ECONOMY

Kirkuk line idle again

LONDON (Reuters) – Iraq has halted pumping along its northern Kirkuk crude pipeline to Turkey for unknown reasons, though storage tanks at Ceyhan port are far from full after a sell tender cleared out 6 million barrels earlier this month, shipping sources said yesterday. Shipping agents in Ceyhan told Reuters it was unclear why Iraq had stopped the pumping along the 600-mile pipeline, which has seen crude flows of up to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) in recent days after nearly a year of disuse due to repeated sabotage and attacks. «There seems to have been a problem along the pipeline, but whether it was just a fault on a pumping station or a bomb we don’t know,» said one market source, adding that repairs were estimated to last until the weekend. It was also unclear when exactly Iraq had stopped the pumping, though one shipper said it could have been up to three days ago. Shipping agents estimated that less than 3 million barrels were left in-tank at Ceyhan, where there is storage capacity of about 10 million barrels. European companies Repsol, Total, Agip, Hellenic Petroleum and Tupras have only recently completed lifting the entire 6 million barrels that state oil marketer SOMO sold in tender after quietly reopening the sabotage-hit pipeline earlier this month. This is likely to leave oil traders wondering about the timing of SOMO’s next sell tender, which had been expected to be issued as soon as the first set of cargoes were lifted. Traders have speculated that Iraq would issue a new tender in early April, following about two weeks of renewed pumping, with loading to take place April 10-15. But the current lack of oil tank capacity could push those dates back more. The Kirkuk pipeline exported crude from Iraq’s northern oilfields at 800,000 bpd before the US-led invasion, but senior US officials said on Wednesday that months of repair work are required before prewar flows can be restored. Iraqi exports are running at about 1.9 million bpd and traders had expected that a second sell tender from Ceyhan could take the country back to prewar export levels of over 2 million bpd.