BASRAH - Many new opportunities and important development projects in the southern oil fields of Iraq

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working on various projects to ramp up oil production for the newly democratic country and help improve Iraq's economy.

One important project is the al Basrah Oil Terminal, formerly known as Mina Al-Baker and now called "ABOT," and is considered to be the gateway to Iraq's prosperity.

"Right now oil is Iraq's major export. It isn't easy to increase oil exports, but the Corps has plans of raising the crude output to meet 3 million barrels per day in 2007," said Bob Tillisch, oil program manager with the Basrah Area Office of Gulf Region South District.

He said experts estimate Iraq has about 115 billion barrels of oil reserves, concentrated mainly in the south.

"The main objective of the ABOT development project is to create a strong and reliable source of income for Iraq, improve Iraqi living conditions, and creates new opportunities for employment," Tillisch said. He added that during Phase One of the refurbishment of ABOT a hydraulic bridge system was installed at Platforms A and B, and the telescopic platform bridging systems at Berths 1, 2, 3 and 4 were removed, repaired and reinstalled.

Also, the hydraulic power units, the directional control valves and other system-critical equipment were refurbished.

Tillisch explained ABOT previously operated without a functioning fire and gas protection system, and that there were no fire or gas detection sensors, or pressure alarm systems. The emergency shutdown valves were either corroded or missing, and the firewater pumps did not work effectively.

"During Phase Two, we (USACE) provided a modern fire-fighting system with both diesel and electrical fire-water pumps throughout the platform in case of fire. Also, this new system will have fire-fighting foam capabilities in order to increase its effectiveness. This replaces the previous system which was outdated," he added.

At present, there is no effective way of metering how much oil is loaded on board tanker ships. Iraq's South Oil Company has to measure the cargo tanks by hand.

Tillisch said USACE will supply modern metering devices for platforms A and B, which will ensure that the total amount of oil exported from ABOT can be measured electronically.

"The renovation includes new radio communication equipment at eight sites throughout the southern Iraq oil fields and refineries including the ABOT," Tillisch said. "This will ensure that pumping oil from the mainland to the ABOT can be done more safely and effectively by a modern communication system.

"The installation of radios, battery back-up systems and new microwave dishes will greatly increase safety to enable the South Oil Company to start and shut down in an orderly and efficient means. In case of an emergency at the ABOT, all pump stations can be shut down immediately. Such an action will increase the safety in case of fire here at the ABOT," he said
"USACE will provide an emergency shutdown system for Platforms A and B," said David Anderson, a construction representative with the Basrah Oil Office. "This will consist of an electrical control station and all associated wiring and valves. In case of an emergency, the SOC operators will have a safe and efficient means to turn off the loading to the oil tanker which is tied alongside the pier."

To provide a reliable source of lighting and power for ABOT, USACE refurbished the four diesel generators installed in 1979. The Corps is also providing life-saving equipment and life rafts for evacuation from ABOT in case of an accident.

"Remember, being on the ABOT is almost like being on a ship," Anderson said. "All SOC personnel can safely use the SOLAS (Save Our Lives at Seas) equipment, which are approved life-saving boats."

For Anderson, this $50 million project has been designed to increase the terminal's loading capacity to three million barrels of oil per day, and to enhance the reliability and safety of the terminal operations. have opened up since the fall of Saddam Hussein.