INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Tfiz01: Fuel Situation in Southern Iraq

Published: Sun 4 May 2003 12:37 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 KUWAIT 001825
SIPDIS
STATE ALSO PASS USAID/W
STATE PLEASE REPEAT TO IO COLLECTIVE
STATE FOR PRM/ANE, EUR/SE, NEA/NGA, IO AND SA/PAB
NSC FOR EABRAMS, SMCCORMICK, STAHIR-KHELI, JDWORKEN
USAID FOR USAID/A, DCHA/AA, DCHA/RMT, DCHA/FFP
USAID FOR DCHA/OTI, DCHA/DG, ANE/AA
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA:WGARVELINK, BMCCONNELL, KFARNSWORTH
USAID FOR ANE/AA:WCHAMBERLIN
ROME FOR FODAG
GENEVA FOR RMA AND NKYLOH
DOHA FOR MSHIRLEY
ANKARA FOR AMB WRPEARSON, ECON AJSIROTIC AND DART
AMMAN FOR USAID AND DART
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF IZ WFP
SUBJECT: TFIZ01: FUEL SITUATION IN SOUTHERN IRAQ
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SUMMARY
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1. Concern about the supply of cooking gas and related
fuels for the southern region of Iraq continues. The Basrah
refinery, the reported primary source of LPG cooking gas for
most of the south, is damaged and not expected to be on line
for at least a month. An effort to provide bottled gas from
Kuwait to Umm Qasr, while successful, given the logistical
challenges, demonstrated the unfeasibility of launching a
wider effort for the rest of the southern region.
Meanwhile, reports from several governorates in the south
describe dwindling domestic supplies from a couple weeks to
three or four days to none.
2. There are increasing reports of the removal of urban
tree stocks in several locations as well as reports of
increased incidence of burns attributed to people attempting
to cook with firewood and other fuels with which they are
unfamiliar. Planning efforts to acquire LPG from outside
the area are hindered by a concurrent lack of appropriate
trucking to move the gas. End Summary.
---------------------------------
BACKGROUND TO COOKING GAS IN IRAQ
---------------------------------
3. In Iraqi homes, the primary fuel for cooking in most
Iraqi homes is with Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), which
consists of 75 percent propane and 25 percent butane (Note:
this combination is reportedly used because it is more
stable than pure propane in the extreme heat of Iraq. End
note.) Before the war, families regularly traded-in empty
bottles for filled bottles at their local gas stations,
which are located throughout most communities. The average
bottle contained 12 kilograms (KGs) of LPG lasting
approximately 2 months. These stations were supplied by
trucks that regularly brought newly filled bottles, taking
the empties back to bottling plants for
refilling/recharging. An undetermined number of recharging
plants are located around the region; one of the larger
plants is reported to be in Al Kut in Wasit Governorate.
LPG for the south was supplied to these recharging plants by
truck from the refinery in Basrah. Further north, the LPG
was reportedly supplied from Baghdad, reaching Baghdad by
pipeline from the Al Baigi refinery in the north.
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LACK OF COOKING GAS
-------------------
4. In its earliest meetings with the newly-formed town
council in Umm Qasr in mid April, the DART first heard of
the need for cooking gas. Around the same time, the first
reports came in from International Medical Corps (IMC), from
its assessments of health care centers in the southern
region, of growing incidences of burns caused by people
attempting to cook over open fires -- a practice with which
most urban Iraqis are unfamiliar. The Umm Qasr city council
members complained that people were beginning to trim and
cut down the few trees in the city, and the evidence of this
practice is being noted with growing frequency. At the
Infrastructure meeting in the Humanitarian Operations Center
(HOC) on 28 April, a returning assessment team reported that
people were cutting down the trees in the medians on Umm
Qasr's parkways.
5. In An Nasiriyah, the Irish NGO, GOAL, described the
dwindling cooking fuel situation as "dire". On 1 May, GOAL
reported that propane supplies in An Nasiriyah were
virtually "non-existent" and that kerosene supplies are
"perilously low". GOAL also reported on 23 April that a
number of people looted a propane factory in An Nasiriyah by
breaking the pipes and manually opening the valves to fill
bottles. As a result of this looting, a lethal mixture of
sulphur and vapor remains in the tank, which could easily
explode. Another incident of looting occurred on 29 April,
when looters again manually broke open a main pipeline
valve. This time, the pressurized pipeline exploded,
killing two people and seriously burning two more.
6. Coalition forces in Al Kut reported a near-riot during
an attempt to distribute the remaining bottles at a facility
there. Save the Children reported that during their small-
scale gas bottle distribution in Umm Qasr (see below) people
drove in from as far as Basrah asking to buy gas. The DART,
in its most recent assessment report from Anbar Governorate,
noted similar problems.
-------------------------------
DONATED BOTTLED GAS FROM KUWAIT
-------------------------------
7. In response to the request from the Umm Qasr city
council, actions by the DART led to a joint effort by
Salvation Army, who procured and transported bottles of gas
donated by the Government of Kuwait to Umm Qasr, and Save
the Children, who provided organization assistance for the
bottles' distribution through public distribution system
agents in the town. In addressing the needs of the 30,000-
plus people of Umm Qasr, this distribution was highly
successful. Relying on community participation, this
distribution is one of the first distributions in the south
not marred by out-of-control crowds and looting of supplies.
