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First oil from disputed Kurdistan pipeline

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

A tanker delivered a cargo of disputed crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan’s new pipeline for the first time in Israel, despite threats by Baghdad to take legal action against any buyer.

The SCF Altai tanker arrived at Israel’s Ashkelon port early on 20 June, ship tracking and industry sources said. By the evening, the tanker began unloading the Kurdish oil, a source at the port said.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said on 21 June, a day after the news was first reported, it did not deal with Israel in the sale.

“The KRG categorically refutes the claim that it has sold oil to Israel,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Natural Resources said in an email. “The KRG has not sold oil either directly or indirectly to such a destination.”

The spokesman did not comment on questions asking to whom the KRG had sold the oil, or how crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan had been delivered to Israel.

‘Milestone’ statement

In a statement on its website on 21 June, the KRG said: “We are proud of this milestone achievement, which was accomplished despite almost three weeks of intimidation and baseless interferences from Baghdad against the tanker-ship owners and the related international traders and buyers.”

Securing the first sale of oil from its independent pipeline is crucial for the KRG as it seeks greater financial independence from war-torn Iraq.

But the new export route to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, designed to bypass Baghdad’s federal pipeline system, has created a bitter dispute over oil sale rights between the central government and the Kurds.

First tanker still homeless

The first tanker to carry Kurdish pipeline oil is still homeless after loading in May. After a false start sailing to the US, the United Leadership tanker turned back towards Morocco, where it is anchored after local authorities refused to let it discharge for the Mohammedia refinery.

The KRG’s pipeline is currently pumping around 120 000 bpd to Ceyhan. The region’s natural resources minister is aiming to export 400 000 bpd by year end.

Edited from various sources by Elizabeth Corner

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