Crude oil is once again flowing from the fields around Kirkuk, after an interruption that lasted for several hours, as security forces searched the area for bombs, said to have been planted by the Islamic State. This is what sources from the shipping industry told Reuters.
Hours earlier, sources from the Kurdish security service said the oil flow to Turkey’s Ceyhan port had stopped. An executive from the North Oil Company – a Baghdad-controlled state firm – said that the pipeline that pumped crude from the Kirkuk fields to Ceyhan transported some 120,000 barrels daily before the stoppage, although its usual daily throughput was 150,000 barrels.
Oil from the Kirkuk fields has become a bone of contention between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Autonomous Government, which controls Kirkuk. Last year, the oil flow from the northern fields was suspended for several months while Baghdad and Erbil argued over the distribution of oil revenues.
Meanwhile, earlier today Kurdish media Rudaw reported that Kurdish security forces had entered the offices of NOC in Kirkuk, “to show Baghdad that Kirkuk’s oil is for its people,” as the source quoted a Kurdish politician from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
The official went on to say that the operation was prompted by Baghdad’s intention to divert oil from Kirkuk from the pipeline to Ceyhan and export it via other terminals. The Kurdish security forces took control over a pump station storing oil from the local oil fields. According to the PUK official, Aso Mamand, Baghdad has a week to change its mind about taking Kirkuk oil to the rest of Iraq.
An official from the ruling Kurdish Democratic Party, the party in power, said the operation was organized and carried out by the PUK unilaterally, implying the government in Erbil had not authorized it.