However, the associated high costs (over USD 1,200 for each
of the seven trucks needed to transport the 4,300 bottles
from Kuwait) and excessive person-days required to implement
this effort (nearly two weeks of full-time organizational
work), also demonstrated its limited feasibility for broader
application in the region.
-------------------------
ASSUMED BROAD-SCALE NEEDS
-------------------------
8. A request was sent out earlier this week to Coalition
forces, NGOs, and town councils asking for current estimates
of fuel and related fuel transport needs. So far, no
responses to this request have come back. At this time, the
region's only town council known to have a unit specifically
dedicated to fuel is in An Nasiriyah. GOAL has assigned one
civil engineer fulltime to this unit. Other DART partners
have been encouraged to support the establishment of similar
units in the towns where they work.
9. A recent report by the GOAL engineer estimates the daily
need in the area of An Nasiriyah at approximately 11,000
bottles per day for a population estimated at approximately
800,000. By extension, the daily need for the four southern
governorates of Basrah, Thi Qar, Missan, and Muthana, is
estimated to be in the area of 68,000 bottles per day for a
population of five million people. Include the next six
adjoining governorates to the northwest, and this number
doubles. GOAL, in its report, states that with some minor
repairs they could get some of the damaged bottling plants
back into basic operation and if coupled with production
from existing plants and if bottles were only three-quarters
filled, An Nasiriyah facilities could possibly meet
immediate local demand. The problem, however, is lack of
gas to fill the bottles. During the 28 April Infrastructure
Meeting at the HOC, it was reported that the Basrah
Refinery's facilities for LPG are damaged and may not be
operational for another month.
--------------------------------
ACQUIRING OUTSIDE SOURCES OF LPG
--------------------------------
10. Unconfirmed reports state that Al Baigi's LPG
facilities are operable and serving the north. Previously,
LPG was piped to Baghdad where it was put in tankers and
trucked as far south as Al Kut where there is a major bottle
manufacture and charging plant. The boundary between the Al
Baigi system and the LPG supply system from Basrah is
unclear, but it is a reasonable assumption that distribution
from this northern system could alleviate a portion of the
problem. The Kuwaiti National Oil Company has indicated its
ability and willingness to provide LPG to the south. A
private contracting company also has offered to procure LPG
and bring it by barge into Umm Qasr. However, in all
instances there are problems related to trucking. The
Kuwaitis have stated that they will not allow their LPG
tankers to travel into Iraq because of their limited supply
of trucks and the instability in Iraq. The Kuwaiti National
Oil Company indicated, however, that they would allow Iraqi
trucks into Kuwait for filling, if they passed routine
Kuwaiti safety inspections. In response to this offer,
efforts were made to locate Iraqi LPG tankers. In the course
of this effort, a larger problem is the general absence of
any significant numbers of Iraqi fuel transport trucks of
any kind.
---------------------------------------
DIFFICULTIES IDENTIFYING TRUCKING STOCK
---------------------------------------
11. Determining the whereabouts and status of Iraq's fuel
trucking stock has been frustrating and confusing.
Coalition trucks are reportedly distributing diesel to gas
stations around the country, but the scope of this effort is
not currently understood. Early responses to a Request for
Information (RFI) to Coalition forces around the country
indicates that Coalition units also are looking for trucks.
No reports of identified stocks
have been received in response to the RFI.
12. GOAL located only three trucks in the whole of An
Nasiriyah, only two of which are operable (Note: GOAL
further calculated a need for at least 20, 36,000 liter
trucks to meet local demand. End Note.) A Mercy Corps
International assessment team reported from Al Kut, where
there was thought to be a large stock of gas trucks, that
all the trucks had been taken back to the central trucking
yards in Dowrah, near Baghdad, and to Al Hillah. However,
Coalition forces report that there are trucks in Al Kut and
they planned to take a representative from Salvation Army
there on 28 April, to try and find and assess the trucks.
There is no information on the outcome of that effort, but
GOAL asked for clarification on a rumor they heard of eight
tankers in route from Al Kut to Kuwait. Concurrently, an
unconfirmed, verbal report from the HOC says the truck yards
in Dowrah are empty or looted.
13. According to the United Nations Joint Logistics Center
(UNJLC), much of the national trucking stock has been
"privatized" by the drivers, repainted, and put into private
use. To further confuse things, Save the Children reports
that during their distribution, a driver with a full truck
of bottled gas showed up in Umm Qasr trying to sell the gas.
Who the driver worked for or where the gas came from is not
known.
----------
CONCLUSION
----------
14. A brief informal meeting was held on 28 April between
representatives from the UNJLC Fuel Planning Cell, the U.S.
Corps of Engineers, and the DART. When all the accumulated
bits of information were reviewed in their entirety there
was consensus that the problem may be far more serious than
some had earlier considered. All agreed that the problem,
if not quickly addressed, could have significant negative
impact on the environment, public health, and society-at-
large (e.g., exacerbating social unrest). To address the
problem, increased efforts are required on a number of
fronts including:
-- Raised prioritization for bringing LPG production
facilities in Basrah into operation;
-- A more robust effort on the part of Coalition forces to
locate and inventory remaining Iraqi national trucking
stock, with particular attention to finding remaining LPG
tankers;
-- An accelerated effort at the town council level to
determine immediate emergency fuel trucking needs and
related storage capacities, and to plan for internal
distribution; and
-- An effort to determine the viability of contracting
outside trucking (e.g., Saudi Arabia) coupled with
importation of LPG.
JONES
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