* First crude from Taq Taq oilfield reaches Turkish port
* Fresh tender for Kurdish condensate imminent
* KRG oil exports via Baghdad-controlled pipeline halted
By Julia Payne and Peg Mackey
LONDON, Jan 7 Kurdistan has begun to export
crude oil directly to world oil markets through Turkey, industry
sources said on Monday, which poses the biggest challenge yet to
Baghdad's claim to full control over Iraqi oil.
The export of crude, in addition to small volumes of niche
condensate, demonstrates the semi-autonomous region's growing
frustration with Baghdad as it moves towards ever greater
economic independence, the sources said.
The volume of oil involved is small, but industry sources
said the direct export is highly symbolic as the KRG seeks more
financial independence from Baghdad.
The first crude has been delivered by truck to the Turkish
port of Mersin on the Mediterranean, shipping and industry
"The KRG gave us permission to start crude exports from the
Taq Taq oilfield," Genel Energy President Mehmet Sepil
said in an interview.
Control of oil is at the heart of a dispute between Iraq's
Arab-led central government and the autonomous region run by
ethnic Kurds in the north. Baghdad insists the central
government has the sole constitutional right to export oil.
In an apparent renewed dispute over payment, the Kurdistan
Regional Government (KRG) halted shipments through the
Baghdad-controlled Iraq-Turkey pipeline last month.
The KRG began exporting its own very light oil, or
condensate, independently to world markets in October by truck
to a Turkish port, where it was sold via an intermediary.
Now the Kurdish region is adding crude from the Taq Taq
oilfield, where London-listed explorer Genel Energy has a stake,
to its slate of exports.
A fresh cargo of condensate is also ready to sell through an
imminent tender, said a shipping source.
Industry sources reckon around 15,000 barrels per day
(bpd)of condensate from the Khor Mor gas field are reaching the
Toros terminal in Turkey. Crude oil exports from Taq Taq, for
now, are also small.
In exchange, Turkey is sending back refined products to the
Kurdish region, which is short of fuel.
Over the past year and a half, Kurdistan has upset Baghdad
by signing deals directly with oil majors such as Exxon Mobil
and Chevron, providing lucrative
production-sharing contracts and better operating conditions
than in Iraq's south.
The KRG says its right to grant contracts to foreign oil
firms is enshrined in the Iraqi constitution, which was drawn up
following the 2003 invasion that ousted Sunni dictator Saddam
But payments to foreign operators in Kurdistan are getting
caught up in the long-running spat over land and petroleum
Baghdad said last month it would not pay oil firms operating
in Kurdistan because the region had failed to export the volume
of crude it pledged under a deal struck in September.
That agreement stipulated that Kurdistan would pump crude
through the Baghdad-controlled Iraq-Turkey pipeline in return
An export target of 200,000 bpd was set for the last two
months of 2012, and Kurdish authorities pledged to raise exports
to 250,000 bpd in 2013.
But exports of Kurdish oil have been halted since around
mid-December, after nearing the 200,000 target early in the
Baghdad transferred an initial sum of 650 billion Iraqi
dinars ($560 million) to the KRG. But a second payment is still
pending for the foreign companies in Kurdistan.