Syria has been relying upon Iraqi oil flows outside the U.N. oil-for-food program to fuel its refineries and increase exports of its own crude, according to industry sources on December 19th.
Syria has reportedly been importing 150,000 b/d of Iraqi crude oil through a newly reopened pipeline since mid-November.
The Iraqi-Syrian pipeline had been closed since 1982 as a result of tensions between the two countries over the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.
Syrian and Iraqi officials have continually denied that the pipeline has resumed pumping, saying that they are merely conducting tests.
The U.N. is currently debating whether to approve the pipeline as a third export route for Iraqi crude, which is allowed to flow through only two ports -- Mina al-Bakr and Ceyhan.
The U.S. and the U.K. are not opposed to exports through the pipeline, so long as they are conducted under U.N. auspices and all revenues go towards the humanitarian program.
Industry sources indicated that Syria has more than doubled its December loading program for its heavy Souedie crude exports.
Syrian oil exports are expected to reach between 490,000 and 500,000 b/d for December, a sharp increase from the normal 350,000 b/d.
The country’s total production capacity is estimated at about 550,000 b/d, while domestic refinery capacity totals around 240,000 b/d.
Baghdad had originally said that it would move its Basrah Light crude through the pipeline, but the increase in heavy Souedie exports is prompting speculation that the Iraqi imports may have been switched to the heavy Kirkuk grade crude, on which Syria’s refineries were originally designed to run.