Iraq's IDC Embarks on Drilling Projects

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The state-run Iraq Drilling Co. (IDC) is pushing ahead with several projects in the country's southern oil heartlands, as higher prices continue to spur upstream activity. IDC will soon sign a contract to drill 37 wells at the Eni-operated Zubair field and also recently signed a $160 million contract to drill 22 wells at the CNOOC-operated Buzurgan field, IDC boss Basem Abdul Karim said on Sunday. Eni awarded a $690 million contract to a Chinese-Italian consortium last month to expand a degassing station at Zubair, which could raise the field's capacity by 200,000 barrels per day (EC Jul.23'21). Separately, IDC is progressing a 20-well drilling program at the Nassiriyah field that it is carrying out with US firm Weatherford under a contract awarded last year. Abdul Karim said this would contribute to a planned increase in the state-run field's production capacity of 60,000 b/d (IOD Jul.20'20). The Iraqi oil official -- cited by official news outlets Al-Sabah and the Iraq News Agency -- said IDC had also reached a preliminary agreement with CNOOC to rehabilitate 150 wells at Burzugan, but gave no further details. IDC's drilling projects, alongside others including Exxon Mobil’s West Qurna-1 field and the state-run Majnoon field, point to a concerted push by Baghdad to boost its production capacity. Opec-plus production cuts saw Iraq's crude output fall below 3.5 million b/d last year, its lowest level since 2015 (IOD Jun.17'21). But the alliance has started to gradually increase production volumes again this year. Iraq's efforts to increase output come at a time when many foreign operators have soured on the country because of the difficult operating environment and their fast-changing investment priorities. That raises serious questions about whether Opec's No. 2 producer can build the infrastructure that it will need to expand its production capacity in line with its ambitions. Simon Martelli, London

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