Kurdistan Regional Government plans 2nd oil export pipeline to Turkey
ISTANBUL - ReutersThe Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq plans to build a second new oil export pipeline to Turkey within the next two years as it ramps up output independently of Baghdad, the region's natural resources minister said on Thursday.
Speaking at an energy conference in Istanbul, Ashti Hawrami, a member of the KRG, outlined an ambitious oil export growth strategy for the autonomous region, whose growing independence has angered Baghdad.
Construction of the first pipeline to Turkey is complete, and it is being tested in preparation for the start of commercial shipments in the first quarter of 2014, officials said.
The KRG will track the volumes of its sharply rising crude oil exports on the pipeline, independently of the central government, Hawrami told the conference, adding that the region ultimately aimed to produce 3 million barrels per day of oil for export.
"Oil and gas exports are not the monopoly of anyone in Baghdad," Hawrami said. "It is our duty to pursue oil and gas routes independently ... Turkey has been the quickest to recognise the new realities of the region."
Energy-dependent Turkey has quietly built up a large commercial presence in northern Iraq and has courted Iraqi Kurds to form a closer partnership, a move that has infuriated Baghdad, which claims the sole authority to manage Iraqi oil.
The Arab-led central government, at odds with the Kurdish-run enclave over control of oilfields and revenue sharing, has warned that independent Kurdish efforts to export its oil could ultimately lead to the break-up of Iraq.
"Turkey is aware of Iraq's concern ... We have reminded Turkey that this is in breach of the agreement between the two countries that regulates exports from Iraq through the Turkish pipeline," Iraq's deputy prime minister for energy, Hussain al-Shahristani, told Reuters in Baghdad.
"Turkey assured us they respect that agreement and they will not allow any export of Iraqi crude without the permission of the federal government in Baghdad," he said.
But neither calls from Baghdad nor Washington have been enough to deter the Turks, the Kurds or the oil companies from forging ahead. Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total have already signed exploration deals with the KRG.
A state-backed Turkish firm also was set up earlier this year to explore for oil and gas in Kurdistan as part of a strategy driven by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan.
Erdoğan was meeting Iraqi Kurdistan Prime Minister Nacirvan Barzani in Istanbul as Hawrami spoke, a meeting at which energy cooperation was high on the agenda, according to Turkish government officials.