Iraq’s Oil Ministry plans to raise its crude oil storage capacity in the south of the country by 55 per cent to 8.5 million barrels by the end of 2013.

State-owned South Oil Company (SOC) opened four new tanks at the Al-Faw storage depot in the Basra province, adding 1 million barrels of capacity to the existing 5.5 million barrels in the south of Iraq.

Speaking at the opening ceremony for the tanks, SOC director general, Dhiya Jaffar said another 2 million barrels will be added by the end of the year, to avoid production and export shut-ins due to bad weather in the Gulf, Reuters news agency reports.

According to former Oil Ministry official, Asri Mousa, in 2012 Iraq had approximately 6.2 million barrels-worth of storage capacity in the south of the country at five depots; Al-Faw, Zubair-1, Zubair-2, Pumping station-1 and Tuba.

The largest, Al-Faw contains 16 tanks but it was severely damaged during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Rehabilitation work began in 2000 to rebuild the destroyed tanks.

Iraq’s State Company for Oil Projects (SCOP) is also planning to build new tanks at the planned Nassiriya and Bin Umr storage depots in the south of the country.

Iraq plans to expand its oil storage capacity to 60 million barrels, with the expansion of its five existing facilities and the construction of five new depots by 2015. The plans include new facilities at the K-3 and IT1-A storage depots in the north of Iraq.