The Kirkuk-Ceyhan (or Kirkuk-Yumurtalik) oil pipeline exporting crude from Iraq's northern oilfields to Turkey's Mediterranean oil hub at Ceyhan was attacked on Friday (20 July), disrupting around one-quarter of Turkey's crude imports from Iraq. The explosion took place between the villages of Sogutlu and Senkoy close to the southern Turkish town of Midyat in the Mardin province, in the Kurdish-dominated area bordering Syria and Iraq, according to Agence France-Press. While it was reported that the fire was extinguished on Saturday, the oil flow has resumed, reportedly at a reduced rate of 300,000 b/d, according to a shipping agent in Ceyhan, quoted in Dow Jones Newswires.
According to Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz, quoted by the Anatolia news agency, the damage to the oil pipeline will affect markets outside Turkey. The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline consists of two parallel lines with a combined capacity of 650,000 b/d of oil. The pipeline has been operating at just a fraction of its overall capacity recently, especially following the halt of oil exports from Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region. The Kurdistan Regional Government stopped contributing its 175,000-181,000 b/d of expected crude exports because of a dispute with the central Iraqi government in Baghdad over oil payments and the authority over oil contracts and energy policy. Without the crude from Kurdistan, the oil flows via the 970-km Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline amounted to 312,000 b/d oil in June. The Kurdish Firat news agency reported that the attack was carried out by the HPG, the armed wing of the Kurdish rebel organisation Workers' Party of Kurdistan (PKK) which has operating in the area for years. The PKK's last attack targeting the pipeline occurred in April, when three attacks were carried out in the Idil area of Turkey's Sirnak province, close to the border with Iraq.
Significance: The attack comes at a time of heightened political turmoil in the border region between Turkey, Iraq, and Syria where the Syrian conflict in particular is escalating severely. However, as Iraq's largest crude oil pipeline in operation, the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline has been the target of attacks for many years. Attacking key energy infrastructure in the Kurdish-dominated south-east of Turkey and beyond has become part of the PKK's recently revived armed operations against Turkey. In the 1990s, the PKK was known for hurting Turkey's economy by attacking tourist resorts; now, however, it appears that the focus of attacks will be Turkey's energy infrastructure as the country is almost entirely dependent on oil and gas imports. The rebels also took responsibility for an attack on the Turkish part of the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline on 29 May in the Sarikarmis district of Kars province, near the Armenian border--indicating that the PKK has started to move its operations beyond its traditional Kurdish heartland in Turkey's south-east, the Kandil mountains in Iraq, the north-east of Syria, and north-west Iran.
Copyright 2012 World Markets Research Limited. All Rights Reserved.
(Originally published July 23, 2012, in Global Insight.)