Explosion at Iraq oil field partially halts output

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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 19 people wounded, 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 SOC 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.

The SOC executive said 19 people were wounded in the blast and ensuing fire, which was not yet under control.

"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," he 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 Oil Co to help with the accident, the spokesman said.

An Iraqi oil ministry spokesman did not immediately respond to AFP requests for comment.

The Rumaila oil field is the country's biggest, with proven reserves of 17.7 billion barrels of oil.


© 2011 AFP

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