A combination of nightmarish bureaucracy, difficult logistics and local disputes is challenging foreign oil companies’ ability to meet ambitious schedules in Iraq, MEES learns. A 175,000 b/d phase 1 of the Shell-led Majnoun field development will be the first of four major upstream projects due to start-up this year and its fate should prove to be a litmus test for the others.

Phase-1 Majnoun was to have started up end-2012, but delays over the construction of the dedicated pipeline pushed commissioning back to mid-2013. Iraqi oil minister, ‘Abd al-Karim Laibi recently announced a 1 May start-up for Majnoun. Certainly the field facilities are ready and, MEES soundings point to the pipeline to the Zubair tank farm being ready. But there are question marks as to whether Iraq’s export infrastructure can take much more oil. Two 850,000 b/d Single Point Mooring (SPM) buoys were brought into service early last year. Iraq managed to export in peak months of July and August 2012 a good 500,000 b/d above 2011’s average of 1.71mn b/d from the south. (CONTINUED - 808 WORDS)