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The Tragic Reality of Flaring Practices in Oilfields: A Father's Fight for Justice

Will Oil Giant BP Finally Be Held Accountable For Their Involvement In Dangerous Flaring Practices?

By Kayleigh Weideman

Oil Field in Countryside by Joseph Russo via Pexels

Hussein Julood is attempting to take legal action against BP for the death of his 21-year-old son, Ali, who died of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. Julood’s case rests on the belief that his son's leukaemia was caused by dangerous chemicals which were released into the air as a result of the flaring practices in the nearby Rumaila oilfield in Iraq. Julood’s ultimate goal is to be compensated for the “moral loss” of his son (and the expensive treatments that had to be endured) while advocating for the end of flaring in Rumaila so other families do not have to suffer.

Prior to this case, there have been multiple attempts to raise awareness of the danger of flaring practices in Rumaila. Julood had previously tried to raise his concerns directly to BP at the 2023 AGM, where he was met with a neutral and somewhat ambiguous response: “We continue to engage with the local community representatives as you would expect… ROO (Rumaila Operating Organisation) is prioritising social welfare and fund support for community health initiatives.” 

Furthermore, in 2022, the BBC carried out an investigation into the effects of flaring practices in Rumaila, culminating in a number of articles, as well as, a documentary entitled Under Poisoned Skies.

The investigation found that Rumaila had one of the highest documented levels of flaring in the world, and as a result, the air in the surrounding area was found to have higher levels of benzene and other carcinogens. Therefore, as a result of the flaring, residents in these communities are at a higher risk of leukaemia.

Yet, BP’s stance on the Rumaila oilfield requires some deciphering. Their press statements in 2022 and 2023 responding to the BBC investigation, and the section of their website detailing their involvement in Rumaila, present very different perspectives on the extent of BP’s involvement in the operation of the oilfield. In a quote from their original press statement provided to the BBC in response to the allegations, they stated: 

“As we have stated before, BP is not and has never been the operator of the Rumaila field…Nevertheless, we continue to actively support the lead contractor – Basra Energy Company Limited (BECL) – in its work to help the operator of the field, the Rumaila Operating Organisation (ROO), to reduce its flaring and emissions.” 

Their website, however, states:

“‎In June 2010, the Rumaila Operating Organisation (ROO) was formed as an ‎unincorporated joint venture between these organisations, with the remit to operate and redevelop the field, with BP as the lead contractor.” 

This seems to be a direct contradiction from BP in which they claim themselves as being the lead contractor until they are challenged, at which point they push responsibility onto a different organisation (one to which they are still involved in providing operational support). These statements - all taken from BP’s official website - make their official stance on the Rumaila oilfield at best complicated and at worst a hypocritical contradiction, perhaps with the aim of protecting themselves from accountability. 

It is clear that the flaring practices taking place in oilfields are having a significant impact on the communities that surround it, with Hussein Julood's story being but one of many tragic realities facing families. We are optimistic that this legal case will clarify BP’s stance on the issues surrounding the Rumaila oil fields by forcing them to be held accountable for their involvement in flaring operations, regardless of the scale of the involvement they are trying to suggest.

Julood’s case represents just one of many tragic realities that exist for families living near the oilfield. Hopefully, this action will lead to justice for those most affected in Rumaila by finally illuminating and addressing their significant health and safety concerns.

1 Comment

Eddy Smith
Eddy Smith
Jun 24

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