Oil production from the Khafji oilfield, jointly owned by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, has been suspended temporarily to meet environmental standards.
The specific reason for shutting the field down is uncertain. Some sources say the field does not yet meet the new environmental air emission standards as set by Saudi Arabia’s Presidency of Meteorology and Environment authority. Others say the gas gathering plant in Khafji has a leak and needs repairs. “The Kuwaitis have refused to allow a shutdown for repairs because of their gas shortfall during the summer. This has been an escalating confrontation between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia,” this source told Gulfbusiness.com.
The Khafji field produces around 280,000 to 300,000 barrels per day and is located in the Neutral Zone between the two countries. According to a letter signed by Abdullah al-Helal, chairman of Aramco Gulf Operations, the field was to be taken offline immediately, with no particular date set for restarting it, with pollution levels far exceeding the allowed percentage.
The pause in production is unlikely to significantly affect the oil output of either country, however: Saudi Arabia, for one, is the world’s stop oil exporter and currently produces 12.5 million barrels per day.
The stall out does bring to light continuing issues between the two owning countries, which have set back oil and gas exploration and production from shared fields.
Reactions to the temporary closure were not positive. Fadghoush al-Ajmi, head of the workers union at Kuwait Gulf Oil Co., spoke on behalf of the union and condemned the delay, calling on ministers to take action to resume production.
Other Kuwaiti oil sources expressed to the media some surprise at the decision, as the two countries had already worked out an agreement regarding environmental issues that was supposed to stand through 2017.