Kurdish oil flow to Turkey resumes after upgrade

Kurdish oil flow to Turkey resumes after upgrade

DUHOK - Reuters
Kurdish oil flow to Turkey resumes after upgrade

Iraqi Kurdish crude oil flow to the Turkish port of Ceyhan has started again after completion of works to increase the pipeline’s capacity. AA Photo

Crude oil flow on Iraqi Kurdistan’s pipeline to Turkey has resumed after upgrade work was completed and is now running at an increased rate of 200,000 barrels per day (bpd), industry sources and Turkish officials told Reuters Aug. 21.

“The system has been tested and approved. The flow has resumed, pumping at a rate of 200,000 bpd,” one industry source familiar with the matter said.

Oil revenues are a lifeline for the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, whose peshmerga forces are being supported by U.S. air strikes in their battle against the radical Sunni militants of Islamic State.

The pipeline, which first began operating at the start of this year, allows the semi-autonomous Kurdish enclave to independently pump and export oil, carrying northern Iraqi Taq Taq crude to Turkey’s Mediterranean export outlet of Ceyhan.

“In about a week or 10 days pumping is expected to rise to 220,000 and after that up to 250,000 bpd,” the source said.

The KRG began independently exporting its crude via Ceyhan in May, a move that has infuriated Baghdad, which claims the sole authority to manage Iraqi oil.

Baghdad has tried to block KRG’s oil sales and prevented some cargoes from discharging through legal action, but the Kurdish enclave has managed to load seven export cargoes from Ceyhan, according to Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız.

So far, 7.8 million barrels of Kurdish oil have flowed through the independent pipeline, of which 6.5 million have been loaded onto tankers for export. Around $350 million in oil sales have been completed or are under way from shipments sent via the KRG’s new pipeline to Turkey, a Reuters analysis of satellite tracking data shows.

ISIL threat

In additon to Bahgdad’s objection Kurdish oil exports have been facing threats from the increasing control of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) over northern Iraqi oil fields.
Islamic State has seized five oil fields in the north since it arrived in June from Syria.

Iraq said on Aug. 20 it was troubled by reports that jihadist militants were smuggling oil to export markets and warned the purchase of such supplies could help the group fund its operations.

Tanker carrying Kurdish oil reappears unladen off Israel

LONDON - Reuters

A tanker carrying crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan reappeared unladen on Aug. 19 about 30 kilometers off the coast of Israel, ship tracking data on Reuters showed.

This is the second time the Kamari has appeared in the area in the last two weeks carrying Kurdish oil.

The tanker Kamari was partly laden north of Egypt’s Sinai on Aug. 17, tracking showed, before it turned off its satellite transponder until early on Aug. 19. It was not possible to determine where the oil had been delivered to or who the buyer was.

A spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Natural Resources did not immediately respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment on Aug. 20. The KRG has previously denied selling oil to Israel “directly or indirectly.”

The tanker loaded the Kurdish crude at the Turkish port of Ceyhan around Aug. 8, and made a partial delivery to Croatia via a ship-to-ship transfer last week.

Hungary’s MOL Group said on Aug. 18 that it had purchased 80,000 tonnes, just under 600,000 barrels, of Kurdish crude, which discharged at Croatia’s Omisalj port at the weekend. The company has exploration and production assets in Kurdistan.

Iraq’s central government in Baghdad has repeatedly called independent Kurdish exports “smuggling”, saying only state marketer SOMO has the right to sell Iraqi oil. The KRG says the Iraqi constitution allows it to sell oil independently of Baghdad.

Since the KRG began exporting major volumes via its pipeline, Baghdad has actively tried to block sales and has so far been successful in stopping one to Morocco and another to the United States. Baghdad has also cut the Kurds out of the country’s budget since January. Despite the setbacks, an increasing number of cargoes are now finding buyers.

Two weeks ago, the same 1 million barrel tanker loaded Kurdish oil at Ceyhan before sailing to a point just under 200 km (125 miles) off the Israeli and Egyptian coasts.

Reuters AIS Live ship tracking showed the ship was fully loaded, based on its draft in the water. After turning its satellite tracking off on Aug. 1, the ship reappeared four days later sitting far higher in the water - indicating it had unloaded its cargo of disputed oil.

It was not possible to determine which port the oil aboard the Kamari had been delivered to or who the buyer was. In June a cargo of Kurdish oil that sailed from Ceyhan aboard the United Emblem Suezmax tanker was delivered into Israel after being transferred at sea to another ship.

In June, the SCF Altai tanker delivered 1 million barrels of Kurdish crude to Israel’s Ashkelon port for an unknown buyer. It was the first successful delivery of Kurdish oil from the region’s new pipeline to Turkey, though the KRG denied selling oil to Israel directly or indirectly.