ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The export of Kirkuk oil via the Kurdistan Region’s pipeline is to resume under an initial deal struck between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Iraq’s Ministry of Oil spokesman Aasim Jihad told Rudaw.
Between 50,000 and 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) are expected to be exported under the initial agreement, which stipulates the resumption of Kirkuk oil exports to the Turkish port of Ceyhan via the Kurdistan Region.
Jihad said it will be exported and marketed through Iraq’s State Organization for Marketing of Oil (SOMO).
His comments follow weeks of heated negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad and pressure from western allies.
John Bolton, US President Donald Trump's national security advisor, welcomed the agreement between Erbil and Baghdad as a "promising first step to return to 2017 levels."
The resumption of Kirkuk oil exports can "restore lost revenue for Iraqi people [and] services [and] make Iraq energy independent," he tweeted.
US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert described the exports as an "important step in our efforts to reduce Iran's oil exports."
She congratulated the governments in Erbil and Baghdad as well as the US diplomatic team in the country.
The deal came up in a meeting between Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran Andrew Peek on Friday.
"Both sides welcomed the Iraqi government's decision to export Kirkuk oil through the Kurdistan Region's pipeline, which will benefit Iraq as a whole," read a statement from Barzani's office.
The US was exerting pressure on both Erbil and Baghdad to reach an agreement.
Washington has given Iraq until the end of December to end its energy dependence on Iran by stopping natural gas and electricity imports from its neighbour.
Since taking over Kirkuk’s oil fields in October 2017, Iraq had been exporting crude across the Iranian border. As a result of US sanctions on Iran, Baghdad has ceased using this route.
Now it will use the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, which is partially owned and controlled by the KRG.
Pumping Iraqi oil through this pipeline could add as much as 400,000 bpd into the world market – 300,000 from Kirkuk and possibly 100,000 that Iraq is currently pulling out of the ground in Nineveh province.
The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) announced last week it had boosted capacity in the export pipeline, bringing it up to one million bpd and saying the extra capacity could be used by Baghdad “to export the currently stranded oil in Kirkuk and surrounding areas.”
Relations between Erbil and Baghdad have been gradually improving. The two sides struck a deal earlier this week to scrap customs checkpoints on major roads between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
This is a developing story…
Last updated 11:48 p.m.