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Aerial view of operating base in desert.

Rumaila Oilfield Operating Base, Iraq

By mobilising an international team and managing construction, we enabled a major operating base to be built 30% faster and at substantially less cost than conventional procurement routes would have allowed.

With a strong track record in post-conflict Iraq, we’d worked with the region’s principal contractors. We drew on that experience to tender and award the work to local firms and manage construction.

Accounting for 80% of government revenue, oil production is pivotal to Iraq’s economic and social recovery. In late 2009, the Iraqi government appointed oil giant BP to manage the Rumaila field – the second largest in the world – setting the target of a 10% production increase by the end of 2010. To achieve that, BP had to mobilise its top flight production engineers.

Creating a self-contained town

Initially operating out of the military base at Basrah Airport, BP appointed Mott MacDonald to deliver accommodation and offices for 300 people in April 2010. The Rumaila field is 70km from Basrah, so the base had to be wholly self-sufficient. In addition to homes, offices, kitchens and dining rooms, the complex required a mosque, shops, a clinic and sports facilities, power generation, water and sewage treatment plants, garages and petrol stations. Accommodation was designed in clusters – mini-villages – each with its own local facilities.

BP’s bustling community has a footprint of exactly one square kilometre, protected by a perimeter security cordon. Beyond providing a safe and functional environment, BP wanted to provide its staff with a strong sense of local identity. It also set out to raise local construction standards.

30% time saving

Accommodation for the first 60 staff was required only six weeks after contract award. A big international contractor would normally undertake a project of this kind, but mobilisation would be slow. And in Iraq’s political climate, bringing in an outside firm could have created tensions with the local population. Responding to the fast-track programme, within hours of contract award we mobilised an international design team, with staff in Iraq supported by colleagues in the UAE, India and Europe. We accelerated the programme by managing construction and carrying out design, effectively operating as the main contractor.

With a strong track record in post-conflict Iraq, we had worked with the region’s principal contractors. We drew on that experience to tender and award the work to local firms and manage construction. The project was divided into these packages:

  • Clearing mines and unexploded ordnance from the site in advance of construction
  • Construction of the perimeter defences
  • Infrastructure
  • Buildings

For speed of erection, buildings were constructed using prefabricated, modular components. The project ran into unexpected trouble when the buildings subcontractor became insolvent. With BP’s support, we stepped in with stop-gap funding to keep the contractor in business and took charge of procurement.

Using local firms to make a quick start enabled hand-over of the first phase within BP’s allotted six weeks. Overall, the procurement strategy enabled the project to be completed four months earlier than would have been possible using an international contractor – a 30% time saving – while using local resources delivered a major cost saving.

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