ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi Ministry of Oil released a statement on Tuesday calling on the urgent rehabilitation of the Salahuddin and Nineveh pipelines to resume the export of crude oil from Kirkuk.
Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi instructed the Iraqi-owned North Oil Company (NOC) to establish an “urgent plan” to implement a comprehensive and accelerated rehabilitation plan for the crude oil pipeline network from the Kirkuk fields to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, according to the Ministry of Oil’s official website.
The pipelines crossing through the provinces of Salahuddin and Nineveh have been the target of Islamic State (IS) attacks over the past three years as the militant group controlled nearby areas.
The Minister added that financial and economic challenges would not prevent the Ministry of Oil to rehabilitate the pipelines and asserted all “national expertise and support” remained available to the companies to speed up the project.
The Ministry’s spokesman, Asim Jihad, said the companies were told to focus on restoring the oil export networks “following the victories achieved” by Iraq’s security forces and “the liberation of cities in the provinces of Kirkuk and Salahuddin and Nineveh” from IS, whose militants cause damage to oil installations and fields throughout the country.
The move could be seen as an additional measure taken against the Kurdistan Region in retaliation for the Sep. 25 independence referendum.
Following the vote, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi asked neighboring countries to stop importing crude oil directly from the Kurdistan Region and insisted international countries deal exclusively with the central government. He also announced the Federal Government of Iraq would seek to restore federal authority over disputed areas, namely oil-rich Kirkuk.
Oil-rich Kirkuk, which is claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil, took part in the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence, where a majority elected to join an independent Kurdish state.
Two of the province’s oil fields are under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and three are run by Iraq’s NOC. The mixed province of Kirkuk has been under the administration of the KRG since 2014 after Iraqi forces failed to protect the area from the jihadist group and were pushed out.
The Kurdistan Region’s pipelines export crude oil out of Kirkuk via Turkey and are one the Region’s main revenue stream. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to shut down the crucial Ceyhan pipeline following the referendum, which Ankara strongly opposed.
The NOC currently exports 60,000 barrels of oil per day to Turkey while the rest is transferred abroad through southern Iraq.
Luaibi also instructed the Nineveh Oilfields Authority last week to set up an urgent plan to restore and resume production from fields in the country’s northern province which had until recently been under IS control.
Nineveh’s oil fields, located mainly in the region of Qayyara south of Mosul, used to produce sour heavy crude. The militants had set these on fire for smoke to cover their movements from the air. The Nineveh fields used to produce 30,000 barrels per day, according to the ministry.
The Ministry’s spokesperson claimed Iraq hopes to restore its export capacity – currently stalled – to some 250,000, or more, barrels per day, and to enhance its exports via the northern port.