By Simon Webb
UPDATE 1: Stoppage expected to be less than 10 hours through northern pipeline.
Iraq expects to resume oil exports to Turkey through its northern pipeline within hours after a routine stoppage, an oil official said on Tuesday.
The line is Iraq's secondary export route, handling about 430,000 barrels per day. Most of Iraq's crude shipments sail from its main southern oil terminal at Basra, at a rate of about 1.6 million bpd.
"The stoppage is just a routine act and we will resume pumping in less than 10 hours," the official told newswire Reuters. He gave no further explanation.
There had been no sabotage acts on the line, an officer in the oil protection force said.
The export route was plagued by sabotage and technical problems after the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Tighter security has allowed Baghdad to increase the flow during the past year.
The flow stopped earlier on Tuesday and has been interrupted regularly during the past month, a shipping agent said.
Another Iraq oil official said that the stoppages were related to the restart of the Baiji refinery after maintenance.
The 275,000 bpd Baiji plant came back on line in July, and Iraq has diverted Kirkuk crude to the plant that would have otherwise been exported.
"That continues to be the reason throughput to Turkey has been lower," he said.
A Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) was loading two million barrels of Iraqi Kirkuk crude from the Turkish Mediterranean oil terminal of Ceyhan on Tuesday, the shipper said.
There was enough oil in storage at Ceyhan to complete loading for the vessel, due to cross the Atlantic and deliver a million barrels each to Exxon Mobil and Valero, he added.
Once that vessel loads, storage would stand at around 370,000 barrels. Another ship is due to start loading a million barrels early on Wednesday for Italian refiner ENI. (Reuters)