The journey from Siberia to Iraq | 333 (March 2017)

2017-04-15 13:58 Views 945

For the first time in history a train rig manufactured in the Siberian cities of Usinsk, Nizhevartovsk and Norvyy Urengoy will be used at an Iraqi oilfield.

Andrey Kuzmenko, Asset Operations Manager, Region 1

Drill, Baby, Drill

In 2015 LUKOIL made a decision to drill 25 exploratory wells at its West Qurna-2 project in Southern Iraq. A company called ERIELL, which had successfully worked with LUKOIL in Uzbekistan for the previous 10 years, won the tender to be named contractor for the work in question.

However mobilization for the project had to be almost immediately postponed due to the oil price crash. While in 2014 global oil prices averaged $100 a barrel, by September 2015 that figure had dropped to $49. By December 2015 prices reached their trough of $36. Hence investments into the project were frozen.

But by the second half of 2016 the situation had changed again. Oil prices were back at around $50 a barrel. At the same time, the average daily production rates of West Qurna-2’s oil wells began to gradually decline and it became obvious that we had to drill new ones to maintain total daily production at 400 thousand barrels.

The Long Road East

So-called “train rigs” specially designed for multiple well platforms will be utilized at West Qurna-2. The rigs are unique in their ability to quickly (within a few hours) be moved from one drill site to another, allowing for a faster well construction cycle. These rigs are fairly common in Western Siberia, but this will be the first time they’ll be used on the territory of Iraq.

Three have already been delivered to West Qurna-2 (two from Western Siberia and one from the Republic of Komi, in European Russia’s Northeast). Their journey spanned an entire three months: first they travelled 4,000 kilometers by railroad from Siberia to the Baltic port of Riga, Latvia (2,500 kilometers from Komi), and then another 14,000 kilometers by ship to the Gulf.

But complicated logistics are not the only challenge facing LUKOIL’s contractor. ERIELL will be dealing with an entire plethora of new experiences in Iraq, from the geology of the area to interacting with the local population living on the contract territory.

The Technology of Success


  • Standardize and implement all well drilling according to three profile types depending on the well’s projected displacement
  • Develop an alternative well construction that will allow us to drill long-reach wells (including horizontal ones) more safely
  • Develop and implement a procedure for dealing with drill fluid loss at various formations
  • Implement a procedure for drilling through the Tanuma formation, one of the most dangerous sections underground that requires drilling at a big angle (over 40 degrees)
  • Recommend drill types with the best commercial indicators
  • Mandate the use of rotary-controlled systems for wells drilled at a large angle with high levels of displacement, which will allow us to reduce drill times by 20-30%

The journey from Siberia to Iraq

LUKOIL has also accumulated considerable experience working with the local population at West Qurna-2. When the company first arrived in Iraq, successful negotiations with local sheikhs were critical to launching demining and, eventually, drilling operations on the contract territory.

Over that time we’re created an efficient system of working with the local population which includes contributing to socially significant projects, creating jobs and choosing contractors.

We’re already got over 100 people working on the project to drill the next 25 wells; 40% of them live on the contract territory or in nearby towns. They include both specialists that were ecommended by Iraq’s South Oil Company and workers from local subcontractors that supply ERIELL with drill fluid, drinking water, fuel, heavy machinery and other products.

We expect the final approval of West Qurna-2’s development plan in 2017 that will allow LUKOIL to drill on-site. But in Iraq they’re already saying that ERIELL’s arrival is a sign of good times to come for the residents of the contract territory, and 2012 LUKOIL’s employees as well.

Grigory Maltsev Head of Drilling, LUKOIL Mid East

“LUKOIL has accumulated enormous experience in drilling exploratory wells in Iraq over the last five years. We’ve combined this knowledge of how to solve most problems that occur – attained through trial and error – into a document called the Drilling Operating Manual (between ourselves we refer to it as “dom,” the Russian word for “home”). In the process we’ve updated or, in a sense, developed a new project for drilling at West Qurna-2’s Mishrif reservoir. We hope the new contractor will carefully follow the project’s parameters, which will allow him to drill wells quickly and safely.”

The journey from Siberia to IraqERIELL

ERIELL was f o u n d e d i n 2 0 0 4 a n d initially worked in Uzbekistan and Russia. Over time the company expanded its geography through successful projects in Turkmenistan, Bulgaria and Bangladesh. ERIELL has over 70 drill units, handling equipment, special transportation and other equipment on balance.

The company has realized several unprecedented projects, including drilling the first well in Western Siberia that reached the Achimov deposits (located over 1 kilometer underground) at the Urengoy gas-condensate field. It also drilled the first well in Russia that allowed for gas production from Turonian-age deposits at the Yuzhno-Russky field.

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