Upstream operator, Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), has awarded local firm Alghanim International a contract worth $28m to excavate, transport and dump soil that was contaminated by oil spills, fires and ordinance during the First Gulf War.

The contract is part of Kuwait Environment Public Authority’s (Kepa) $2.9bn Kuwait Environmental Remediation Project (KERP) to clean up polluted soil and lakes of crude oil that were created in the final months of the conflict.

The project targets priority areas above aquifers that the Kuwaiti government fears could be contaminated by the surface oil.

Soil contaminated with high levels of crude oil will be transported to a 1.7-million-cubic-metre landfill site.

Alghanim International will also conduct site surveys, geotechnical and environmental studies and the screening of oil-contaminated soil for unexploded ordnance.

The scope of the project does not include the construction of landfill facilities or the remediation of the less contaminated soil, well-head pits or marine coastal trenches.

In July, MEED reported that Alghanim was low bidder on the contract.

The full list of bidders for the contract was:

  • Alghanim International (Kuwait) $28,363,164
  • Mushrif Trading and Contracting (Kuwait) $29,798,557
  • Alamiah Building Company (Kuwait) $35,377,000
  • First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting (Kuwait) $47,474,074
  • Kuwait Systems (Kuwait) $56,003,536
  • KCC Engineering & Contracting (Kuwait) $57,580,384
  • Galfar Engineering and Contracting (Oman) $59,521,857
  • Combined Group Contracting (Kuwait) $71,574,000

The extensive pollution in Iraq’s north was caused in the final stages of the First Gulf War as Iraq’s retreating army torched over 600 of Kuwait’s oil wells. The fires burned for ten months before being extinguished, leaving behind a spill of around 22.5 million barrels of oil and damaging an area of 384 square kilometres.

Initially Kuwait planned to bury soil that has high levels of contamination, above 18 per cent oil, in 16 giant landfills. Surveys have found that there is around 26 million cubic metres of this sludge that needs to be cleared.

Due to fears that these large toxic landfills would cause problems for future generations Kuwait is now running bioremediation studies to find out whether using enzymes to break down the oil is financially viable, something that would dramatically reduce the number of landfills needed.