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Syria’s illegal oil refineries

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Disruptions in fuel supply in Syria caused by the civil war have driven local people to set up illegal oil refineries.

Rival rebel groups and regime forces continue to battle for control of oil and gas fields. The war has additionally displaced supply from the West, which has led to small, privately owned refineries being built throughout Syria.

Citizens set up these refineries for dual purpose: in order to earn the money they need in order to purchase essentials such as food; and also in the hope that they will be able to heat their homes as winter approaches.

Before the war broke out, Msheirfeh in the country’s north east was a tranquil agricultural village. In contrast, today the landscape is marred by the plumes of black smoke that rise from the dozens of make-shift refineries that have sprung up in the area.

Most government owned refineries have either been destroyed or taken over by militant groups. The rebels who are fighting against the Bashar Assad regime are selling crude oil to citizens, who then refine the oil using open flames. 

Local workers produce oil, petrol and gas. Once the oil is refined it is poured into used petrol containers for sale. Each barrel is worth approximately US$ 33.

Although many workers wear rubber boots and scarves to protect their faces, this fails to prevent exposure to toxic fumes. Many suffer from skin rashes, burns and poison-related amputations, breathing difficulties, headaches, persistent coughs and eye infections.

Written by Emma McAleavey.

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