The Burgan Oil Fields

The Burgan Oil Fields

As Kuwait-born Fahad Al-Rajaan will be well aware, the Burgan field (also known as Greater Burgan) is an oil field which is situated in the south east of Kuwait. In the third part of our series, we take a look at the Burgan oil field.

Greater Burgan is the biggest sandstone oil field in the world, and the second biggest oil field overall, after Ghawar. The Greater Burgan area encompasses the Burgan oil field itself as well as the Ahmadi and Magwa fields.

Oil seeps in Great Burgan have been traced back to neolithic times, a bituminous material discovered on a reed boat found at As Sabiyah in north Kuwait dating back to around 5000 BC. Burgan oil field’s subsurface reservoirs were found by the Kuwait Oil Company (a United States/United Kingdom conglomerate) in 1938. They began producing commercial oil in Burgan in earnest in 1946.

The Greater Burgan is the world’s largest clastic oil field. It has a total surface area in excess of 1000 square kilometres. Great Burgan features three oil-producing subfields:

  • Magwa
  • Ahmadi
  • Burgan

The oil contained in these reserves dates back to the Cretaceous era. The total production potential for recoverable oil in the area is estimated at somewhere between 66 and 75 billion barrels. Greater Burgan is also believed to have some 70 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. In 2005, Burgan’s oil production capacity was measured at 1,700,000 barrels per day. According to Oil Patch Asia, in 2013 Greater Burgan was the fourth most productive oil field in the world. The Kuwait Oil company’s Chief Executive remarked in interview in 2010 that the Greater Burgan oilfields were responsible for more than 50% of Kuwait’s oil production.

In 1991, when Kuwait was invaded by Iraq, retreating soldiers set fire to the Greater Burgan oil field. Smoke billowed in huge plumes, sometimes 50 km in length and over 2km thick. Satellite observations showed the plume as a black snake, extending parallel to the Persian Gulf. The US Marine Company and Red Adair Service worked with the American Canadian company Safety Boss to extinguish over 180 burning wells. Nevertheless, declassified CIA documents state the despite devastation, the reality was that Burgan’s oil reserve had barely been touched. Three gathering stations proved to be too badly damaged to repair, but there was no significant depletion in Burgan’s reserves. Comparatively, it was a drop in the ocean.

The State of Kuwait is situated in Southwest Asia. The country borders Saudi Arabia and Iraq, lying on the Persian Gulf. Kuwait has been an important trade centre for centuries, coming into great international prominence after the World War II, largely owing to its leading position in terms of Persian Gulf oil revenues. The country is relatively small in size, covering just over 17,000 square km, making it smaller than New Jersey. At its widest points, the distance from north to south is 200 km, and 170 km east to west. The country is extremely arid, though not always hot, there are vast differences between summer and winter, with summer highs reaching 128 degrees Fahrenheit, and winter lows falling as far as 21. Summers are long, punctuated by dramatic sand storms, particularly in March and April.