Oil-rich northern Iraq faces gas shortage

Oil-rich northern Iraq faces gas shortage

Oil-rich northern Iraq faces gas shortage

AP Photo

Northern Iraq, one of the most oil-rich regions in the world, faces a fuel shortage after militants from the Islamic State (IS), formally known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), overran large parts of the country, including a key refinery.

Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), along with Sulaymaniyah and Duhok, are suffering from gas shortages.

Yusuf Muhammad, the parliamentary spokesperson of the KRG, has called on the KRG’s Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami to Parliament, so he may elaborate on the crisis.

“A strategy will be developed after the briefing by the natural resources minister [Hawrami],” Muhammad said.

The price of gasoline has jumped to 2,000 dinars ($1.7) per liter from 500 ($0.43) per liter, Anadolu Agency reported.    

Moreover, the IS has started selling oil, extracted from the lands they seized from the government in the recent weeks, to unidentified buyers in the black market, according to a report by Anadolu Agency on June 1.

“The oil extracted from wells close to the Hamrin Mountains and Beiji refinery, which is the country’s largest oil refinery, is being smuggled to the black markets,” Selal Abdul, head official in Tuzhurmatu, in the northern Salahaddin province, told Anadolu Agency on July 1.

Abdul said every day hundreds of tanks are being filled with oil extracted from the Hamrin Mountains, which have been under IS control for a week.

“IS militants are selling the oil to anyone available, [so they can exchange it for] weapons and ammunition,” he added.

Ali Huseyni, deputy head for Tuzhurmatu’s district council, said the oil extracted from the Hamrin Mountains used to be sold to Iran through the KRG.

“However, when the Kurdish side discovered that the oil was being sold by IS militants, they stopped transferring the oil. Now the oil is purchased by other sources that have not yet been identified,” Huseyni said.

Militants affiliated with the IS have seized vast swaths of land in northern Iraq since June 15, raising fears they might set their sights on the capital city of Baghdad next. Kurdish Peshmerga forces took the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which has been long disputed between the Baghdad government and the Kurdish-run Arbil administration, after Iraqi security forces withdrew from the advancing IS militants in June.

Last week, the KRG administration requested more gas from Turkey, according to Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız.

“Turkey can meet such a demand via [Turkey’s largest oil refiner] Tüpraş,” he said, adding that this could still cause long queues at the Habur border gate.