March 24 —
THE OIL FIELDS: Fighting around seven burning oil wells in the
Rumeila South oil field in southern Iraq has driven out some
civilian firefighters, an official said Monday. U.S.-led forces had
previously thought the field's facilities were secure. "It's not
nearly as safe as they said it was," said Brian Krause, vice
president and senior blowout specialist for Houston-based Boots and
Coots. "We're kind of sitting ducks out there."
U.S. Marines declared the field unsafe for journalists to visit
Monday, and canceled plans for a media tour. "Coalition forces
consider it to be secured. That doesn't mean that there's not still
hostile fire going on in the region in small pockets of resistance,"
said U.S. military spokeswoman Maj. Randi Steffy.
However, Kuwaiti firefighters working 1.2 miles inside Iraq put
out the first fire quenched so far at a booby-trapped Iraqi oil
well. Kuwait's senior firefighter, Aisa Bouyabes, said he believes
his team and others can douse the six remaining fires in the Rumeila
South field within two weeks.
Allied forces have made a priority of securing Iraqi oil
installations to prevent their possible sabotage by Iraqis. Bouyabes
said he found electrical wires at several damaged well heads that
were the same as the wires Iraqi troops used to blow up Kuwait wells
IRAQI EXPORTS: The pipeline from Iraq's northern oil field of
Kirkuk continues to pump crude, but at a reduced rate, to Turkey's
Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, market sources said Monday. Sources
said crude is flowing to Ceyhan at a daily rate of 200,000-300,000
barrels, down from 800,000-900,000 barrels before fighting
Oil exports from the Iraqi Gulf port of Mina al-Bakr were halted
earlier, following the withdrawal of all U.N. staff from Iraq on
March 18. Iraq exported about 2 million barrels a day in total
THE MARKET: Crude prices surged Monday on market fears that the
war might take longer than some had anticipated, and because of a
disruption of supplies from Nigeria caused by unrest. May contracts
of North Sea Brent, Europe's benchmark crude, jumped $1.47 a barrel
to $25.82 in late trading in London. Contracts of U.S. light, sweet
crude for May delivery were trading $1.29 higher at $28.20 a barrel
in New York.
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