Iraq’s Largest Oil Refinery Still Burning After 5 Weeks

May 19th, 2015 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

The latest NASA MODIS satellite imagery from today shows that the huge Baiji oil complex continues to burn as the Islamic State torches the facilities there.

The MODIS thermal infrared sensors first indicated fires there on April 11, and by April 18 the black clouds of smoke had drifted almost 300 miles, well past Baghdad:


To give some idea of the size of the smoke cloud, here’s a wide angle view from April 18 stretching from Israel and the Mediterranean Sea to Baghdad (click image for full-size):


Here’s today’s imagery (May 19, 2015); the size and extent of the smoke cloud changes daily depending mostly on wind conditions:


From what I’ve read, even if Iraqi forces regain control of the refinery, the complex is so expansive that IS can render it largely unusable by continuing to attack critical portions of the complex.

23 Responses to “Iraq’s Largest Oil Refinery Still Burning After 5 Weeks”

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  1. RW says:

    Thanks for the images.

  2. Thanks for the photographs, Dr. Spencer.
    The horror the IS is causing is appalling.

  3. Lokenbr says:


  4. John F. Hultquist says:

    As I recall, the world ended when the retreating forces of Saddam Hussein set fire to many oil facilities. Well, okay, the world didn’t end but it soon will because of all the CO2 from those fires and this current one.
    Can the UN send Jim H., Al G., and prominent members of all green groups to the Islamic State to discuss and dissuade regarding such things?
    Thought not. It would not fit in with the promotion of guilt within western societies.

    • geran says:

      Well, maybe if we sent Al there, the “Gore Effect” would cover the area in enough snow to put out the fires!

    • David A says:

      Exercise: estimate how much CO2 is emitted by these burning refineries, and compare it to US and World emissions.

    • David A says:

      Extra credit: compare the CO2 emitted from these refineries to the CO2 emissions if their oil was instead used to power, say, cars.

  5. coturnix says:

    what an out of control religion can do

  6. Gordon Robertson says:

    Time to move back into Iraq and kick some butt.

    Where’s Schwarzkopf?

    • boris says:

      Well Gordon I’m afraid I disagree the time to have done that was when ol George senior pulled up on the reins and didn’t allow our military to do the necessary things to let Saddam collapse as a consequence of his adventure in Kuwait. There has been nothing but disaster in the region since and the United States is looking like Brer fox in an Uncle Remis tale. Still it is amazing to see that the waste is visible from space.

      • Gordon Robertson says:

        “…the time to have done that was when ol George senior pulled up on the reins….”

        Agreed. And I don’t want to see young soldiers die for a lost cause. I don’t want to see them die period.

        However, the Islamics are thumbing their noses at the west while committing atrocities on innocents. Time to put an end to that while dealing with pirates on the oceans who are blatantly holding up sailors.

        Thinks it’s time to clean up the entire Middle East. Putin needs to get off the fence and join in.

        • fonzarelli says:

          Gordon, Schwarzkopf is dead…

          It’s my recollection that bush 41 was hamstrung by congress, so he couldn’t go after saddam. Here in the states it’s congress that sets the rules of engagement. (if i’m wrong about this, somebody please let me know; 25 years is a long time ago…)

          • KevinK says:

            Actually it was General Powell (Chief of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, top US military officer) that advised George Bush Senior that knocking the complete cr-p out of Saddam Hussein and pounding his Army into dust would “look bad”. So George Bush senior “called off the dogs” just when we could have completely dismantled the Iraqi army and leadership. If the outcome would have been different than what we see now is one of those things left for the historians to ponder.

            I don’t remember Harry Truman telling Patton to “take it easy” on the German Army back in 45.

            If you pick a fight with a big dog you better be ready to back it up and if the dog turns out to be bigger than you thought you should expect the full consequences. Old Adolf H. was quoted as saying; “If I knew the USA could produce that many cargo ships (planes, tanks, etc) I would never have declared WAR on them”.

            Cheers, KevinK

        • David A says:

          I have a cartoon on my hard drive, of a man sitting in his recliner, saying “Of course I support Bush’s war — I don’t have to fight it.”

          • KevinK says:

            David A, so did you “fight it” (i.e. “Bush’s war”) ?

            Or were you also in your recliner “blogging” about how wrong it was ?

            Just curious ?

            I have some relatives and friends that fought in both Iraq Wars (and WWII, WWI, the Civil War and the Revolutionary War). And several defense related products that I helped design have served “in theater”, one of them currently as we “blog”.

            Nobody hates war more than those that have to fight it or design awful overpowering weapons to hopefully dissuade folks from starting more of them.

            Of course the “War Against Climate Change” only requires a keyboard, quite cushy I must say….

            Cheers, KevinK

  7. Alick says:

    Still some ice in Lake Superior.

    What is that that looks like a fire burning in the UP of Michigan?

  8. Sun Spot says:

    WMD’s or cAGW same fear narrative. A strategy based on scary stories to herd the weak minded to safety either the American military industrial complex (WMD’s) or with cAGW billions for science and greeeeeen energy.

  9. boris says:

    Gordon: I’m sort of glad that my comment set off something because the way politics are going in this country there is no hope. Republicans don’t have to love Cheney or Powell. I’m saying it was a mistake that many of us just knew, listening to the news,was going to be exactly a disaster. Just today Jeb Bush is the only guy who has gone on record in measured tones that global warming is not settled science and that is really distressing because his father and brother both allowed agreements to slip under the radar into the EPA with the UN. Democrats or Republicans I don’t think makes a difference. Obama is a disaster but there are republicans in Indiana endorsing stupid energy policy to save a corn subsidy. Isn’t that crazy?

  10. Virgie says:

    Hi there colleagues, nice piece of writing and good arguments commented here, I am truly enjoying by these.

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