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  • bluecheese4u bluecheese4u Sep 4, 2007 1:03 PM Flag

    Oil minister: Iraqi crude oil flowing through Turkey

    Oil minister: Iraqi crude oil flowing through Turkey

    The Associated PressPublished: September 4, 2007

    AMMAN, Jordan: Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said Tuesday that crude oil began to flow from his country's northern oil-rich Kirkuk to a Turkish export terminal last week � for the first time since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

    "We're pumping between 300,000 to 400,000 barrels a day of Kirkuk crude to the Turkish export terminal of Ceyhan," al-Shahristani told Dow Jones Newswires in a telephone interview from Baghdad.

    The pipeline � Iraq's main export route from Kirkuk to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan � has been mostly closed due to constant sabotage since the U.S.-led war, which hampered Iraqi efforts to maintain a steady oil flow.

    Two weeks ago, Iraq agreed with Syria to repair and subsequently reopen another key pipeline, a 880-kilometer (550 mile) long link connecting Kirkuk and the Syrian port of Baniyas.

    With Ceyhan running and once the Baniyas line � built in the 1950s but bombed by U.S. forces during the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam � is reopened, Iraq would be using two terminals on the Mediterranean Sea.

    Currently, Iraq exports nearly all its oil through the Persian Gulf.

    Al-Shahristani told Dow Jones that Iraq's current production capacity from its northern oil fields stands at 700,000 barrels a day, of which around 300,000 barrels a day are destined for a refinery in the nearby northern industrial city of Beiji for domestic use. The remainder is for export.

    Last week, Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization announced a tender to sell 5 million barrels of Kirkuk crude through Turkey's Ceyhan port � the third tender of its kind this year. "As far as I know, we have over 5 million (barrels) of crude stocks in Ceyhan," al-Shahristani said.

    He said he expected Iraq to maintain the same level of exports from its northern fields, citing new measures to prevent sabotage of pipelines. He said the measures include dispatching a security force, made up of tribesmen from the area and affiliated with his ministry, to guard the pipelines.

    The oil minister also told Dow Jones that he expected Iraq's parliament to pass a draft oil and gas law this month. Lawmakers, who were on a monthlong summer recess until Tuesday, had postponed debate on the controversial hydrocarbon law until September.

    "Some members of parliament have told us they would pass the law this month," said al-Shahristani, a member of the ruling United Iraqi Alliance. "But if the parliament delays passing the law, we're going to invite foreign companies to develop some oil fields in the south."

    He said his ministry has drawn up a list of oil fields for development based on the old Iraqi oil law during Saddam's era. He did not identify the fields.

    During Saddam's rule, some of the potentially rich fields in the south were explored by firms from France, Russia and China. But the firms were unable to develop the fields because of U.N. trade sanctions slapped on Iraq over its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Under the new draft hydrocarbon law, the oil ministry said the contracts must be re-negotiated.

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