Production at top Iraq oil field starts to slump
Baghdad, March 5, 2011
Production at Iraq's supergiant Rumaila oilfield, developed by BP and China's CNPC, has fallen from peaks hit in December and early January, official figures showed.
The field has a global profile with its more than a million barrels per day (bpd) output almost half of the Opec member's production, said a report in our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.
BP said in January production had increased by more than 10 per cent above the 1.066 million bpd baseline rate agreed on in December 2009. But output has ebbed and flowed since.
It has dropped as much as 280,000 barrels in a single day - or more than 10 per cent of Iraq's total daily average output - from the 1.29 million bpd reached on January 11, according to state-run South Oil Company documents.
Several wells were shut down in Rumaila last month, when output was slowing, due to back pressure at the wells, the official documents showed.
On most days, production was above 1.1726 million bpd but the wide fluctuations could signal the problems BP and CNPC face keeping up higher production levels at Rumaila.
Rumaila has 17 billion barrels in estimated crude reserves.
'BP is facing a real challenge in Rumaila. They hit a high production level so fast, but did they know output could slump faster?' said an official with South Oil Company.
In a possible indicator of Iraq's muted expectations for the rest of the year, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Hussain Al Shahristani said in February that Iraq's 2011 average output would reach 2.75 million bpd. That was only 50,000 higher than the actual figure of 2.7 million announced by the oil ministry in January.
Production at Rumaila reached 1.27 million bpd on December 26, compared to baseline production of 1.066 million bpd agreed in December 2009, a South Oil Company document showed. On January 11, it hit 1.29 million bpd.
But in the second half of January production slumped, fluctuating between 1.178 million and 1.242 million bpd and eventually falling back to 1.189 million bpd at the end of the month.
In February, production ranged between 1.221 million bpd on February 22 at the high end and 1.009 million bpd on February 27.
The BP-led consortium is drilling new wells, overhauling and connecting existing ones and installing electric submersible pumps to boost production and overcome the natural decline of the Rumaila field - estimated at around 15 per cent per year.
Oil companies are grappling with declining pressure in some of Iraq's oldest producing oilfields, such as Rumaila and West Qurna, the latter being developed by ExxonMobil. – TradeArabia News Service