(Adds OPEC comments, foreign exchange issues)
By Ulf Laessing and Paul Carsten
ABUJA Dec 15 Nigeria's oil production has risen
to close to 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd), oil minister
Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu said ahead of the expected signing of a
deal over repayments of $5.1 billion in debt from joint venture
Kachikwu is due to sign the deal later on Thursday with oil
majors ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Eni
Nigeria has struggled with debt to oil majors amid the fall
in oil prices over the past two years. It has also been hit by
output falls from peak production of 2.2 million bpd as a result
of persistent militant attacks in the oil-producing Niger Delta.
The Forcados crude stream, with roughly 300,000 bpd, has
been under force majeure since February, and in the third
quarter production was roughly 1.63 million bpd, according to
the country's statistics office.
The OPEC member nation's fight to regain oil production
enabled it to gain an exemption from a recent deal between the
group and other oil producers to cut output to support prices.
"I wouldn't worry about (non-compliance) issues," Kachikwu
said of the cut plan, adding that "everybody has" the October
production figures from which countries agreed to cut.
Kachikwu said Nigeria's primary goals for 2017 would be to
secure "lasting peace" in the Niger Delta, gain external funding
for oil investments and improve its oil refining system.
Nigeria's oil refineries hit peak production for 2016 in
October, but it was just 23.53 percent of their capacity, and
with output of 210 million litres, only a fraction of the oil
products the country needs.
NNPC has been importing as much as 90 percent of gasoline
requirements due to a persistent shortage of foreign exchange
also brought on in large part by falling oil prices.
Kachikwu said that while queues at petrol stations are gone,
"there are still foreign exchange issues."
(Writing by Libby George; Editing by David Evans and Alexander