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Interview with Zaid Elyaseri, Iraq Country Manager, BP Iraq

The CWC Group’s Director, Nawar Abdulhadi interviews Mr Zaid Elyaseri, Iraq Country Manager, BP Iraq ahead of the 11th edition of the Iraq Petroleum Conference in May. Mr Elyaseri shares with us his experience working in the Rumaila oilfield, how BP is optimising and innovating in the current market and his outlook for the future of the industry in the country. 


Nawar Abdulhadi: Why is Iraq such an important market for the Oil & Gas industry?

Zaid Elyaseri: As well as being the fourth largest oil-producing country in the world, Iraq’s reservoirs harbours approximately 145 billion of oil reserves, so the country today is clearly an important market for the oil and gas industry and how the world meets its energy needs.

Moreover, with OPEC’s recent decision to curtail oil production supply, there is now clearly an emphasis on extracting oil that delivers values for money for both national governments and IOCs.

In the case of the Rumaila oilfield – which accounts for over a third of Iraq’s total oil production – the lifting cost per barrel is relatively low, making Rumaila’s oil production among the country and the world’s most competitive oilfields. So, despite its many challenges and because of this access to prolific and low-cost oil-production, Iraq is likely to remain a key player in the international oil market.


Nawar Abdulhadi: How does the Government of Iraq and the oil and gas industry work together to drive innovation?

Zaid Elyaseri: Innovation manifests itself in different ways. And in times of austerity the industry in Iraq has had to learn to work smarter.

In the face of a deep operational budget cut, at Rumaila we’ve had to reassess the way we work across the operation. We’ve had to look at where we could optimize processes – for example we now take a lot less time to drill a new well, to put on production and to complete a workover. Innovation at Rumaila has been about doing the same job better, in less time and for less money. I’d add that in many ways, the greatest innovations take place out on the field: the daily jobs that maintain and maximise production in what is largely a brownfield operation.

More broadly, we want to see a thriving local Iraqi market that supports our industry, so that Rumaila can expand its local contractors base (currently 40%), instead of having to turn to international firms. This means paying real attention to supporting local companies to take major steps in building their skill levels.


Nawar Abdulhadi: As an industry expert and BP Country Manager for Iraq, how would you summarize your experience working in Iraq?

Zaid Elyaseri: The joint venture between BP, SOC and PetroChina was a new way of operating for each partner; of course, it has been a challenging journey for all of us, not least exacerbated by the fall in oil price, but Rumaila has increased production by over a third (above base decline) since the establishment of the Rumaila Operating Organisation in 2010.

Personally speaking, it has been a rewarding seven years. We are working with our partners to overcome challenges – from logistical and structural difficulties (which have significantly improved in South Iraq in recent years) to developing a workforce comprised of different cultures that has been able to pull together and work as one team to deliver for Iraq. Yes, there are always challenges, which can make long-term planning difficult, but this is not unique to Iraq.

As an Iraqi, being able to work to help make Rumaila a success – Iraq’s most valuable economic asset – is something that gives me great pride. 


Nawar Abdulhadi: What is the role of BP in enhancing projects performance and research in Iraq?

Zaid Elyaseri: BP is in Iraq for precisely this reason: to enhance the performance of its contracted oil operations. At Rumaila, successfully increasing oil production has been achieved through introducing new technologies, renovating the field and by deploying modern engineering solutions.

Fundamentally, BP is here to improve Rumaila – both now and for the long-term – and that also means transferring our knowledge of managing super-giant oilfields to the next generation of Iraqi industry leaders, so that they can continue to deliver for Iraq.

Finally, I’d reiterate the need to view performance in terms of how efficient an operation functions. Rumaila managed to increase production in 2016 to 1.411 million barrels per day, despite a significant cut in budget. How did we do this? By building on investment made in previous years, by reshaping the business and by looking how we could ‘do more with less’ – a mantra now prevalent across BP operations across the world.


Nawar Abdulhadi: What is your main interest at the Iraq Petroleum Conference?

Zaid Elyaseri: The themes discussed are issues which resonate with everybody in the industry. My view is that all businesses thrive by building strong relationships and partnerships, so it is always beneficial to meet with counterparts who work in different parts of Iraq. Conferences such as the Iraq Petroleum are an opportunity to listen, reflect and engage with people who want to make our sector a success.


Nawar Abdulhadi: What is the outlook for Iraq as a global player in Oil & Gas?

Zaid Elyaseri: The outlook is very positive. The country has increased production by overall a million barrels per day in little over two years – a phenomenal increase.

Clearly, OPEC will have a large say in the rate of growth in the coming years, but Iraqi oil production is well-placed to continue to reap the benefits from the investment made between 2010-2015 and increase its impact on the global stage, and arguably its share of the global market.


Zaid Elyaseri will be speaking at Iraq Petroleum on 23rd May 2017 during Session 2: Iraq’s Oil & Gas Operators: the Value of Partnerships in Developing Energy for Iraq’s Future Generations.



About Mr Zaid Elyaseri

Zaid Elyaseri is Country Manager for BP Iraq responsible for working with key government and energy officials in Iraq. Prior to this role, Zaid was involved in starting the Rumaila business and was primarily responsible for cost recovery. He has been with BP for eight years and has worked in Europe and Middle East. Prior to BP, Zaid worked for KPMG UK with a focus on the Middle East. He completed several finance roles with clients from oil and gas and financial services.

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