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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gives a speech during the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) 2013 annual meeting and business forum opening session on May 10, in Istanbul. (AFP)
Turkish Iran oil imports steady Turkey willing to help Iraq build oil, gas pipelines

LONDON, May 10, (RTRS): Turkey imported around 100,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil in March, in line with the average of the past six months and far below the levels Ankara used to buy from Tehran before European Union’s sanctions came into force last year. Shipping data from a well-informed shipping agent in the region, obtained by Reuters, showed Turkey’s terminal of Aliaga received one tanker with Iranian crude last month, carrying 145,000 tonnes. The terminal at Tutunciftlik imported oil in two tankers, carrying 140,000 and 145,000 tonnes. The data was revised to show Aliaga received one instead of two tankers with Iranian oil as the second tanker was carrying Iraqi crude instead. Last year, Ankara effectively halved imports of Iranian oil after the European Union oil embargo against Iran came into full force on July 1, which also targeted the marine insurance sector, cutting off the usual avenues for tanker insurance.

Turkey was twice granted a waiver on Iranian oil by the United States for 180 days after Ankara made initial cuts. It remains one of the largest customers for Iranian oil together with Asian buyers such as China, India, South Korea and Japan. A provision of US sanctions, made law last summer and implemented from Feb. 6, also tightened control on sales of precious metals to Iran. OPEC member Iraq will need new oil pipelines to export its crude to world markets as it prepares to raise production, and Turkey is keen to help its neighbour build the infrastructure, Turkey’s Energy Minister said on Friday. Iraq, the world’s fastest-growing oil exporter, aims to boost the 2.4 million barrels per day of oil it ships to world markets this year, mostly by increasing output from the fields around the disputed northern oil city of Kirkuk in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

Export
The opening of new export outlets and investment by foreign companies at the southern oil fields around Basra, where the vast majority of Iraqi oil is located, have boosted Iraqi shipments. But Taner Yildiz said once Iraq’s capacity increases, existing infrastructure will be insufficient. “The outlets via Basra are not enough for such a capacity, so nothing is more natural than the construction of new pipelines,” Yildiz told an energy conference in Istanbul. “And Turkey will make the biggest contribution here.” Currently only a fraction of the 1.5 million bpd-capacity Iraq-Turkey pipeline from Kirkuk to the Mediterranean hub of Ceyhan is used as Iraq exports most of its oil from the south.

Ankara and Baghdad have in the past discussed building more pipelines but the projects have failed to gain traction. Their differing stances on the Syrian crisis, the Kurdish region of Iraq and other issues has soured diplomatic ties in recent years. Sitting on 8.5 billion barrels of crude reserves, Iraq has been described as the “next Saudi Arabia,” even though its ambitious export targets of more than 7 million bpd by the end of the decade are threatened by political instability. Turkish companies were part of the five consortiums in southern Iraq that have secured projects worth $25 billion, Yildiz said.

He also added that the Iraqi Kurdistan region in the north is also a natural area for cooperation. Resource-hungry Turkey has been increasingly courting Iraqi Kurds, who are at loggerheads with the central government over how to exploit the country’s oil reserves and share the revenue. Ankara and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have been negotiating energy deals ranging from exploration to exporting since last year — a move that has antagonised Baghdad which says it alone has the authority to control exports and sign contracts.

“Just like Iraq’s south, Iraq’s north is a natural area for projects,” Yildiz said. Turkish President Abdullah Gul also discussed Iraq’s energy resources in a speech at the same conference. New infrastructure to carry Iraq’s oil via Turkey would be crucial for European markets, he said. “New oil and gas pipelines that will be constructed parallel to Iraq’s north-south lines would allow Iraq’s resources to be shipped to both our country and to Europe,” Gul said. “This will be crucial for Iraq to reach secure markets,” he added.

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