Blast halts Iranian gas flows to Turkey

By bne IntelliNews October 9, 2012

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A pipeline blast halted gas flows from Iran to Turkey on October 8. The incident is just the latest in an accelerating series of attacks on oil and gas infrastructure feeding Turkey, which raises questions over the country's push for an increasingly strategic role in international transit routes.

The explosion on the mainline carrying Iranian gas to Turkey occurred in the area of Dogubayazit, a town in Agri province near the Iranian border, Turkish energy officials told Reuters. They said damage assessment work had begun, but that it was not immediately clear when the gas flow will resume or what caused the blast.

The Dogan news agency submitted an unconfirmed report that the pipeline was sabotaged by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and that the attack created a huge crater 50m wide and 3m deep. The PKK has claimed responsibility for repeated attacks on pipelines in Turkey in its 28-year-old armed campaign against the Turkish state which has claimed more than 40,000 lives.

Attacks attributed to the outlawed organization have halted flows on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline carrying crude oil from Iraq to Turkey several times in recent months. Last week, Turkish officials blamed a halt to Azeri gas flows into the country on a blast on the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline - the second such incident on the route this year.

Set in a rough neighborhood that sees the country battling the PKK inside and outside its borders, as well as ill-defined threats from across the border in both Iraq and now Syria, attacks on oil and gas pipelines feeding into Turkey are becoming ever more common.

The accelerating series of events is likely to raise questions not only in regional capitals such as Baku and Ankara, but also Brussels. Turkey's planned $7bn TANAP pipeline is now set to play a vital role in EU energy security by carrying 16bn cubic metres per year from the second phase of the giant Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan towards Central Europe.

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