Power failure halts Iraq oil exports

Iraq’s oil exports were shut down on Monday by a power cut that darkened parts of central and southern Iraq, including the country’s only functioning oil export terminals, Iraqi and foreign oil officials said.

Exports through the country’s other main route, the northern export pipeline to Turkey, have long been halted by incessant sabotage.

Iraqi officials said sabotage was also responsible for Monday’s blackout, which prevented oil from being pumped into tankers waiting at berths.

A port official and an employee at the South Oil Company, which runs Iraq’s southern oil fields, said pumping stopped at 7am local time on Monday. Both men spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to talk to media. They gave no further details.

A tanker agent with a shipping company in Jordan confirmed that exports from southern Iraq have ceased due to the power cut.

“Oil terminals have completely stopped exports from Basra and Khor al-Amaya,” said Mohammed Hadi, head of Iraq operations for Norton Lilly International.
“Both terminals use the same power source.”

Hadi said the shutdown, which costs Iraq about $4,25-million per hour, will probably push up the price of oil while curtailing the chief revenue source for Iraq’s government.

Electricity was cut across Baghdad and many parts of Iraq early on Monday after an attack on a major electricity feeder line between Beiji and the capital. Government spokesperson Laith Kubba said on Sunday the attack occurred two days ago, “and this will, of course, affect the power supply in Baghdad”. He said repairs were under way.

The power failure in southern Iraq occurred after a shutdown of the Khor al-Zobayr power plant outside Basra, the chief supply for Basra and the oil terminals, Hadi said. The failure there triggered other power-plant shutdowns, Hadi said.

There was no electricity on Monday morning in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, or the port city of Umm Qasr, Hadi said.

With the power off for more than seven hours by late on Monday morning, Hadi estimated the loss of revenue from exporting an average of 65 000 barrels per hour at $29,5-million.

Iraq exports about 1,5-million barrels a day from the south.

Exports from the northern oil fields around Kirkuk have long been interrupted due to sabotage on the pipelines. Officials at the Northern Oil Company, which runs the northern fields, said every three or four months there is some limited pumping of about 250 000 barrels to the Ceyhan port in Turkey.

But no shipments are currently being made to Ceyhan, the officials said.—Sapa-AP

Associated Press correspondent Jim Krane contributed to this report from Dubai

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