BASRA, Iraq — An explosion at Iraq’s biggest oil field on Tuesday sparked a massive fire that partially halted crude production, the state-owned South Oil Co and Britain’s BP said.
The blast, which left at least 15 people injured, occurred at a gas compressor at the Rumaila oil field, which runs along Iraq’s border with Kuwait. BP and China’s CNPC were in 2009 awarded a contract to boost production at the site.
An SOC executive said a maintenance team was changing equipment on the compressor when the explosion happened, causing the fire. A BP spokesman said the compressor was owned by the state-run South Gas Co and not by BP or its partners.
But because the Rumaila field feeds gas to the compressor, it was necessary to partially halt production, said the spokesman, without saying by how much.
Iraqi oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said the fire was finally extinguished at 7:00 pm (1600 GMT), after burning for eight hours. He said 15 people were injured in the blast and fire, while the SOC official put the toll at 19 hurt.
Jihad added that repairs had already begun on the site.
“We have shut in some of the oil production from Rumaila so we can stop the export of gas to the facility but we have not got a figure on that,” the BP spokesman told AFP in London.
The spokesman said that the Rumaila field normally produces 1.2 to 1.3 million barrels of oil per day.
He said: “We believe all our staff and contractors that work for the (Rumaila Operating Organisation) are safe and not injured.”
BP was providing support and assistance to the South Gas Co to help with the accident, the spokesman said.
The Rumaila oil field is the country’s biggest, with proven reserves of 17.7 billion barrels of oil.