samedi 19 janvier 2008

Production halted at two major Iraqi refineries

By Abdulatif al-Mawsawi

Azzaman, January 18, 2008

Production has halted at two major Iraqi refineries leading to unprecedented fuel and power shortages in the country.

The refinery complex at Baiji has come to a grinding halt due to power shortages. A fire whose reason has yet to be determined has also halted production at Shuaiba refinery in Basra.

The ministries of electricity and oil are trading accusations for the shortages which have caused large-scale disruption in the provision of municipal and public services.

Northern Iraq is without electricity and fuel leading to steep hikes in transportation fees and shortages in pure water supplies.

Power plants working on fuel produced in Baiji have come to a halt denying northern Iraq – the three Kurdish provinces as well as the provinces of Nineveh and Kirkuk – of nearly 500 megawatts of electricity.

Baiji is the main source of fuel to northern Iraq. Fuel shortages have affected families severely amid freezing temperatures.

“Production has almost come to a standstill in Baiji,” said an oil ministry official, refusing to be named.

A barrel of kerosene, used in Iraq for both cooking and heating, has surged to nearly 200,000 dinars (approx. 1500 U.S. dollars).

Oil Ministry spokesman, Asem Jihad, while acknowledge the suspension of output at Baiji, blamed the Ministry of Electricity for “failing to provide the necessary power to run Baiji’s installations.”

Aziz Sultan of the Electricity Ministry said, “Oil Ministry’s allegations are incorrect” and attributed power shortages to lack of fuel to run power plants.

Meantime, the Shuaiba Refinery in southern Iraq has stopped production following a raging fire which a U.S. helicopter gunship, according to Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, had caused.

“A U.S. helicopter was behind the explosion that caused the fire which started at a gas processing unit,” said Oil Ministry spokesman Asem Jihad.

However, other sources refusing to be names, said the fire was caused by a barrage mortar bombs and not the U.S. helicopter.

U.S. occupation forces in Iraq have declined comment.

Shuaiba is one of the largest refineries in the country churning out nearly 150,000 barrels of oil a day.

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