared its report in co-operation with the Iraqi government.

Iraq's oil production stagnated for years due to wars and sanctions, even though the country holds the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. Output started to rise in earnest in 2010, after Baghdad secured contracts with companies such as BP Plc, Exxon Mobil, Eni and Royal Dutch Shell. Production this year overtook that of Iran, traditionally the second-largest producer in OPEC.

Iraq's exports of 2.6 million bpd in September were already the highest in more than 30 years and a senior Iraqi oil official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters on Tuesday oil exports were expected to rise above 2.8 million bpd this month.

But the IEA's report warned that, over the longer term, delays to investment in Iraq could tighten the global market and push prices higher.

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