(Adds details, quotes)
By Terry Wade and Marianna Parraga
HOUSTON Aug 1 An asphalt maker in New Jersey
became the second U.S. company to publicly confirm buying
Kurdish crude oil, saying on Friday it had imported a cargo just
weeks before an Iraqi lawsuit over a separate $100 million
shipment offshore Texas.
In response to questions from Reuters, Axeon Specialty
Products said it received the Kurdish Shaikan crude cargo in
June at its Paulsboro refinery.
The company did not say whether it is the buyer of another
cargo carrying Kurdish crude from Turkey on the 300,000-barrel
Minerva Joy tanker now headed for New Jersey, according to
Reuters sources and ship data.
Although Baghdad objects to any independent financial deals
with Kurdistan's Regional Government, small shipments of oil
such as the one imported by Axeon have spread all over the
But even those cargoes are coming under greater scrutiny
after Iraq won a U.S. court order this week to seize a
one-million-barrel shipment that arrived in the Gulf of Mexico
only a week ago in a dispute that has spooked buyers.
On Thursday, after a Reuters report identified it as having
imported Kurdish crude, LyondellBasell confirmed it recently
bought "modest quantities" of "Iraqi crudes" but that it would
halt further purchases because of the dispute.
For its part, Axeon did not say if it would buy any more
cargoes of Kurdish crude, but acknowledged it was "the importer
of record for the June shipment," according to a company
official. "We purchased this cargo on a delivered Paulsboro, New
Jersey, basis from a reputable supplier."
The Minerva Joy tanker is slated to deliver on August 11
after leaving a Turkish port used to export crude trucked in by
the Kurds, according to shipping data available via
So far, Iraq has focused its crackdown mainly on large
tankers departing Ceyan, Turkey, where a pipeline from Kurdistan
ends. Vessels loaded at Dortyol with trucked in oil can be
tougher to follow and have generally been easily sold.
Though purchases aren't banned, Washington has told U.S.
companies that buying Kurdish crude can be risky.
Iraq's central government has stepped up efforts to block
independent oil sales by Kurdistan's Regional Government, which
sees the revenues as central to securing greater autonomy from
After confirming it bought two cargoes in May, Lyondell did
not say if it had agreed to buy the one-million-barrel cargo
currently on the tanker United Kalavrvta off the coast of Texas.
That cargo, now idle for several days, is at the center of a
legal dispute between Iraq and Kurdistan over who owns it.
Despite objections from Baghdad and occasional disquiet in
Washington, a number of major U.S. companies, including
ExxonMobil Corp, Chevron Corp, Marathon Oil Corp
and Hess Corp, are operating in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Kurdish crudes such as Shaikan, Taq Taq and Tawke are also
being sold to the European market, including to Russian firm
Rosneft's Ruhr Oel refineries in Germany.
Two tankers, the Nord Farer and the Angelica AN, are
scheduled to deliver Kurdish crudes in August to buyers in
France and Russia, according to Reuters tracking data.
(Editing by Jonathan Leff and Gunna Dickson)