-By Bader A. Al Saad Al Munaifi*

Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) has operated one of the world’s giant fields, Burgan, for more than 70 years. Bader Al Munaifi, deputy CEO for South & East Kuwait, explains how KOC is adopting new models to manage Burgan’s complexities.

Exploration and production taps into the time that has been worked on the rock over the ages. Oil is an industry of memory; it explores organic deposits within stratigraphic structures accumulated over millions of years, sheltered in folds of geological eras. It deciphers a landscape and its outcrops by erecting infrastructures that age with the fields beneath them.

Facilities integrate and conserve the measurements generated during operations, analyzing conditions over time to enhance the extraction of oil and gas. Reservoir management has become more complex; water injection floods field areas in which there are increasing water-cuts and gas volumes, which indicate advancing field maturity. National Oil Companies are wardens of their multi-decade assets’ memory. Their role is to make reservoirs and infrastructures last. Maturity is one of their distinctive features.

After more than 70 years of operations, most giant fields belonging to NOCs require a new model to manage the complexity of operations and the renewal of resources, especially in the context of the Energy Transition. NOC stakeholders are looking to find the most attractive balance of investments between traditional exploration and production, carbon reduction, and downstream ventures. Sustainability is becoming a strategic driver for KOC assets such as Burgan, up to the stage of assessing the impact of social and environmental practices on operational performance, conserving water usage, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and minimizing land disturbance. Burgan must be a model of sustainability.

The South & East Kuwait Directorate (S&EK: the asset) of KOC has long-lasting traditions and a sense of innovation that have made Burgan a school of excellence and sustainability for the E&P industry and the management of giant fields. S&EK did not allow the pandemic to question its resilience. Remaining faithful to its track record of achievements and its people’s talent, the KOC asset has forged a new way to operate that will allow Burgan to keep producing for the sake of Kuwait’s prosperity. This is how we express our fidelity to the field’s memory and our loyalty to generations to come.


KOC, and South & East Kuwait in particular, is entering an unprecedented era. From the increasing number of field parameters encompassed by production forecasts, to improvement of projects delivery, to Covid-19 protection measures for the safety of our people, and the cost efficiency measures we have implemented in our shift from a volume-driven approach to a margin-based model, which preserves our 2040 targets.

In its quest for excellence, South & East Kuwait has been fully engaged in shaping a new way to manage its hydrocarbon chain. Despite challenging working conditions, the Directorate has defined a management framework to ensure production chain continuity and synchronization of operations from reservoir to tank.

This common management framework, designed for the entire Asset Directorate and its five Groups (Field Development, EK Operations, SK Operations Group, Operations Support & Support Services), and which is based on shared key performance indicators (KPIs), is now in action to support the leadership team’s decisions. It materializes S&EK’s ambition for a state of the art integration model adapted to Burgan’s operating conditions. The Groups’ solidarity is a commitment at each step of the production chain, a condition for a cost-efficient economy of scale that sustains the Asset’s production baseline and incremental gains.

KOC’s management of the Burgan asset drew inspiration from its long-lasting field memory and the exploration & production industry’s best practices, and KOC has been keen to combine its problem-solving capabilities with hands-on experience forged by seventy years of successful operations and commitment to international standards.


South & East Kuwait is working towards three objectives as drivers to reform management of the Burgan asset: sustainability, efficiency, and solidarity. In line with KOC’s 2040 Strategy, the sustainability objective is to secure Burgan’s 1.5mn b/d production baseline, in order to maintain the field in the finest condition for future generations.

The efficiency objective is to systematically promote a cost-efficient way of managing operations, linking operational cost and production impact based on common standards across all the Groups. This is a condition for sustainability.

The solidarity objective is to ensure the continuity of the production chain not only at the Directorate level, but also at the scale of KOC, involving all the stakeholders from Exploration to Major Projects. This is a condition for efficiency.

South & East Kuwait has formalized a code of collaboration between sub-surface and surface to structure the Directorate’s mobilization efforts in three main workstreams (see Figure 1), federating the five Groups in favor of the Asset’s integration.


