Makeshift oil refineries in Deir Ezzor continue to threaten health and environment

A stall selling fuel in the city of al-Basira in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor - May 6, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Obadah al-Sheikh)

A stall selling fuel in the city of al-Basira in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor - May 6, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Obadah al-Sheikh)

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Deir Ezzor – Obadah al-Sheikh

Makeshift oil refineries are widespread in most towns and villages in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, posing a danger to the environment and agriculture due to the smoke produced during the oil refining process using these facilities.

Despite repeated decisions issued by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) to control this phenomenon and move the refineries closer to oil fields, their owners have not complied with these decisions.

The refineries continue to appear in the desert area in the eastern and northern countryside of Deir Ezzor, mainly concentrated in the town of Dhiban in the eastern countryside and in the village of Mashekh in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor.

Random spread

In the villages of the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor, the use of primitive refineries is widespread along the bed of the Khabur River, mainly located in the village of Mashekh.

Each refinery consists of a cylindrical metal tank resembling a barrel, with varying sizes according to their capacity. According to Muhammad al-Sheikh (20 years old), a worker in one of these burners, the smallest can hold up to 50 barrels.

The burners use oil residues, known as “jir”, and may be linked to the oil wells scattered in the region, always having beside them a water pond that can hold up to 100 barrels per burner, used to cool the production before sorting it into tanks.

After production, each material is sold separately to free market traders, and some burners sell the entire production unsorted to the Fuel Authority affiliated with the Autonomous Administration, which in turn allocates fuels to various categories, whether for heating, agriculture, and services, causing poor quality of fuels provided to the residents.

Raed al-Kreiz owns several refineries in the town of al-Dahla in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. He told Enab Baladi that after buying crude oil from the wells, the materials are sorted after refining into diesel, gasoline, and kerosene.

Some of it is sold to the Fuel Authority, and other refineries sell it to smuggling lines that export fuels to areas under the control of the Syrian regime, or these products are collected and transported by tankers owned by the Qaterji Company to areas under the regime’s control.

$100,000 Guarantee

The Autonomous Administration in northeastern Syria imposes guarantees to allow traders to operate in the oil refining sector, with these guarantees exceeding the value of $100,000.

Among those who applied for a similar guarantee was Ismael al-Henedy from the village of al-Harijiya in northern Deir Ezzor, who mentioned that progressing requires mediation from the military leaderships in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the military wing of the Autonomous Administration.

He added that contracts imposed by the SDF on the applicant to extract a license, in case of production shortfalls or any violations of the agreement, stipulate penalties ranging from prison for a duration of three to six months, in addition to confiscating all amounts paid as a guarantee.

If the well’s production exceeds 500 barrels and above, an amount ranging between $100,000 and $150,000 must be paid.

Severe damage

Hisham, an internal medicine doctor in areas controlled by the Autonomous Administration east of Deir Ezzor, told Enab Baladi that diseases have become widespread among civilians due to the smells emanating from the burners.

He added that the smoke resulting from the operation of the burners is harmful to the respiratory system and human health in general, and they also cause environmental damage, negatively reflecting on the crops adjacent to the area where the oil burning process is conducted, especially crops of wheat and barley.

For his part, Mukhlif al-Hussein, an agricultural pharmacist in eastern Deir Ezzor, mentioned to Enab Baladi that the production amounts of the cultivated fields in the region have notably declined due to the emissions released by the burners and their harmful impact on the soil.

The Autonomous Administration discloses producing about 150,000 barrels of oil per day, according to statements conveyed by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in August 2023, from Hassan Koujar, the deputy co-chair of the executive council of the AANES, noting that the Autonomous Administration operates less than half of the wells and oil fields in its controlled areas.

According to previous estimates provided by researcher assistant at Omran Center for Strategic Studies, Munaf Quman, for Enab Baladi, based on information collected during the preparation for a study about the economy of the Autonomous Administration, AANES produces about 48,500 barrels per day from the oil wells in Deir Ezzor province alone, out of a total daily production ranging from 80,000 to 120,000 barrels.

The SDF distributes part of this production to local consumption oil refineries, being the smaller part of the production, in addition to another portion exported towards Iraqi Kurdistan for sale, and another part sold in the areas controlled by the opposition in northwest Syria.

 

 

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