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Major oil pipeline breaks in Iran, spilling crude and causing fires: state media

Highlights

Marun-Isfahan pipeline has 550,000 b/d capacity

Officials still assessing extent of damage

Pipeline feeds Isfahan tank farm, refineries in Tehran, Tabriz

Tehran — A major crude oil pipeline in southwest Iran has burst, setting fire to surrounding farms and lands, state news agency IRNA reported Dec. 13.

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The 30-inch Marun-Isfahan pipeline, with six pump stations, carries about 550,000 b/d of crude from the onshore Marun fields 430 km through the Zagros Mountains to oil refineries, local media reported. According to IRNA, 375,000 b/d go to storage tanks in Isfahan, while the remaining 175,000 b/d are sent to the Tehran and Tabriz oil refineries.

The reports did not say how the damage would impact refinery operations.

"The exact point in the broken pipeline is Gandomkar pump station in the town of Ardel... and this break is to an extent which oil has been flowing on the ground," Iraj Kiani, a local crisis management official, was quoted as saying.

He added that the magnitude of damage and the extent of the pipeline break was still unknown.

"At the moment, Isfahan region's Oil Pipelines and Telecommunication Company is carrying out control and repair operations, but it can't be said yet when the repair will be done and the problem is removed," Kiani said.

Iran's oil infrastructure has deteriorated over the past several years due to US sanctions, and the Marun-Isfashan pipeline has a record of ruptures in the past.

There was no official indication that the incident was a sabotage. However, in the past "oil thieves" have succeeded to steal thousands of liters of oil from the pipeline. In August, local security forces caught three men while taking oil via a 3-inch valve from the pipe.

In June, 67 km of the aging pipeline was replaced and some essential equipment in seven oil transfer stations was upgraded and repaired.

Three oil tanker trucks have been sent to the rupture point. Ardel is located in the western Kohgiluyreh and Boyr-Ahmad province, between the oil-rich region of Khuzestan and the industrial province of Isfahan in center of Iran.

Residents in the nearby village of Gandomkar evacuated due to the fire and a 15-km running oil stretch, IRNA reported.

Aid crews have helped prevent the fire from entering another town, Sarkhoun, whose suburban farms have been ablaze, Emdad Shahbazi, a local official, was quoted as saying by IRNA.

"Repair and fixing the broken pipeline will take a few days," Shahbazi said.