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Kuwait to Pump 300,000 Barrels More Oil by Mid-2009

Kuwait, one of the few OPEC members with spare capacity, will increase its oil output by 300,000 barrels per day starting mid-2009, state news agency KUNA reported, citing Oil Minister Mohammad al-Olaim.

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"The minister affirmed ... that Kuwait is capable of increasing its oil output (currently) but wondered if the market needed that increase," KUNA reported.

OPEC officials have repeatedly blamed factors beyond their control for the high price of oil, which has more than doubled in a year to nearly $140 a barrel.

Olaim has said speculation, refining capacity strain and the weakness of the U.S. dollar were behind the high price, not any lack of supply.

"Olaim announced that Kuwait will increase its oil production in the middle of next year by 300,000 bpd, disclosing that it will spend $55 billion on oil projects in the coming five years," KUNA reported.

Kuwait produced 2.58 million barrels per day in May, according to a Reuters survey, compared with 2.59 million in April.

Like fellow members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Kuwait decides its production volume alongside other producers in the oil group. Most OPEC countries have no spare output capacity.

The agency did not say whether the investment would be allocated for production capacity expansion or other projects.

The world's seventh-largest oil exporter, which sits on a tenth of global crude reserves, plans to boost output to 4 million bpd by 2020.

Kuwait says it plans a multi-billion dollar scheme to produce more oil from some northern oil fields under a plan it calls "Project Kuwait" which has been delayed for years as some deputies oppose the involvement of foreign firms in production.

Olaim said on Sunday his country would not hesitate to pump more oil if the market needed it but said it was too early to talk of any increase. OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has said it will raise its output by 200,000 bpd in July to 9.7 million bpd.

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