The environmental disaster that the Iraqi aggression inflicted on Kuwait is considered
one of the worst environmental disasters of all time. Approximately 700 oil wells throughout the country were simply torched and destroyed, leading to dangerous oil spills with consequences that are yet to be fully understood. As a result, more than 300 oil lakes were formed, and it was estimated that about 22.5 million barrels of extractable oil were spilled.
Kuwait Oil Company went to great lengths to try and stop the oil lakes from spreading. These efforts included the construction of sand barriers before oil recovery operations began. Dealing with the oil lakes started with the formulation of a strategy developed soon after the liberation of Kuwait and during the earliest stages of extinguishing the well fires. The steps can be summarized as containing the oil and preventing it from reaching residential areas, main roads and important ports. Only then could the recovery operation begin as follows:
Pumping a great deal of the recovered oil to the Gathering Center directly or after it was treated in two special units built for that purpose in the fields, Field Treatment Center (FTC-1 & 2), which began operation in July 1991.
The treatment of a larger quantity of oil at the Refinery Treatment Center (RTC).
Pumping and exporting part of the recovered oil as untreated oil, where the first cargo was exported in
Extracting oil from these lakes proved a difficult endeavor, creating several problems which included:
The atmospheric conditions that affected the oil lead to the oil losing its light characteristics and components, turning into heavy, viscous oil, which was totally worthless economically. Thus, its export program was halted, and the efforts were restricted to primary processing at the field treatment center (FTC 1&2) in the fields. From there, it was introduced to the crude oil system at the Gathering Centers.