ISIS’ Black Market Oil Business Could Net up to $100 Million a Day

Sep 05, 2014 at 7:08 AM ET

ISIS has seized much of northern Iraq during its tour of terror across the region. And in addition to strategically taking over town and dams, ISIS has also snatched oil fields as a means of beefing up its funds. Vocativ went to Kirkuk’s oil field to gain insight on the black market oil trade that’s bankrolling the Islamic State.

Running a caliphate—which ISIS has made very clear is its objective—is a pricey endeavor. Up until recently, the terrorist organization has mainly subsisted on donations, hostage negotiations and crime networks. But now ISIS is stepping it up a notch and making millions of dollars per day selling oil tapped from conquered land.

“ISIS is repeating their strategy in Syria,”’s Patrick Osgood tells us. “They’re lifting oil from stricken pipelines, smaller oil fields…and then they sell it through the very established Iraqi oil smuggling industry.”

At this time, the Islamic extremists are eyeing the Kirkuk oil field, which holds around 10 million barrels of oil. According to the Iraq Energy Institute, if ISIS is successful in seizing the oil field, it could make upwards of $100 million per day.

But the Peshmerga, the Kurdish armed forces that guard Kirkuk’s oil field, are determined to prevent ISIS from gaining control of the land. “They need the money to keep going,” General Akhim of the Peshmerga explains. “We have to stop them somehow and fight them.”

Vocativ has learned that ISIS is currently recruiting oil industry engineers online. In an open call for specialists, ISIS ends by thanking Allah for the revenue they’ve incurred through oil, gas and water.