Chronologically, the first stream has focused on uplifting the Field Development (FD) Group’s ‘transversal processes’: Well Portfolio Management, Well Delivery, Artificial Lift, and Waterflood Management (see Figure 2). In today’s challenging context, the FD Group has a leading role in sustaining S&EK’s production baseline. The FD uplift is a prerequisite to enhance its strategic contribution to the continuity of the production chain. It restores the simplicity of the FD setup and streamlines its organization to ensure operational flexibility while enhancing stakeholder interfacing.


The second stream captures Operations’ best practices in the field, at the Gathering Centers and water handling facilities, and identifies the best practices of the future. More than fifty best practices have been mapped, portraying the collective experience of S&EK’s thousands of employees from the field, including the monitoring of wells, purging separators, and gauging oil tanks. All of them form the chain of production, materialized by the immense infrastructures of S&EK. The best practices, captured in an ‘Atlas of South & East Kuwait,’ show the creativity in action of its people to design the future of Burgan.


The third stream analyzes the gaps from the wellhead to the short-term mitigation plans through a set of shared KPIs – the Integration KPIs of Solidarity, monitored by South & East Kuwait’s leadership team within a dynamic of continuous progress. If the operating principle of solidarity remains a historical change management challenge, it is a condition for success for S&EK, especially in the crude oil chain and water cycle synchronization (see Figure 3).


Integration is an operating model, reconciling overall production with local performance through a gap-driven analysis of each step in the industrial value chain, from the reservoir to the export point. The Asset’s global production volume matters as much as the operations performed at the nodal stages, driving the continuity of the production flows.

South & East Kuwait has selected thirteen Integration KPIs of Solidarity (I-KPIs) – from the liquid gap at the wellhead to the short-term mitigation plans progress. They are Integration KPIs because they track the planned versus delivery gaps in the hydrocarbon chain, at the Groups’ interfaces. They are KPIs of Solidarity because the Directorate and its five Groups share the same metrics; they contribute to a common chain of performance.

The Asset’s sense of solidarity leverages the Groups’ accountability, measured through an Integration Dashboard, and maintained by the Planning Team. The FD Uplift and the field best practices reinstate the production chain’s continuity based on a sub-surface and surface code of collaboration, at the origin of the ‘gap tracking’ integration model, structuring the Directorate’s production management agenda. Managers and Team Leaders are involved in the calculation of the Integration KPIs of Solidarity, in order to close the gaps identified in a positive spirit of continuous progress.

The Directorate has set up an Integrated Production Committee (IPC) to monitor the Integration deployment’s progress under the sponsorship of the DCEO with his Managers and the Planning Team Leader in charge of the I-KPIs Dashboard. The IPC relies on the Water Cycle Management Committee to articulate critical decisions to synchronize the crude oil chain and the water production and injection cycle, maintaining the reservoirs pressure at its best.

South & East Kuwait has designed an approach that strengthens the link between data consistency across all production chain stakeholders, field best practices, and operations performance. It has been a recurring theme, stated at different occasions during digital meetings, bringing together Managers, Team Leaders, engineers, and people in the field for the FD Uplift Town Hall Meeting, the best practices workshops, and the South & East Kuwait Team Leaders Meeting on Integration.

S&EK’s Integration vision was shaped during the months of confinement. Integration, a model and a state of mind that increases the Asset’s resilience in strengthening the continuity and the flexibility of its value chain. It promotes the economy of scale by leveraging the solidarity between each stage of the production activities.

Integration is not a new concept, but it is probably one of the first times it has been applied at the scale of a NOC’s historical giant field, based on a holistic doctrine deployed through a sub-surface and surface code of collaboration, materializing in Burgan’s sustainability vision.

With strong resilience, the people of South & East Kuwait, active on the frontline of their Asset, have paved the path to the future by defining Burgan’s Integration model, allowing it to live up to the reputation of excellence KOC has developed for its giant field, the heart of Kuwait.

*Bader A. Al Saad Al Munaifi is the Deputy CEO for KOC’s South & East Kuwait Directorate

See MEES, 5 February for related MEES analysis.