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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac/Iraqi Gold

Air Date: Week of

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This week we have facts about the discovery of oil in Kirkuk, Iraq. Seventy five years ago, explorers struck black gold in Baba Gurgur, a region of Iraq know for its small "eternal fires" fed by natural gas leaks.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC: Munir Bashir “Taqsim en Maqam Lami” L’art du ‘ud - Orcora (2001)]

In 1925, a team of American, British, Dutch, and French companies began exploring Iraq for oil. Iraq had just come under British rule. And foreign companies were eager to explore and exploit its natural resources, especially oil. Raised earth and seeping oil and gas drew the team to Kirkuk, in the Northeast. They drilled at Baba Gurgur, an area of “eternal fires,” small ground fires that burned for thousands of years, fueled by natural gas leaks.

At three a.m. on October 15, 1927, the team struck oil at a well named Baba Gurgur #1. When the drill pushed 1,500 feet, the pressure release caused an enormous rumble felt and heard across the dusty land. Oil spewed 50 feet into the night sky and gushed for eight days straight, filling almost 100,000 barrels a day.

The Kirkuk oil fields are among the richest in Iraq. At least before the war, Kirkuk was producing about 800,000 barrels of oil daily, almost half of Iraq's exports allowed under the United Nations oil-for-food program. Oil from Kirkuk travels via pipeline to the Mediterranean port city of Ceyhan in Turkey where it is pumped onto tankers and shipped to Europe and the Americas.

And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.




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