Egor Zubarev, Managing Director of LUKOIL Mid-East Limited speaks to Julian Walker about the importance of the West Qurna-2 project Iraq
You took over as MD for LUKOIL in Iraq earlier this year- how has it gone so far?
It’s worth to mentioning that in 2012- 2016 I have already been working on the West Qurna-2 as a Director of the Mishrif Full Development project. Today, four years down the line, I’m glad to return to the West Qurna-2 in a new role, and I’m grateful to LUKOIL for this opportunity. The West Qurna-2 project is one of the priority projects for our Company. I am sure that it is no less important for Iraq.
How is LUKOIL coping with the challenges brought on by COVID-19?
No doubt, the current situation is a serious challenge for the oil and gas industry. The main task of the Company in this difficult time is to ensure uninterrupted and trouble-free operation of our field.
Like everyone else, we have faced closure of the borders, restrictions on air travel, and special requirements for moving inside the country. We had to limit external contacts of our employees, and increase duration of the rotation shifts. I need to mention that we received strong support from the Ministry of Oil and other government agencies of Iraq in these circumstances. LUKOIL, in its turn, also helped Iraq by supplying medical equipment and materials to local hospitals.
What is your focus in terms of LUKOIL’s presence in Iraq?
Our major objective is to ensure economic efficiency of the West Qurna-2 project for both LUKOIL and Iraqi side.
What is the latest status of your projects in Iraq?
The West Qurna-2 is our main project in Iraq. We are currently focused on ensuring stable oil production at the field and optimising operating costs. We didn’t stop any of development projects, although their pace has slowed down due to the unexpected circumstances.
In addition to West Qurna-2, LUKOIL has another project in Iraq - Block 10. The results of exploration works on Block 10 will be presented to the Iraqi side in the near future.
How has the OPEC+ agreement influenced West Qurna-2 development?
Iraq is one of the main parties of OPEC+ agreement, and LUKOIL, like all other international oil companies, strictly follows the instructions received from the Iraqi Ministry of Oil. Production at the field is currently limited.
Is LUKOIL looking to bring in greater digitalisation?
Digitalisation today is not an option but a must-have for any company that wants to be competitive on the market. We have been actively working in this direction over the past years and in fact, now we can say that on the West Qurna-2 the concept of Smart Field has already been implemented.
Are you satisfied with the interaction between LUKOIL and Iraqi authorities?
Yes, we are satisfied with the interaction between LUKOIL and Iraqi authorities. Our relationship has been strengthened even more with the appointment of Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismail as the new Minister of Oil. We constantly communicate, including through online channels.
What is your outlook for Iraq’s energy sector?
From my point of view, the major prospects for development of Iraqi energy sector are aligned today with more efficient utilisation of associated petroleum gas, oil and gas refining and electricity generation. The objectives of first round of tenders – increase of production on the major Iraqi fields – have been achieved. Now it is time to focus on the most efficient use of available production capacity.
This interview first appeared in the November issue of Pipeline Magazine.