By NVONews.com Middle East Correspondent,
Riyadh: Following Iran’s threat to block the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation of US and European sanctions Saudi Arabia has reopened an oil pipeline built by Iraq in 1980s to bypass Persian Gulf shipping lanes.
The pipeline will help Saudi Arabia export more of its crude from Red Sea terminals in case of any Iranian bid to block the narrow Strait of Hormuz.
The pipeline in Saudi Arabia was laid across the kingdom in the 1980s by the then Saddam regime after oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf by both sides during the eight year long Iran-Iraq war. But it has not carried Iraqi crude since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.
The pipeline was confiscated by Saudi Arabia in 2001 as compensation for debts owed by Iraq and has used it to transport gas from east of the country to power plants on the western coast in the last few years.
It needs to be recalled that Iran had in January last threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz if US and Europe imposed sanctions that target its oil revenues in an attempt to stop its nuclear programme. The European Union ban on Iranian oil will start from July 1. Iran had issued this threat several times in the past, even during the Iran-Iraq war.
Reports suggest that Saudi Arabia has reconditioned the pipeline to carry crude. Sources said that the testing started because Saudi Arabia wanted to secure alternative routes to export oil.
As is known more than a third of the world’s seaborne oil exports pass through the Strait of Hormuz from the oilfields of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Saudi Arabia started increasing its capacity to pump oil from fields from the east across the country to the Red Sea in 1992. The smaller pipeline was converted to carry natural gas from the east to booming industrial centers in the west a few years ago, slashing Saudi’s east-west crude transport capacity to Red Sea ports.
Like Saudi Arabia the United Arab Emirates has also built its own Hormuz bypass pipeline, which is due to start exporting from the Gulf of Oman next month.
Saudi Arabia took the step as international pressure grows on Iran to curb a nuclear programme that Western powers say has a covert military purpose.