Two wells at the Khabaz oilfield near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, sabotaged by ISIS last week are still on fire, with production suspended and losses amounting to some 4,000 barrels per day, as estimated by reports from local officials.
Officials are stressing that even once the fire is under the control, the wells could be beyond repair.
The Khabaz oilfield is some 20 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk and hosts 41 oil wells. The field is run by the state-owned North Oil Company, which has its own police force and belongs to the Iraqi government. A month ago, a similar attack took out other wells in this field.
All the wells at the oilfield have a total production capacity of 15,000 barrels per day. Before the attack, production was already down to 10,000 bpd.
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On 5 May, gunmen used improvised explosives on wells number 18, 33 and 39 in the Khabaz oil field. A fourth well was also booby trapped but no damage was done.
The Kurdish Peshmerga have largely pushed ISIS out of the area and taken over now, so the perpetrators of this latest sabotage remain unknown; however, Iraqi officials suspect ISIS. They also said that two IS leaders were from the village near the wells. ISIS attacked the same facility in January 2015.
Despite various hurdles and conflicts, the Iraqi Kurds have managed to increase oil exports to Turkey, with new April figures showing an average of over 511,000 barrels per day, even without Baghdad’s oil coming through the Kirkuk pipeline.
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In February and March, a pipeline was taken offline under unclear circumstances, and shortly after that, the central government in Iraq decided to suspend its own exports through the Kirkuk-Turkey pipeline.
Before these complications, Iraqi Kurdistan was exporting 600,000 barrels per day to Turkey.
By James Burgess of Oilprice.com
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