* Exports seen rising to 50,000 bpd in days
* Oil shipments were halted over legality of contracts
(Adds byline, comments from officials, background)
By Shamal Aqrawi
ARBIL, Iraq, Feb 3 Iraq started exporting crude
on Thursday from the Kurdish region's Tawke oilfield, a major
step toward resolving fierce disputes between the war-torn
country's majority Arabs and minority Kurds, officials said.
Shipments from the Tawke oilfield operated by Norway's DNO
International (DNO.OL) and Turkey's Genel Enerji began at 10,500
barrels per day and were expected to reach 50,000 bpd in two to
three days, officials at Iraq's North Oil Company said.
Exports from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region briefly
flowed in 2009, but were halted when the Iraqi government in
Baghdad refused to pay the companies involved. Baghdad views oil
contracts signed by the Kurds with foreign firms as illegal.
The impasse over oil is part of a broader dispute over land,
power and the distribution of the country's natural wealth that
U.S. military officials fear could one day spark a war in Iraq.
"This morning we registered 10,500 bpd of Kurdish exports
from the Tawke field," said one North Oil Company official, who
asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to
speak about the matter.
"This is the first shipment of crude officially registered
for the Kurdish authorities," the official said.
A senior North Oil Company, who also asked not to be
identified, said exports from Tawke to the Turkish port of
Ceyhan were expected to rise to 50,000 barrels per day in the
next two to three days.
Shares of DNO rose 3 percent after the company said it had
started test production for exports from Tawke. [ID:nOSN005000]
Once exports fully resume, shipments from Tawke and a second
field, Taq Taq, operated by Chinese company Sinopec and Genel
Enerji, should reach 100,000 bpd. For a FACTBOX on companies
involved in the region, click on [ID:nLDE70403M].
Exports from the region were stopped over the dispute
between Iraqi Kurdistan and the Arab-led government in Baghdad
over the legality of contracts awarded by the Kurds to foreign
Earlier this year, the two sides said they had reached a
deal. Under the agreement, first proposed by Baghdad last year,
the Iraqi government will pay the companies for their
exploration and development costs but not cover their profits.
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad and by Oslo
Newsroom; Writing by Michael Christie and Patrick Markey;
Editing by James Jukwey)