Oil pumping from Iraq’s Kirkuk fields stops amid search for explosives
BAGHDAD - ReutersOil pumping from Iraq’s northern Kirkuk fields stopped on March 2 after Kurdish forces were deployed to search for explosives said to have been planted by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), sources from the Kurdish security forces and oil executives said.
“They ordered the shutdown of the pumping station for security reasons and that caused a halt of Kirkuk oil exports to Turkey” through a pipeline that crosses Kurdish territory, a senior executive from state-run North Oil Co (NOC) said.
The executive was referring to Kurdish security forces who have controlled the area since 2014, when the Iraqi army withdrew in the face of ISIL’s advance. A Kurdish security officer confirmed taking control of the oil pumping station.
The Kirkuk fields were pumping around 120,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the pipeline before the shutdown, the NOC executive said.
The Kurdish security forces declined to say when crude flow could be resumed in the station, located around 15 km (10 miles) west of Kirkuk, two NOC sources said.
“We officially asked the Kurdish forces when the pumping station could resume operations, but they refused to give a specific timing,” one of them said.
Kirkuk oil flow usually amounts to 150,000 bpd, exported via the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.
Pumping was suspended for several months last year because of a conflict between Baghdad and Kurdish regional authorities on oil revenue sharing.
Before last year’s interruption, Kirkuk flows were independently handled by Kurdish authorities.
SOMO, the State Oil Marketing Organization that reports to the government in Baghdad, had seen no cargoes exported on its behalf from Ceyhan since mid-2015, when KRG began independent sales of its own crude and Kirkuk oil.