Iraq has been forced to suspend exports at the newly opened offshore oil facility near Basra in the south of the country due to technical problems.

Loading operations were halted on 13 March, according to a senior official at state-owned South Oil Company (SOC), Dow Jones news agency reports.

The closure was just a week after a vessel from US oil major ConoccoPhillips became the first to load Iraqi crude from the new single point mooring (SPM) terminal in the Gulf, lifting a shipment of 2 million barrels on 8 March. Repair work is expected to be completed by 23 March when the SPM will resume loading.

The facility was meant to ease the export bottleneck, which had limited production increases from oil fields in the south of Iraq. It has a design capacity of up to 900,000 barrels a day (b/d) of export capacity in addition to the 1.8 million b/d available at Basrah Oil Terminal and Khor al-Amaya Terminal. However, pumping capacity limitations at the Al-Fao storage facility, which supplies oil to the offshore SPM, meaning for now the SPM can only export at around half its design capacity.

A series of new SPMs will eventually take Iraq’s southern export capacity to 4.5 million b/d. Two more SPMs are scheduled for completion this year under the first phase of a plan to expand oil export facilities. Phase two will add two further SPMs scheduled for completion between 2013 and 2015.