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THREE fire incidents in just one month in our refineries! And no lesson has been learned or to be learned! What will happen to our credibility and accountability? Why is this not happening in any of our neighboring countries, considering that Saudi Arabia has more than ten refineries, and others have similar number of refineries or more? About three months ago, we faced the problem of decline in the daily production of oil from our oil fields from 3.15 million barrels to 2.57 million.
We still don’t know if the decline has stopped or is continuing. All this has been happening within a period of six months and without a single reaction from the government or any specific action being taken except for the formation of an investigation committee that reports to the board of Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) and then to Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC).
Nobody has been held accountable for the incident yet, despite the fact that one of the reasons could be the failure to close the gas pipe or ensure it was fully closed in order to prevent any gas leakage to the area of the workplace. Simple safety procedures were not in place. We may have to wait for the detailed audit report of the insurance companies to find out the full reasons for the fire incident, rather the three fire incidents that occurred at various sites belonging to KNPC. Where do we go from here? How do we protect our bread-and-butter (our source of income) at a time when the world is demanding for more crude oil and we in Kuwait are unable to produce more oil to generate more cash for our country and close our budget deficit? What can we do? Does anybody care?
There are many reasons behind the frequent incidents occurring in our oil industry. They include lack of experienced staff, and lack of sufficient knowledge about the work, but most importantly, the prevalence of favoritism and “parachute appointments” or interference by members of the parliament. Another important reason is lack of foreign experience or contact with foreign companies specialized in oil. This could be the reason for the lack or less number of such accidents in our neighboring countries, as they have joint operations with international oil companies in both upstream and downstream sectors. Kuwait is the only oil country that doesn’t have any association with foreign companies. Such association would contribute a lot to preventing such fire accidents or such decline in crude oil production. Alas, none of our present or past oil executives dare to explicitly state the need of our oil sector for foreign help and assistance. Why? What are they afraid of? It is quite evident that none of the other oil producing countries have to face bad news in such a manner on an almost daily basis.
Can we improve and become leaders in the oil industry particularly in refining? Yes… But our oil business needs new firm leadership that can consistently stand against external interference in matters related to recruitments and promotions. It must push for bringing in experienced people with the necessary know-how from outside, or have foreign partners in the refining sector. It is an optimistic and wishful thinking, but it is the sad reality.
By Kamel Al-Harami
Independent Oil Analyst