Iraq’s Oil Ministry has signed an agreement with UK oil major BP for engineering at the giant Kirkuk oil field, ahead of plans for a development contract tender.

“We have an agreement to work in Kirkuk with them [state-owned North Oil Company] for the next 18 months to supply subsurface engineering work to help stabilise production”, Bob Dudley, BP’s group chief executive told MEED at a press conference on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Conference (Adipec) on 10 November.

The Kirkuk field, discovered in 1927 is one of the earliest producing fields in the Middle East, but is in steep decline.

“At one time the field produced 1.5 million barrels a day [b/d], but it now produces about 220,000 b/d and falling. So we have been in discussions about helping here,” said Dudley.

The Oil Ministry hopes to arrest and reverse the decline in production capacity at the Kirkuk field which has an estimated 4 billion barrels of remaining reserves. It was included in Iraq’s first oil field licensing round in June 2009. It received one offer, from UK/Dutch Shell Group, but the bid was deemed too high.

BP is currently developing the giant Rumaila oil field in the south of Iraq along with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Iraq’s South Oil Company.