Iraq: CLDP Organizes Consultations in Houston For Four Chancellors of Basrah Universities

May 6, 2019 - May 10, 2019

Just as Houston is, in the U.S., the center of the oil and gas sector, in Iraq, Basrah is the center of the oil and gas sector. In fact, for this reason, as a result of past CLDP work, there is now a sister-city agreement between Houston and Basrah.

From May 3, 2019, through May 9, 2019, at the behest of the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah,  CLDP organized in Houston, at the time of the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), consultations for the chancellors of four Basrah universities that have programs focused on oil and gas: Basrah University, Southern Technical University, Basrah University for Oil and Gas, and the Basrah Oil Training Institute. On the U.S. side, the delegation was led by Consul General Timmy Davis. While the delegation had several OTC-related activities, the core of the consultations was focused on potential cooperation between the Basrah universities and the University of Houston.

OTC-Related Activities

The four chancellors attended OTC and, there, had meetings with international oil companies and oil service companies present in Basrah. The delegates also took part in events organized on the sidelines of OTC, in particular events organized by the Bilateral U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce.

Potential Cooperation with the University of Houston

There is significant political instability in Basrah, because the Basrah province, while potentially very wealthy owing to its vast resources in oil and gas, is beset  by difficulties, in particular a high level of unemployment and drastic water pollution. A key reason for the level of unemployment is that, often, universities do not provide their graduates with the knowledge and skills required by industry and, as a result, these graduates cannot find jobs.

CLDP has a special mandate from the Department of State to ensure that there is, in Basrah, close cooperation between academia and industry, to ensure that academia provides graduates with the knowledge and skills needed by industry, in particular in the oil and gas sector.  

At the University of Houston, College of Technology, there is an institute, called the Petroleum Technology Initiative (PTI). PTI’s mission is “ to equip students and experienced professionals with knowledge and skills needed to find a solution for challenges facing Energy Industry, enhance their technical and professional competence and ability to create more value to the Companies.” CLDP has been in contact with PTI for several years, initially for work conducted in Ukraine.  During the May 2019 consultations, CLDP organized two half-days of meetings between PTI and the Basrah delegation. The outcome of these meetings was a decision by the delegation and PTI to organize, at PTI, in August 2019, a two-week course for a delegation of professors and students from all four universities. The focus of this course was to be  on “Project Management in Exploration for and Production of Oil and Gas”. This topic was chosen because, based upon surveys conducted with international oil companies by the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah and by CLDP, proficient though Basrah petroleum engineering graduates are in terms of technical skills, they lack project management skills.

In April 2019, in preparation for the May consultations,  CLDP had met at the University of Houston with other colleges of potential interest to Basrah. This was the case in particular with the Cullen College of Engineering and with the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. At both colleges, CLDP had identified potential areas of cooperation with Basrah universities.  Water pollution is a major challenge in Basrah and the Cullen College has unique research capabilities in water pollution remediation. Also, now that ISIS has been defeated, Iraq’s tourism sector will expand and will need well-trained university graduates; the Hilton college is among the best in the U.S. for hospitality and hotel management training.

During the May consultations, CLDP organized meetings for the Basrah delegation, at the University of Houston, with the Cullen College of Engineering and with the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. As a result of these meetings:

  • A process for generating joint proposals for research in water pollution remediation was agreed upon between the delegation and the Cullen College of Engineering.
  • A process for the Hilton college to provide support for a college of tourism that will be created at Basrah university was agreed upon.

In their evaluations of the consultations, evaluations conducted  in Consul General Davis’ presence, the delegates praised very highly the quality of the consultations.