Oil-producing Iraq is suffering from oil shortage

Despite having some of the major oil deposits in the world, Iraq is in the odd position of actually having to import oil to solve a fuel shortage.

The Iraqi oil minister on Tuesday announced that the government will spend US$800 million (622 million euro) to import oil products during the rest of the year, AP reports.

Despite the fact that Iraq has the world's third largest proven oil reserves, it is currently suffering from an acute shortage of gasoline, kerosene and cooking gas.

In the capital, cars often have to line up at gas stations overnight to get what little fuel is available. The shortage means people suffer through hours-long power outages during the day, spoiling food stored in the refrigerator and making it difficult to sleep without air conditioning in the hot Iraqi summer.

The US$800 million "will help resolve the fuel shortage and will improve our strategic assets of oil products," Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said in a statement.

Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad told The Associated Press that the country is importing oil products from Iran, Turkey, Syria and Kuwait.

Iraq's three main oil refineries - Doura, Beiji and Shuaiba - are working at half capacity, processing a total of only 350,000 barrels a day, compared to about 700,000 barrels a day before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, Jihad said.

The country's oil industry, already suffering during Saddam Hussein's regime from a lack of capital, has fallen even further downhill since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Parts of the oil infrastructure such as pipelines have often been shot at or blown up by insurgents. And much of it is suffering from decades of neglect.

What little fuel is available for ordinary Iraqis is often very expensive.

In August, a liter of gasoline was selling on the black market in Baghdad for US$1.30, while the official price was 17 cents. The price of a cylinder of cooking gas on the black market was US$18, while its official price was only a few cents.

Al-Shahristani said that according to an agreement signed recently with Syria, some 80 trucks transporting oil products have started crossing from Syria to Iraq daily. He said Iraqi officials are holding talks with their Turkish counterparts to open a new border point to allow gasoline trucks to enter Iraq.