Discovered in 1953, the supergiant oilfield of Rumaila remains one of Iraq’s most significant natural assets – but decades of conflict left their mark on the oil-rich southern region of the country, where Basra – Iraq’s second largest city – is also located.
To help rebuild Basra and the rest of Iraq after the war years, part of the answer lay in reviving and radically increasing production from the country’s main oilfields. In January 2008, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced the first Iraqi Petroleum Licensing Round.
The bid round resulted in just one licence being awarded – to BP and its partner PetroChina. The partners teamed up with Iraq’s South Oil Company (SOC) and State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) to breathe new life into the Rumaila field, 50 kilometres (30 miles) to the west of Basra.
In November 2009, the partners signed a 20-year technical services contract (extended last year until 2034) and the Rumaila Operating Organization (ROO) was created in mid-2010 to deliver upon that contract. The gradual transformation of the field began and, five years on, the multinational team is marking the milestone.
Since 2010, oil production has increased by more than one third. That means over 2.2 billion barrels have been produced during the five-year period – currently at an average rate of 1.35 million barrels of oil every day.
Map source: Wood Mackenzie
Oil production at Rumaila has generated some $200 billion for the state over the past five years. Rumaila currently produces around a third of Iraq’s oil.
Beyond the nation’s finances, well over $3 billion and more than 350 contracts have also been awarded to Iraqi suppliers. In 2014, the total value of contracts awarded to Iraqi companies was $837 million - up 35% on the previous year.
Iraqi nationals make up 93% of Rumaila’s workforce; they number more than 6,800 employees, mostly seconded from SOC. However, the team at the oilfield is multinational, as Rumaila general manager, Basim Jaleel Mohammed, explains:
"Rumaila's success is largely thanks to the commitment, determination and hard work of everybody involved with the operation: the 6,800 Iraqi staff and our international colleagues from around the world working as one team to deliver the revenues that our country so very much needs."
The Basra region, including Rumaila, was littered with unexploded land mines and other remnants of the Iraqi wars. An area of almost 115 million square metres, equivalent to more than 16,000 football pitches, has been cleared of unexploded ordnance since the task began in 2009. This represents a world-class record in the industry.
As of mid-2015, some 200 new wells have been drilled at the oil field and 144 electrical submersible pumps installed to boost production. All 14 degassing station facilities are also under renovation, repair or refurbishment to make sure they operate safely, reliably and efficiently. Across the oilfield, the Rumaila workforce now operates in an environment with international standards of health and safety.
Deputy general manager, BP’s Marc Hornbrook, adds: “Rumaila is a tangible example of how international oil companies can support state-owned operations by working collaboratively.
"With current production levels averaging around 1.35 million barrels a day – from just below a million five years ago – this is evidence that the partnership is working and continues to operate in service to the Iraqi people.”