Our view: Great opportunity in Iraq
Towards the end of 2014, journalist James Hurley of The Times approached RSK’s chief executive officer Dr Alan Ryder as part of his research into British firms investing in countries recovering from conflict.
Hurley interviewed Ryder about RSK’s expansion into Iraq and was particularly interested to understand why he was so keen to pursue the opportunities in Iraq and what this decision has meant for RSK.
The result was the article ‘Reopening trade routes closed by war is no job for charities’, published in The Times on 8 December 2014.1 RSK features as one of three businesses operating in recovering countries, alongside a drinks company operating in Afghanistan and a company distributing water filters and cooking stoves in Rwanda.
In the piece, Ryder speaks of the financial benefits of working out in Iraq (“About one-fifth of the company’s £100 million sales are expected to come from Iraq this year”), and the ethical benefits that go hand in hand with this. “Without a doubt, we feel being here is good for the country; there are huge areas that need cleaning up and that’s what we do,” he says. “Seeing Basra having only two or three hours of electricity a day is so sad when there’s so much energy wasted here. I see great opportunity in Iraq, and the market will surely grow as more oil companies become established there.”
The Iraq laboratory
An early and significant part of RSK’s investment in Iraq was to establish a combined geotechnical and chemical laboratory just outside Basra, Southern Iraq. This year, in the Environmental Business Journal, Ryder described RSK’s network of internationally accredited laboratories as one of our “key differentiators” and saying, “RSK has gone against the trend and chosen to keep lab services as an integral part of the business using in-house resource. This has been a deliberate strategy and allows us to have more control over the delivery of services and execution of projects.”2
The geoenvironmental–chemical laboratory in Iraq became operational in May 2014 and since then has been undertaking work for multinational oil and gas giants and leading international consultants. The RSK facilities offer a reliable, high-quality service in a marketplace that previously relied on the expensive and time-consuming movement of samples to laboratories outside Iraq.
The laboratories’ most recent success is achieving accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025:2005.
The ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accreditation, which was awarded by the Gulf Cooperation Council Accreditation Centre (an accredited body of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation), specifies the general requirements for the competence testing laboratories and is awarded only after a rigorous audit of the quality system and of the laboratory’s methods and procedures.
John Gustafson, RSK laboratory director, comments, “We are proud to have the only accredited laboratory in Iraq that offers both geotechnical testing and chemical analysis for contaminated land.”
All the management staff have transferred from RSK’s UK laboratories and have many years’ experience of running high-volume, quality-driven laboratories in a market where reliability and flexibility are the keys to success. The work is supported by an increasing team of local staff. These technicians are from Iraq’s top universities and have undergone extensive training by the senior management team.
RSK’s Iraq laboratory capabilities now include
- Particle size distribution
- Sedimentation analysis
- Triaxial strength
- Plastic and liquid limits
- Bulk density
- Particle density
- California bearing ratio
Chemical and contaminated land analysis
- Chemical analyses for pH, sulphates, chlorides, carbonate content and organic matter
- Total petroleum hydrocarbon (total and Criteria Working Group)
- Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
- Solvent extractable matter for total hydrocarbon content
- Volatile organic compounds
- Polychlorinated biphenyls
- Biochemical oxygen demand and dissolved oxygen
- Oil and grease in water
- Total suspended solids and total dissolved solids
- Conductivity and redox potential
This list will continue to expand as RSK invests in the development of the laboratory. As Gustafson explains, “We are trying to up our capabilities out here in Iraq so we attract clients that value the convenience of an in-country laboratory.” With this expansion in services comes an expansion in staff numbers, both RSK employees from the UK (and various other international offices) and locals. The laboratories now employ eight local laboratory technicians.
Despite the reaction to the recent oil price drop, there remain great opportunities in Iraq and RSK is making the most of them by providing unique, top-quality services supplied by highly qualified, dedicated staff.
1 Online subscribers can view the full article at The Times online.
2 Online subscribers can view the full article at EBI online.