Flaring Operation in Iraq Since at Least 2009

MODIS/Terra visible satellite image of Kuwait – 4/17/2012

In this image from NASA’s Earth Observatory taken Tuesday, there was a big smoke plume from a fire in Kuwait coming from a dump that holds 5 million old tires. John asked me to see if I saw any continuing smoke on MODIS images taken the next day. I did not see anything in the area he suggested I look, but what I did find was even more interesting. I saw what looked like a long line of fires burning in Iraq. I looked back a few days at MODIS images for this area in Iraq and kept seeing the same line of fires. Then I looked back a few weeks, then a few months and finally, I looked back to January 2009. And in every image I found for that location, I found the same line of fires. After some research, I found that the fires are a result of a tremendous flaring operation along a major oil pipeline in Iraq, close to Basra. (We have flaring happening here in the US too, especially in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota and Montana.) Many of these flares are located in the Rumaila oil fields.  These very hot flares aren’t obvious on the normal “visible” MODIS images, but show up as bright orange spots on the infrared 7-2-1 composites:

MODIS/Aqua 7-2-1, 1/8/2009

MODIS/Terra 7-2-1, 4/17/2012

If you take a look at the map below, courtesy of Gulf States Newsletter, you’ll see the area circled in pink where this line of flaring is occurring:

Call it another case of image serendipity.  Once you start looking carefully at satellite images, you never know what you might find!

1 reply
  1. Harry says:

    So much for natural gas being a precious resource. And I just checked into who runs Rumeila. China and, wait for it, BP.

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