Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) says its joint venture (JV) company has won a third of the estimated $3-billion global contract to clean the 60 million cubic metres of Kuwait contaminated by the huge oil spills that were a legacy of the retreating Iraqi armies in 1991.

Sudhir Vasudeva, chairman and managing director of ONGC, told reporters here on Monday that ONGC-Teri Biotech Ltd (OTBL), the company’s JV with The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), had got a $1-billion contract for doing part of the clean-up.

The contract was bagged recently, he said on the sidelines of a press conference. OTBL had been competing with 12 companies for Kuwait Oil Co’s mammoth contract. It is to use its ‘oil zapper’ technology to do the job.

“Teri has been present in this segment and they were meeting the financial criteria for the contract. So, it is through them that OTBL has bagged the contract in Kuwait for $1 billion,” Vasudeva added.

The oil zapper technology uses a bacteria they’ve developed to eat away the oil part of the contaminated soil. The bioremediation agent is used to clean both offshore and onshore spills and has been applied by ONGC on its own fields in India.

Kuwait Oil Co had called for contract bids early last year. When Saddam Hussein’s invading army was forced to retreat by a US-led force in 1991 from Kuwait, it set fire to about 700 oil wells and also opened valves on diverse rigs and pipelines. The resulting spill is estimated at two to four million barrels (a barrel is 157.5 litres) , which contaminated not only soil but spread to a huge coastal area, including those of neighbouring countries.

The United Nations arranged an Iraqi compensation of $3 billion after Saddam was ousted but Kuwait had been slow in starting the process of rehabilitation. The idea was that a consortium of companies from across the world would toghether work to clean the contamination.

Source: Business Standard