Iraq’s Oil Ministry is planning to release a tender in April for the front-end engineering and design (feed) of its critical seawater treatment plant, which has now fallen more than a year behind schedule.

The US’ CH2M Hill was awarded the project management consultancy (PMC) contract in October for the Common Seawater Supply Facility (CSSF) which will supply oil producers in the south of the country.

Sources close to the project now say the design phase is ready to begin. The deal covers the construction of a giant seawater treatment facility and pipelines. Worth an estimated total of $10bn, the scheme will supply water vital for the country’s oil fields.

The CSSF is intended to produce 2.5 million barrels a day (b/d) of treated seawater from the Gulf by 2015, with eventual expansion up to 12 million b/d, which will be injected into fields awarded in Iraq’s first and second oil licensing rounds.

Much of Iraq’s future production is expected to come from the deeper, more difficult Mishrif and Yamama reservoirs, which will require gas or water injection. If the Oil Ministry sticks to its planned production targets, Iraq will need 13 million b/d of water by 2017 for reinjection. The Oil Ministry is in danger of missing its 2015 deadline if the design process does not proceed quickly and if engineering, procurement and construction tenders are not launched soon.

US oil major ExxonMobil has been leading a technical committee for the conceptual development of the CSSF. It appointed the UK’s Mott MacDonald and the US’ Fluor to conduct surveys and gather data for a 120-kilometre pipeline and the water treatment facility. However, progress was slow and ExxonMobil fell foul of the Oil Ministry in November 2011, following the signing of production sharing agreements with the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government. The oil firm left the project in February 2012.