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How the collapse of Iraq could actually save oil

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Where are oil prices headed?

If the Baghdad government can keep Sunni militants away from its oil fields, production in Iraq may actually increase—though global prices are still seen staying higher.

Fear that Iraqi oil production could be disrupted by an insurgence by the militants has driven Brent futures up 5 percent in the past 10 days to about $115 per barrel. Iraq produces about 3.3 million barrels a day, and is OPEC's second largest—and fastest growing—producer.

Citigroup analysts Thursday issued a new report saying the outlook for Iraqi oil is for more production, even with the clashes between ISIS and the Shiite-controlled Baghdad government. ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, has seized a number of Iraqi cities, and was battling for control of the country's biggest refinery in the town of Baiji.

The key to more production would also be a move by the Kurdistan Regional Government in the north—which has so far stayed mostly on the sidelines while Sunni and Shiite Arabs battle one another—to move toward sovereignty and take control of its own oil exports. Currently, Baghdad contests the Kurds' right to export crude, and some buyers have been reluctant to purchase from the Kurds for that reason.

Read MoreHere are the best and worst case scenarios for Iraq

A member from the oil police force stands guard at Zubair oilfield in Basra, southeast of Baghdad June 18, 2014.
Reuters

"Our base case is in the short run, we do get more oil. That base case is based on the Kurdistan Regional Government maintaining its independence and security and Baghdad maintaining its control over the southern oil field," said Edward Morse, head of global commodities research at Citigroup.

Citigroup says a fear premium could remain in the price of oil in the third quarter, but Morse said he does not expect to see a price of $120 a barrel for Brent unless more oil is taken off the global market.

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"There are cargoes of Angolan and Nigerian crude that nobody wants. The physical market is not as tight as the perception of a price going up by 4 percent. It's hoarding, in a way, and speculating," he said. "The physical market has not changed since before the taking of Mosul."

The energy industry, meanwhile, is meeting in Moscow this week at the World Petroleum Congress. Exxon Mobil Chairman Rex Tillerson was a keynote speaker. Exxon was reported to have moved most employees out of southern Iraq, but it has declined to comment on security issues.