Iraq Resumes Kirkuk Oil Exports After Yearlong Pause

Baba Gurgur oil processing plant
Fires flare off the gas from crude oil at Iraq's oldest oil processing plant in Baba Gurgur, outside of Kirkuk. (Nabil al-Jurani/AP)

BAGHDAD — Iraq began piping oil from its fields around the disputed city of Kirkuk on Nov. 16, more than a year after exports were halted over troubles with the autonomous Kurdish administration north of the country.

The region will export 50,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day through a pipeline to Turkey, Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said after a deal was reached to break the deadlock between Iraqi capital Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government based in Irbil.


An Iraqi worker operates valves at the Nahran Omar oil refinery in Zubair near the city of Basra. (Nabil al-Jurani/AP)

Federal forces seized Kirkuk and the surrounding oil fields in October 2017 after the KRG organized a symbolic but controversial referendum for Kurdish independence.

Exports were terminated in the wake of the takeover, costing both sides billions of dollars in revenue as they haggled over revenue and pipeline fees.

Baghdad maintains that the multi-ethnic city is not part of the country’s autonomous Kurdish region.

The Turkey pipeline is the only one available to Kirkuk for exports. It runs through the Kurdish region.

Revenue from the resumed sales will go to the federal government, Jihad said.

Iraq used to export 300,000 barrels of oil daily from Kirkuk when the city was under Kurdish administration. The takeover was a blow to the region’s finances and led to cuts in public sector wages.

But the KRG has since made up for the lost revenues by boosting production from other fields, according to the Iraq Oil Report trade publication.

KRG spokesman Safin Dizayi said Nov. 15 that salary reductions for public sector employees would be lifted “very soon.”

Iraq exports close to 5 million barrels of crude daily, the vast majority through its southern Basra terminal.