Where ISIS Is Taking a Big Hit

By Steve LeVine

October 15, 2014

Among the petro-actors hurting right now is the Islamic State. As prices take another tumble today—oil hit new lows last seen in October 2010—ISIL is suffering not just lower income, but lost production. According to the International Energy Agency, US-led bombing runs have taken out most of the militant group’s production.

ISIL still controls fields capable of producing 20,000 barrels of oil a day, along with small refineries that can process it into fuel, the IEA says. That is considerable volume and could be earning ISIL some $500,000 dollars a day if it is able to move it at, say, $20 a barrel on the black market, plus providing fuel for its own vehicles. That’s much less than the most sober estimates of what it was earning after sweeping through Iraq over the summer, $1-2 million a day.

Brent oil, the global benchmark, traded today as low as $83.37 a barrel as of this writing. That’s 27% off the price last June, a hit to all oil producers, including radical Islamic armies.

The biggest damage to ISIL however come from bombings. The worst has been at Ajeel (situated near the center of the map below), the IEA says, where bombing in August reduced its take to just 2,000 barrels a day, or 10% of what the field was producing until then.

Still to be hit, according to the IEA: Najma and Qayara (south of Mosul on the map), Himreen (south of Kirkuk) and Balad (just north of Baghdad). Together, they continue to produce about 10,000 barrels of oil a day.

By Steve LeVine // Steve LeVine, Quartz's Washington correspondent, writes about the intersection of energy, technology and geopolitics, a juncture of some of the most important and quickly developing events and trends on the planet. Most recently, LeVine founded and ran The Oil and the Glory, a blog on energy and geopolitics at Foreign Policy magazine. He is the author of two books: The Oil and the Glory, a history of oil told through the 1990s-2000s oil rush on the Caspian Sea; a profile of Russia through the lives and deaths of six Russians.

October 15, 2014