Militants whose bombs have shut Iraq’s main northern oil export pipeline for 40 days are preventing repairs, threatening to extend an outage that is already the longest since the days of sanctions in the 1990s.
Targeting the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline where it crosses a stretch of desert known as Ain al-Jahash, or Donkey Springs, the saboteurs – described as Islamists by Iraqi officials – have set several more bombs since a first blast halted oil on March 2. Significantly for an Iraqi government hoping for a big rise in exports this year – and long used to brief halts on the route to the Mediterranean – gunmen have also massacred repair crews, prompting oil executives in Mosul to question optimism in Baghdad that the pipeline should be back in action next week.
The militants have benefited from support among Sunnis in Iraq’s northwestern desert, who resent both the Shi’ites brought to power in Baghdad by the U.S. overthrow of Sunni Saddam Hussein in 2003 and also of the autonomous Kurds to their east.
Occasional attacks in the past decade have been repaired more quickly. But the latest sabotage has forced the NOC to shut down some production stations in two major oilfields at Kirkuk, squeezing total production to around 225,000 barrels per day (bpd) from around 550,000 bpd before the attack, officials said.
Global supplies plunged by 1.2 mb/d to 91.75 mb/d in March, led by steeply lower OPEC output, but remained up by 1.1 mb/d year-on-year, as non‐OPEC growth of 1.98 mb/d more than offset a near-1‑mb/d drop in OPEC crude. Reduced FSU supply expectations helped cut the non-OPEC supply growth forecast by 250 kb/d, to 1.5 mb/d.
OPEC crude oil supplies plummeted by 890 kb/d, to 29.62 mb/d, in March, on lower supplies from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Libya. The ‘call on OPEC crude and stock change’ for the remainder of the year was raised by 300 kb/d to average 30.2 mb/d, reflecting a reduced forecast of non-OPEC supplies.
The forecast of global demand growth has been marginally trimmed to 1.3 mb/d for 2014, reflecting downward adjustments to the projection of Russian demand. The absolute demand estimate remains roughly unchanged, as upward revisions to baseline non-OECD Asian demand counterbalance lower Russian growth.
Saudi Arabian oil production fell 285,000 barrels a day to 9.57 million barrels a day last month, its lowest level in almost a year, as refinery maintenance reduced demand from customers.
Iraq’s production fell 340,000 barrels a day from historic highs last month as a wave of attacks on the important Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline curtailed exports from the north of the country, and infrastructure constraints hampered trade from the southern port of Basra.
Output from Libya remained constrained amid a months long political standoff with rebels that have held its eastern ports and prevented oil exports.
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