Kurdistan MNR denies shutting oil output in Kirkuk due to security concerns
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) on Monday denied rumors of oil production being shut down following the recent violence in Kirkuk Province.
Ashti Hawrami, MNR’s minister of natural resources, ordered the resumption of full production from oil fields in Kirkuk after a brief interruption.
Reuters had earlier reported that about 350,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) of production from oil fields in Kirkuk were halted due to “security concerns” in the aftermath of an advance by Iraqi forces.
According to trading sources quoted by Reuters, Kurdish operators informed them that civilian workers at the Bai Hassan and Avana oilfields were released following the advance of Iraqi forces in the area.
However, in a tweet on Monday, the Kurdistan Region’s MNR dispelled the rumors of a halt in production, adding “oil is still flowing through the export pipeline [in Kirkuk].”
The MNR had previously agreed not to let the escalating situation in Kirkuk affect the oil output.
Tensions have increased between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central government in Baghdad following the historic Sep. 25 independence referendum.
On Tuesday, officials in Baghdad instructed the Iraqi-owned North Oil Company (NOC) to establish an “urgent plan” to transfer the crude oil pipeline network from Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
Two of the provinces oil fields are under the control of the KRG, and NOC runs three.
The Region’s pipelines export crude oil out of Kirkuk via Turkey and are one of Kurdistan’s main revenue streams.
The move could be seen as an additional measure taken against Kurdistan in retaliation for the independence referendum.
In the aftermath of the vote, Baghdad imposed a flight ban over the Region and began threatening military action if the results of the plebiscite were not canceled—92.7 percent voted for secession from Iraq.
In the past few days, Iraqi and Iranian-backed Shia forces began advancing toward the Kurdish-held province of Kirkuk, a disputed territory between Erbil and Baghdad.
On Sunday night, the Iraqi forces launched an attack on Peshmerga in Kirkuk, eventually leading to Baghdad taking control of the region.