ISTANBUL, Turkey – Iraq resumed pumping oil through its northern pipeline to Turkey (search) on Saturday but stopped the flow after about two hours because of technical problems.
The brief pumping — the first flow through the pipeline in two months — illustrates the uphill battle Iraq faces in restoring its oil industry, essential for reconstruction in the war-battered nation.
Gurhan Unal, a top official at Turkey's Ceyhan port (search), said a leak in the pipeline from the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk stopped the flow before the oil reached Ceyhan, the Anatolia (search) news agency reported.
While sabotage has stopped the flow of oil through the 600-mile pipeline in the past, Iraq said technical problems — not sabotage — caused the disruption at around 11 a.m., a Turkish energy ministry official said.
Frequent attacks on Iraq's pipelines in the past have slowed the flow of oil. A brief pumping through the northern line in August —the first since the war — was halted because of sabotage and other problems.
Repairs were under way, the Anatolia news agency quoted Unal as saying. A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the flow could resume as early as Sunday.
Getting the northern pipeline running is crucial to Iraq's economic recovery; it carries crude from the vast northern fields that provide nearly half of Iraq's exports to world markets.
Though postwar oil sales resumed in June, the supply comes all from the south, amounting to 1 million barrels of oil a day compared to the 2.1 million Iraq pumped before the U.S.-led invasion.
L. Paul Bremer (search), the U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq, has said the country loses $7 million a day when the northern pipeline is not in service.
Earlier this week, an explosion ripped open part of the main pipeline linking the northern oil fields to the al-Doura oil refinery and the Mussayab power plant. That oil was earmarked for domestic use.