Iraqi southern oil exports average about 3.63mln bpd so far in February

Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban later said in the news conference that he is "very optimistic" that the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government would commit to honouring an agreement where it hands over 250,000 bpd to the central government in Baghdad.

"I am very optimistic that the Region will adhere to delivering 250,000 barrels per day in accordance with the 2019 state budget," he said, adding that he had a positive meeting with the Kurdish prime minister.

Iraqi Kurdistan currently produces 420,000 bpd, Ghadhban said, and would get to 550,000 bpd by the end of the year.

Ghadhban said disagreements remained over profit-sharing between the government and Exxon Mobil and PetroChina over its South Integrated Project.

Speaking during his first visit to the oil-rich province of Basra since taking office, Ghadhban said he believed profits exceeding the agreed-upon price should go to Iraq, not to foreign companies.

The Integrated South Project consists of building oil pipelines, storage facilities and a seawater supply project to inject water from the Gulf into the Luhais, Nassiriya, Tuba, Nahr Bin Umar and Artawi oilfields to boost oil recovery.

(Reporting by Aref Mohammed; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by David Goodman and Louise Heavens) (([email protected]; +964 790 191 7021; Reuters Messaging: [email protected]))