Iraq plans to construct a new pipeline to transport oil from Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, the Iraqi Oil Ministry confirmed on Sunday. Oil exports from Kirkuk have been on hold since Iraq recaptured the Kurdish-controlled oilfields last month.
The new pipeline will replace a damaged section of the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, connecting the nearby city of Baiji with Turkey’s Fish-Khabur border area. Exports had been suspended in retaliation for a Kurdish independence referendum in September.
Iraq’s Oil Ministry expressed hopes that the new pipeline would double Kirkuk’s oil exports to 1 million barrels per day.
“The old pipeline has been severely damaged due to the repeated subversive operations of Daesh [Arabic pejorative term for IS, formerly ISIS] gangs,” oil ministry spokesman Asem Jihad said. “Specialized companies will be invited soon for presenting tenders,” he added.
Top Iraqi oil officials met with a Turkish energy delegation in Baghdad earlier this month to discuss resuming Kirkuk’s oil exports. According to reports, Iraq’s state-run Oil Marketing Co. (SOMO) is seeking an agreement with Turkey that would give it full control of exports from Kirkuk and the surrounding Kurdish region.
US-backed Kurdish groups have controlled the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline for the past two years after successfully pushing Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) militants out of the region. However, exports have been on hold since Iraqi forces seized Kirkuk’s oilfields from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) last month.
The Kurds were pushed out of Kirkuk on October 16, three weeks after the Kurdistan Region held a controversial independence referendum.
The proposed pipeline is complicated by a $4 billion debt that the Kurds owe to Turkey. However, Iraq’s central government insists that it is not responsible for settling the outstanding Kurdish debt.
Both Iraq and Turkey oppose Kurdish independence, and Ankara has stated that it is willing to cooperate with Baghdad to impose Iraqi federal authority over Kurdistan's borders with Turkey.