Crude Oil Qualities in Iraq

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Crude oil found in Iraq varies significantly in quality, with API gravities generally ranging from 22° (heavy) to 35° (medium - light).[1] Over 70% of national oil reserves are below 28° API[2] and the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted in its 2012 report on Iraq that future production is likely to include a larger share of heavier crudes.[3] However some of the crudes produced at the Taq Taq field in the norther semi-autonomous Kurdistan region are as light as 48° API, dubbed by Reuters as "champagne crude".[4]

Reuters reported in November 2012 that Iraq was struggling to find buyers for its 2013 oil output due to complaints from refiners in Asia, Europe and the US over high prices and variable quality.[5]

Export Blends

The main export crudes come from Rumaila and Kirkuk, the two largest active fields. The two blends used for export are the Basra Light blend, transported by tanker from the south, and the Kirkuk blend, by pipeline to the north.[6] In terms of quality, the Basra Light blend is in the middle of the market, close to the global average density of close to 32.5° API.[7]

The API gravity (how 'heavy' the oil is) and the sulphur content (how 'sour' the oil is) for each blend is shown in the table below.

Crude API Gravity Sulphur content
Basra Light 34° 2.1%[8]


Basra Medium 30° 2.6 %
Basra Heavy 22-24° 3.4%
Basra Blend* 32° 1.95%
Kirkuk 35.8°[9] n/a

Due to the large number of fields and differing grades of crude (particularly in the South), as well as the limited sea outlet and export routes, the crude blending process in Iraq can be problematic.[10]and according to the IEA, the country "has to offer discounts to compensate for the specification of the delivered oil being heavier than the contractual figures, as a result of the heavier crudes and heavy fuel oil being blended into the export stream."[11]

A former official at the OPEC Secretariat comments that Iraq lacks a proper blending system to insure a relatively stable quality of its crude oil export streams.[12] However the IEA report also notes that much of future demand for Iraqi crudes is to come from Asia, where large, modern refineries are equipped to deal with processing a range of specifications.[13]

References

  1. "Iraqi Crude Heavier Due to Fuel Blending: Traders" Iraq Energy, 1 June 2011.
  2. "Iraq oil: The crude oil quality dilemma" Gulf News, 11 November 2012.
  3. "Iraq Energy Outlook" IEA, 6 September 2012.
  4. "Kurdistan Taq Taq oil exports rise ahead of Sept deadline" Reuters, 9 October 2012.
  5. "Light crude surplus spins world oil trade compass" Reuters, 16 November 2012.
  6. "Iraq oil: The crude oil quality dilemma" Gulf News', 11 November 2012.
  7. "Iraq oil: The crude oil quality dilemma" Gulf News', 11 November 2012.
  8. "Iraqi Crude Heavier Due to Fuel Blending: Traders" Iraq Energy, 1 June 2011.
  9. "Iraqi Crude Heavier Due to Fuel Blending: Traders" Iraq Energy, 1 June 2011.
  10. "Iraq oil: The crude oil quality dilemma" Gulf News', 11 November 2012.
  11. "Iraq Energy Outlook" IEA, 9 October 2012.
  12. "Iraq oil: The crude oil quality dilemma" Gulf News', 11 November 2012.
  13. "Iraq Energy Outlook" IEA, 9 October 2012.
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