Samar Rassam-Whitticombe, nina-iraq.com columnist
Oil and Gas Insights
By Samar Rassam-Whitticombe, CEO of Somer Industrial Projects (SIP),
I was fortunate to be able to attend all three of Nina’s launches – in London, Sweden and the final one in June which was held in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan. I returned to London from Erbil on the 11th June, just around the time when all the trouble started in Mosul. It was very shocking and unexpected and at a time when Iraq was really starting to progress, both in terms of infrastructure and many other sectors. Now that a new President and a new Speaker of Parliament and a new Prime Minister have been elected it is hoped that things will take a turn for the better.
I feel that the only way Iraq can live up to its great potential is if everyone lives together in peace and harmony. This is what most Iraqis want. We have a wealth of talent and the vast majority of us want this to be focused on education and the country’s economic development.
Now, back to my particular area of expertise…. As many will have seen in the news the Baiji Refinery has been under attack. It is the largest refinery in Iraq and has been used mainly for the provision of petrol and petroleum products for domestic use. The power plant is equally important, as Iraq still regularly experiences acute shortages of electricity. The good news is that the employees have been safely evacuated.
Baiji Refinery belongs to the Iraqi Ministry of Oil (MOO). There are emergency meetings taking place currently to ensure work will resume at full capacity again as quickly as possible. The facility was shutdown overnight, but with this kind of united effort I am sure it won’t be long before the process units are back online and productivity is restored.
What is vital at this point in time is to maintain the high calibre training in country. This can only be done with the help of international companies. Once they are adequately trained, Iraqi engineers and technicians will be able to resume operations with minimum support. One important caveat though, and this comes from my heart – It is hoped that the companies that come to help look at Iraq as a civilised country and not as a country with natural resources to be plundered!
Early on in my career I worked at the Ministry of Oil and I am proud to say that though Iraq has a history of war and violence, the Iraqi people have remained loyal and patriotic through troubled times. Despite everything I am optimistic. As, even though Iraq is going through another time of trouble, ‘business as usual’ is still happening. For example, I have been speaking with ex-colleagues from Iraq – and they have been visiting international oil and gas companies in the north of the UK. There are also meetings and negotiations with SCOP, a representative from the Zubair Oil Field, a pipeline company, a group from the South Oil Company (SOC) and discussions concerning the Karbalaa Refinery.
On another and equally positive note, I am deeply involved in the ‘Women In Business’ organisation and am delighted to report that there is a growth in female representation within the engineering disciplines, finance, legal and contracting. For example, the project manager of the Karbalaa Refinery is an Iraqi woman – also not forgetting Ms Nihad Mousa who is the Director General of State Company for Oil Projects (SCOP). You may recall, I referred to this in my previous article. She is the first Iraqi woman to hold the position of Director General within any of the Iraqi Oil Ministry’s companies.
I know that the news coming out of Iraq is far from good. However, history tells us that the Iraqi people will keep on working and there will be more projects in the future. My work centres on helping suppliers become registered and pre-qualified with both the Ministry of Oil (MOO) and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). As explained above, this is important in order to maintain overall stability. Training and education need a collaborative environment in which to thrive. Indeed, Iraq’s lucrative petroleum industry will bring the most value if it continues to attract investments from the sustainability sector. This type of investment brings with it a ‘best practice’ approach, which supports overall civil society and economic growth.
Iraqis are looking for good international companies to bring opportunities from which they can both benefit. Of course there are risks involved, but Iraqis remain positive and forward thinking and even the darkest of times can bring opportunities. One thing is clear, a prosperous Iraq is important on a global stage, not just for the Iraqi people themselves.
I believe that every cloud has a silver lining and that there is a great future for Iraq. We have come a long way and we have to keep going forward.