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Adnan Ismail Samarrai (1934 – 2021)

A distinguished Iraqi petroleum geologist and finder, developer and producer of giant oil fields

Adnan SamarraiAdnan Ismail Al-Samarrai was born in 1934 in Basrah, Iraq, the son of Ismail Al-Samarrai, an Iraqi government employee. He died on 1 May 2021, one week after the death of his wife, following weeks of struggle with Coronavirus.


Adnan received his BSc in geology from the University of Baghdad in 1962. He worked with Binnie & Partners before joining the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) as a field geologist in 1965. After the nationalisation of IPC in 1972 and with years of oilfields development and production experience under his belt, Adnan was selected for the position of Deputy Head of Geology Department of North Oil Company that took-over the operations of Kirkuk and satellite oil fields from IPC. There Adnan assembled and led a new exploration team that made several discoveries in northern Iraq.   
With 20 years of exploration, development and production experience, Adnan was relocated to Baghdad in 1985 to be the Chief Exploration Geologist and Deputy Head of Geology Department of Oil Exploration Company (OEC) of Iraq National Oil Company. There, during the harsh years of two Gulf Wars and long UN sanctions, Adnan participated in the planning, supervision and implementation of the exploration strategy of the OEC that led to several discoveries, including another satellite field of Kirkuk (Ismail Oil Field) in 1997.

Adnan retired from the OEC in December 1997 to work as Consultant Petroleum Geologist for several companies including British Gas and Pennzoil. He was headhunted by Gulf Keystone Petroleum Limited (GKP) in late 2006 and became Country Manager of their new venture in Iraqi Kurdistan. In 2007, at the golden age of 73, Adnan moved to set up GKP head-office at Erbil, where according to the November 2009 corporate presentation of GKPI “he played a major role in the capture of the company’s acreage in the country, and the discovery of the Shaikan Oil Field”. Adnan was the driving force behind GKP’s north-eastern Iraq giant and supergiant discoveries of the Shaikan, Akri Bijeel and Sheikh Adi fields, and contributed to the discovery of the Ber Bahr Field, which is operated by Genel Energy. Adnan retired from GKP in 2012, and moved to be the Technical Advisor to Ministry of Natural Resources of Iraqi KRG until the end of the 2020.          

Talented and dedicated                                                                                                

Adnan Samarrai was a talented and dedicated student of petroleum geology, a giant fields hunter, a member of the Geological Society of Iraq, a Fellow of the Geological Society of London, and an Emeritus Member of the AAPG. There is no record of the volume of oil-and-gas discoveries that Adnan contributed to prior to joining GKP, but in his six years of service with GKP, he planned, assembled and led a team that discovered more than 4.3 billion barrels of oil—when he was 73 to 78 years old.

Adnan is survived by his son Bashar, daughters Nada and Sumer, and the gigantic legacy of petroleum resources that he discovered for the people of his fatherland, Iraq.

By Muhammad W. Ibrahim and Mohammad H. Al-Azzawi