Pipeline in Northern Iraq Is Attacked
KIRKUK, Iraq Saboteurs blew up an oil pipeline and attacked an oil well in northern Iraq Tuesday, which are expected to stop oil exports for the next 10 days, Iraqi oil officials said.
Late Tuesday night, a huge explosion rocked the compound of Ghabaza oil field, 35 kilometers (22 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, said an official with the state-run Northern Oil Co. The oil valves were blown up and huge fire engulfed the area, the source added.
The attack on the Ghabaza well will likely cut into the country's oil production, an engineer with the state-owned North Oil Co. told Dow Jones.
"This evening, an act of sabotage took place against one of our key oil wells, and that will reduce our crude oil production from the north," the engineer said.
Earlier in the day, unknown assailants blew up an oil pipeline in northern Iraq that is used for export purposes, oil officials said.
The pipeline, which connects the oil fields in Kirkuk with the Beiji refinery, was attacked at 10 a.m., said Col. Mohammed Ahmed of the Northern Oil protection services. The pipeline is also used for export purposes, he said. Firefighters battled to put out the fire some 70 kilometers (44 miles) southwest of Kirkuk.
Oil is being diverted to domestic refineries while repairs are carried out on the pipeline, halting exports from the Kirkuk oil fields. Those exports are to resume in two to three days.
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials and port agents told Dow Jones Newswires that the amount of Iraqi crude oil in storage tanks at the Mediterranean export facility of Ceyhan were down to 3.5 million-4 million barrels, with sabotage attacks having shut down the pipeline connecting Ceyhan with the Kirkuk oil fields in northern Iraq.
"There's only 3.5 million barrels in storage now," said a port agent at Ceyhan in Turkey. "The pumping was stopped this morning because of the explosion," he said.
An oil official in Baghdad said Monday stocks at the port were around 4 million barrels, half of the facility's 8 million barrel capacity.
Without a reopening of the pipeline, scheduled loadings of sour Kirkuk crude will diminish these stores further, the agent said. On Thursday, Repsol is due to lift 1 million barrels and ExxonMobil Corp. is scheduled to load another 600,000 barrels.
Monday, oil officials in Baghdad said the northern pipeline was pumping at a rate of 400,000 barrels a day. The agent said then the pipeline had briefly started pumping at a rate of 150,000 barrels a day before being closed late Monday or early Tuesday after a sabotage attack.
Iraq's oil industry, which provides desperately needed money for Iraq's reconstruction efforts, has been the target of repeated attacks by insurgents in recent months.
Source: Associated Press