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Sun 22 Feb 2009 05:57 PM

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Kuwait, Iran crude exports disrupted due to weather

Bad weather including poor visibility plagues northern Gulf; Saudi remains unaffected.

Oil shipments from OPEC producers Kuwait and Iran have been disrupted due to poor weather in the world's top exporting region, industry sources said on Sunday.Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia had no interruptions in its crude flow to international markets, a spokesman for state oil firm Saudi Aramco said.

Kuwait, the world's seventh-largest oil exporter, suspended its more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil shipments early on Sunday, said a spokesman for state refiner Kuwait National Petroleum Co (KNPC).

"Oil exports were stopped on Sunday morning due to low visibility and will resume once weather conditions are better," Ahmad al-Muzaiel told Reuters. High winds are whipping up sand and reducing visibility. Visibility was expected to improve by Sunday evening, state news agency KUNA cited a weather expert as saying.

Bad weather extended through the northern Gulf. Exports from Iran's main crude oil terminal Kharg Island have been intermittent since last Wednesday due to high winds.

The terminal was shut early on Sunday, one shipper said. It was also shut on Wednesday and Thursday last week, two shipping sources said.

"The (Kharg Island) terminal is closed today, the winds have been very strong ... they have had to close a few times in the past few days," a Tehran-based shipping source said. Iranian officials were unavailable for comment on Sunday.

The OPEC-member ships about 2.4 million bpd of crude, mostly from Kharg Island.

Oil exports from the world's largest offshore oil facility at Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia continued as normal, despite bad weather, port sources there said. Ras Tanura has the capacity to load between 5.5 million and 6 million bpd of oil.

Loading at the United Arab Emirates' port of Jebel Dhanna was also unaffected despite windy conditions, shipping sources said. Iraq and Qatar's crude exports were normal despite poor visibility, shipping sources said.

Iraqi exports reached a rate of 1.56 million bpd on Sunday.

Shippers said oil exports from Aramco's joint-venture refinery with Shell at the Gulf port of Jubail were disrupted due to bad weather.

Shippers said berthing at the berth outside the breakwater has been halted with two ships in anchorage waiting to load.

The joint-venture Sasref refinery has two berths for oil product exports, one located inside the port breakwater and the other outside it, shippers said.

About 60,000 tonnes of product, mainly fuel oil, naphtha, gas oil and jet fuel is exported from the terminal daily, a shipper said.

Fuel oil exports at Iran's Bandar Mahshahr was also shut, an oil trader said. The terminal exports straight-run fuel oil from Iran's largest refinery, the 450,000 bpd Abadan plant.

Poor visibility conditions at the United Arab Emirates' Jebel Ali port were slowing down tanker berthing. (Reuters)

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