Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) is planning a $1.5bn scheme to raise pressure at the Burgan oil field in southeast Kuwait as it struggles to sustain output at the world’s second-biggest oil reservoir.

The state energy firm plans to build water collection, treatment and injection facilities to pump 1 million barrels a day of water into the Wara geological formation to maintain reservoir pressure and production levels at the field.

According to energy industry analysts, the enhanced oil recovery scheme will be one of the world’s biggest.

KOC plans to release the tender documents for the contract to build the oil-recovery facilities in February 2010, say contractors in talks with the company.

It will ask the winning contractor to build a water treatment plant, 20 water storage tanks, 60 water pumps and a 700-kilometre-long pipeline network linking the plant with the country’s northern oil fields. Contractors say the deal will be worth $1-2bn.

In 2005, Farouk al-Zanki, then chairman of KOC, said the Burgan field had passed its sustainable production peak and could only produce a maximum of 1.7 million barrels a day (b/d), compared with the 2.4 million b/d it produced in 1972. Analysts forecast that its production capacity could fall to 1.5 million b/d by 2020 unless action is taken.

KOC stopped producing oil from the Wara formation between November 2006 and May 2007 to give US oil field services provider  Schlumberger time to map the pressure in the oil reservoir.

The enhanced oil recovery scheme is the first major project designed to maintain production levels at the field since Schlumberger completed the study.

The oil produced from Kuwait’s ageing fields contains high volumes of water, which KOC has to remove before it can export the oil. The scheme will allow the company to separate the water more easily.

“This is a huge project,” says one Oman-based enhanced oil recovery consultant. “It could only be for one of the giant [oil] fields here in the Middle East.”