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Firefighters Capping Average of Four Wells a Day; Oil Reclamation To Begin

September 18, 1991

GREATER BURGAN OILFIELD, Kuwait (AP) _ Firefighters are capping an average of four oil wells a day, a rate 16 times faster than when they started in March, an official of the state Kuwait Oil Co. has said.

Saoud al-Nashmi, general manager of drilling and well control operations at the oil company, also said Tuesday that crews have started extinguishing oil wells in fields north of Kuwait City.

He said eight wells have been capped in Rawdatein and Sabriyyah in the north in the past two weeks, where about 150 high-pressure wells were among the hundreds set ablaze by retreating Iraqi invasion forces.

The company took diplomats and journalists to the Burgan oilfields outside Ahmadi, about 20 miles south of Kuwait City.

The 663-well field was one of the largest producing fields in the world before retreating Iraqi forces damaged or set fire to 432 of its wells. A total of 732 wells were damaged or set ablaze before the Iraqis were driven from Kuwait in late February.

Work is expected to begin at the end of this month on reclaiming the oil from dozens of flammable lakes created by oil seepage from wells that were destroyed but not ignited. There are no figures for the value of that oil.

The emirate started drilling new oil wells Saturday to replace those destroyed by the Iraqis. Oil Minister Hamoud al-Rquba said last month that 24 new wells will be drilled by the end of the year and 100 by July 1992.

Kuwait now produces 170,000 barrels a day of crude oil, compared with a production capacity in excess of 2 million barrels per day before the Aug. 2 invasion. Kuwait’s overall oil production could reach 400,000 barrels a day by the end of the year and 800,000 by July 1992.

Al-Nashmi said 212 of Burgan field’s well fires have been brought under control. A total of 430 wells have been capped all over Kuwait.

When firefighters began the repair work in March, the work was slow-going. But the process has picked up because more firefighting companies have joined in, more equipment is available, a water system has been completed and firefighters have grown more experienced, al-Nashmi said.

Brian Krause, 35, a Texan firefighter, said he was amazed by the pace of the repairs.

″I came over here in March and in my wildest dreams I would never have thought that we’d have progressed this far by September,″ said Krause, who works for Red Adair, one of four U.S. firefighting outfits in Kuwait.

Around 9,000 people are involved in the project, including 1,000 employees of the U.S. company Bechtel and employees of a Canadian, a Chinese, an Iranian and a Kuwaiti firefighting company.

They will be joined by companies from Great Britain, France, Hungary, Rumania, the Soviet Union and Argentina by October.

A spokesman for Bechtel, which is providing support for the firefighters, said the company has brought in 125,000 tons of heavy equipment and supplies for the project.

″This is the fastest and one of the largest mobilizations of men and machinery for Bechtel,″ said the spokesman.

Bechtel also has a 40-bed hospital in Ahmadi, a helicopter evacuation program, ambulances and paramedics on hand.

The Bechtel spokesman said that there have been no fatalities reported among the crews fighting the fires.

He said Bechtel is currently involved in an experimental project that would remove water from the lakes of petroleum to would make it possible for the oil to be reclaimed.