Iraq pipeline plans delayed

10 October 2013

Government approvals are holding up a planned export pipeline linking Iraq to Jordan, but a fall in oil revenues could add fresh impetus to the scheme

Iraq’s oil exports dropped by more than 500,000 barrels a day (b/d) in September, its lowest level since February 2012, as the Oil Ministry carried out extensive upgrades at the Basra Oil Terminal. It handles most of the country’s exports. The two loading berths at the terminal are expected to remain closed until the middle of October as a new offshore oil metering and manifold platform is installed.

Shipments through Iraq’s only other export route have also been intermittent due to repeated attacks on the pipeline to Turkey. The pipeline’s capacity is also less than 500,000 b/d.

With oil prices at more than $100 a barrel, the drop in exports to just over 2 million b/d means Iraq’s revenues for the month could have fallen by more than $1.5bn compared with the $8.3bn earned in August. By early 2014, Iraq’s southern export capacity will expand to 5.6 million b/d as new single-point moorings are tied in. But Iraq’s oil production is expected to exceed this, meaning other export routes will be essential.

The fall in oil revenues has shown Iraq’s vulnerability in relying so heavily on Basra to ship its crude

This task has been given to State Company for Oil Projects (SCOP), a subsidiary of the Oil Ministry, which plans to build a 1 million b/d pipeline through Jordan with the help of international engineering consortiums and financiers. The ministry hopes to use a build-own-operate-transfer agreement, the first of its kind in Iraq, coupling construction with a 20-year operational concession. However, the plans are already suffering delays. A tender has yet to be issued, making Iraq’s hopes of reaching financial close in 2014 unlikely.

Changes in SCOP’s senior management have had an impact, but more important are the delays in getting signatures from the Iraqi and Jordanian governments on the agreements required for the deal to proceed. The recent fall in oil revenues has shown Iraq’s vulnerability in relying so heavily on Basra to ship its crude. This should focus minds on getting the Jordan pipeline project moving again.

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