Building Relationships With a Marginalized Community in Iraq

Topics: Social responsibility/sustainability
Source: Getty Images.

A consortium of international and national Iraqi oil and gas companies took operatorship of the Qarmat Ali water-treatment plant, which is critical for oil production, in southern Iraq in 2013. Because of community protests, operations shut down for 6 months as the consortium strived to find the best way to work with the community. This paper explores how the consortium achieved success through engagement and by responding to community expectations for social investment while addressing the social effects of operations.


The Rumaila oil field in southern Iraq southwest of Basra is the country’s largest producing oil field, accounting for more than 40% of Iraq’s budget revenues. Since 2009, Iraq’s state-owned South Oil Company has engaged an international consortium of oil and gas companies together with the State Oil Marketing Organization of Iraq through a technical service contract to operate and modernize the oil field.

For the Rumaila oil field to continue producing 1.4 million BOPD, the consortium needs to inject more than 2 million BWPD by 2025. In 2013, the consortium began the refurbishment and expansion of the Qarmat Ali industrial water-treatment plant, a critical facility for injecting industrial water into the Rumaila oil field and thereby maintaining production.

From the start, a historically marginalized adjacent community, accustomed to using force to raise concerns, continued to use force to react to construction work at Qarmat Ali. Construction was interrupted frequently by stand-downs, gunfire, rock throwing, violence, and intimidation. After months of strained community relations, construction was shut down for 6 months. With government representatives lacking community support and local security forces providing inadequate protection, management considered abandoning refurbishment and expansion work.

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper SPE 183110, “To the Edge and Back: Building Relationships With a Marginalized Community in Iraq,” by Ilya Bourtman, BP; Hassan Al-Mudhaffar, Christopher Boyd, and Brendhan Skerritt, Rumaila Operating Organization; and Nicholas Abrahams, SPE, Social Risk Strategy, prepared for the 2016 Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, Abu Dhabi, 7–10 November. The paper has not been peer reviewed.
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Building Relationships With a Marginalized Community in Iraq

01 August 2017

Volume: 69 | Issue: 8