Gulf Keystone has started exporting crude oil by truck from the Shaikan field in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq to the Turkish port of Mersin.

A total of about 50,000 barrels a day (b/d) of crude is now being shipped in road tankers from the region, from the Taq Taq and Shaikan fields.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) expects to complete a new export pipeline from the Taq Taq field, which is operated by UK-Turkish joint venture, Genel Energy.

Gulf Keystone received approval from the KRG in June for the Shaikan field’s development plan, which will see production capacity raised to 40,000 b/d in 2014. Subsequent phases will increase capacity to 100,000 b/d and eventually up to about 250,000 b/d by 2018.

The first production facility was commissioned in July, producing about 20,000 b/d. Mechanical completion for the second facility is expected by the end of 2013 or early 2014, adding another 20,000 b/d of production capacity. These two facilities will be linked with the export pipeline currently under construction.

The Shaikan field is one of the most important in Iraqi Kurdistan. The KRG plans to raise production to 1 million b/d by 2015 and 2 million b/d by the end of the decade.

Gulf Keystone has a 51 per cent interest in the Shaikan block, which is situated about 85 kilometres northwest of Iraqi Kurdistan capital Erbil. In 2011, an independent review by Houston-based Dynamic Global Advisers estimates the Shaikan field contains 8 billion barrels of crude.