Iraq’s oil infrastructure used to be a favorite target of militants, but it now faces new problems. In 2007 there were nearly 7 attacks upon the oil industry a month. By the end of that year however, security around pipelines had greatly improved, and incidents dropped off to only 1 or 2 a month. Today, bottlenecks, bad weather, and criminal gangs trying to steal oil are more of a threat to production than insurgents attempting to destroy sections of the pipeline. In fact, as fighting in Iraq has waned, many former insurgents have turned to crime to support themselves. What attacks that do occur are almost all in the north where there are still militants.
Map of Iraq’s Oil Pipelines – Click on image for larger view
The northern pipeline overall only carries a small fraction of Iraq’s exports. In May for example, the Iraq-Turkey pipeline pumped 13.6 million barrels compared to 45.1 million through the southern port of Basra, more than three times more. Any disruption in production is still a serious matter however because Iraq is almost completely dependent upon oil for revenues. The country still has a state-run economy that relies upon petroleum exports for 90% of its funding. These attacks and breaks are major reasons why production continues to fluctuate up and down each month.
Alsumaria, “Iraq oil pipeline subject to sabotage attack,” 6/29/10
Associated Press, “Iraq’s Oil Exports Inch Up in May by About 7.4 Pct,” 6/22/10
Aswat al-Iraq, “Iraq resumes oil pumping to Turkey,” 6/12/10
Iraq Oil Report, “Northern pipeline hard hit by bomb attacks and smugglers,” 6/10/10
O’Hanlon, Michael, Livingston, Ian, “Iraq Index,” Brookings Institution, 6/19/10
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/08
Upstream Online, “Kirkuk Pipe rupture was sabotage,” 6/9/10