Known journalist reported completely incorrect “facts” on the oil field Kirkuk

Posted on November 7, 2017


In Rapport [a Swedish TV news program] on Wednesday 1 November Stefan Åsberg visited the Kirkuk oil field in Iraq. In recent times the field has been controlled by Kurdish forces, but even more recently the Iraqi army retook control over the area. Kirkuk is a giant oil field that was discovered in 1927. It began producing oil in 1934 and various oil companies have controlled the production during its history. In 2014, Iraq’s troops were terrified of ISIS and left northern Iraq, including Kirkuk and its oil field. The Kurdish Peshmerga troops then took control over the area and the oil field. They began to pump up the oil and export it via pipelines to the Turkish port city of Ceyhan. The production rate is said to have been around 120,000 barrels of oil per day.

Stefan Åsberg is a good journalist but when it comes to facts on Kirkuk he is misleading the Swedish people. Regarding Kirkuk he says, “One of the Middle East’s most important oil reserves” and that Kirkuk is “Iraq’s heart and must produce”. Both assertions are completely wrong. I will not go into the geological conditions for Kirkuk, but when the field was discovered it was estimated to contain 22 billion barrels of producible oil. It was one of the world’s largest fields. By 1989 it had produced 12 billion barrels of oil and then by 2007 an additional 1.54 billion barrels. According to the export profile for Iraq shown below, Kirkuk from 2009 to 2013 produced between 500,000 and 250,000 barrels per day. An average seems to lie around 400,000 barrels per day. If one adds to that the amount that was produced up to and including 2014 then we approach 0.8 billion barrels produced since 2007. This means that there should be 8 billion barrels left in the Kirkuk oil field. That is a large amount but compared to the 115 billion barrels reported as Iraq’s reserves it is fairly insignificant. It is definitely not one of the Middle East’s most important oil fields.
Iraks oljeproduktion

If we look at Kirkuk’s proportion of Iraq’s oil production then it is around 10%. Kirkuk is thus not Iraq’s heart. On the other hand, the production is important for the Kurds. How should we interpret the fact that they left the area without fighting? The fact is that it was Iraqis that produced oil from Kirkuk up until 2014 so that they now retake control is not so strange. However, one can be thankful that the Kurds defended the field from attacks by ISIS. The oil field must now be refurbished. BP has a contract with Iraq to assist in this. If the right investments are made then production can maybe return to a rate of 500,000 barrels per day. It will be an important income source for the entire region. However, in comparison, Saudi Arabia is currently producing over 12,300,000 barrels per day.

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