Turkey plans to increase oil, gas pipeline security

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 24 -- Following terrorist attacks over the past year, Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said his government plans to step up security along oil and gas pipelines.

“Increased security measures will be taken for pipelines by both private security firms and the armed forces,” Yildiz said, adding it will involve “both an increase in personnel and the use of new technology.”

Yildiz’s pledge comes as Turkey plans to use its geographical position to become a major oil and gas transit route for supplies heading to Europe from producers in the Caspian, Middle East, and Central Asia. His remarks follow a blast blamed on Kurdish rebels that shut down a natural gas pipeline from Iran to Turkey.

The explosion, in the eastern Agri province, came as a result of “an attack by the separatist terrorist organization,” said Gov. Ali Yerlikaya, referring to the outlawed Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK).

The attack followed one last month on the 970-km pipeline that connects Iraq's northern Kirkuk oil fields with Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Turkish state media reported the PKK was suspected of detonating a mine next to the pipeline.

Despite the attacks, Baghdad and Ankara signed an agreement over the weekend extending operation of the Iraq-Turkey pipeline, one of two key export routes for Iraqi crude. In May, Iraq exported 1.893 million b/d of crude, with 440,000 b/d going through the line to Ceyhan.

But the PKK attacks have been felt in Baghdad. According to Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization, the country exported a total 329,000 b/d through Ceyhan in August, down as a result of the PKK attacks and maintenance work.

Under the renewed agreement, the two sides agreed to upgrade the pipeline's capacity by 1 million b/d and to raise transit fees an undisclosed amount. Additionally, the Turkish government guaranteed it would dismiss any orders by Turkish courts to seize Iraqi oil in the pipeline—a reference to sanctions-era debts.

"We are pleased to extend the agreement for 15 years at a time when Iraq is developing its oilfields to raise output to unprecedented levels, which require more export outlets," said Iraq’s Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani.

Iraq signed agreements with international oil companies that could boost its output capacity to 12 million b/d in 6-7 years from about 2.5 million b/d now. Iraq plans to build new pipelines and to overhaul existing ones to meet the anticipated hike in oil production.

Indeed, even as Ankara and Baghdad signed the agreement over the Iraq-Turkey pipeline, Iraq and Syria also reached an initial accord to build three major pipelines across their borders to carry crude and gas from Iraqi fields to Syria's Mediterranean seaport of Banias.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said one crude pipeline will have a capacity of 1.5 million b/d while the second will have a capacity of 1.25 million b/d.

The spokesman didn't give the capacity for the gas pipeline, but said it would have a “suitable” capacity. A tender for the project will be issued in the coming few months, officials said.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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