TAB G – Kuwait’s Oil Industry

1. Crude Oil Production

The oil production process begins with the removal of crude oil from local and regional sub-surface, oil-bearing geologic structure. Kuwait’s oil wells tap both shallow low-pressure reservoirs and much deeper high-pressure reservoirs.[251]

The shallow wells, which account for most of Kuwait’s wells (about 800), make up approximately 50% of Kuwait’s national production, or about 1 million barrels per day. These shallow wells tap reservoirs at depths ranging from 400 to 7,000 feet with formation pressures up to about 7,000 pounds per square inch (psi).[252]

Kuwait’s 150 deep high-pressure wells collectively produce about 1 million barrels of crude per day. Individually, they produce between 7,000 and 10,000 barrels per day and tap the Marrat structure at a depth of 12,000 to 14,000 feet. The Marrat structure runs north-south and parallels the Kuwaiti coast. This structure has an average formation pressure of 15,000 psi and yields crude oil with a high hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) content of 2 to 5% by weight (crude oil containing high concentrations of H2S is commonly referred to as "sour crude").[253]

From a chemical composition standpoint, every accumulation of crude oil is unique; its composition is not exactly matched by other accumulations even if they are apparently from the same oil field. Fields are often made up of several unconnected pockets in individual strata or locations.[254] While the specific compositions of crude oils vary from field to field, Table 11 shows the general chemical characteristics of Kuwaiti crude oil:

Table 11. Chemical composition of Kuwaiti crude oil[255]




2.44% by weight


0.14% by weight


7.7 ppm


28 ppm

Naptha fraction (boiling pt. from 20 to 205� C)

22.7% by weight

High boiling fraction (boiling pt. above 205� C)



23.3% by weight


20.9% by weight


3.5% by weight

Note: The total weight by percentage of the crude oil’s composition equals more than 100% because some constituent categories overlap. For example, one or both boiling fractions may also include aromatics.

In August 1990, Kuwait’s crude oil production amounted to about 2 million barrels per day. Crude oil production and associated oil processing and storage facilities were operated out by the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), a subsidiary of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC).[256]

There are four major crude oil producing areas in Kuwait: north Kuwait, west Kuwait, southeast Kuwait, and Wahfra. The first three are wholly owned and operated by KOC, while the crude oil production in the Wahfra area was shared equally by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.[257] North Kuwait consisted of two major fields (Raudhatian and Sabriyah), with 316 wells and a production capability of 400,000 barrels per day. West Kuwait contained several minor fields that make up the two major fields Minagish and Umm Gudair. These fields consist of approximately 130 wells and produced 150,000 barrels per day. Southeast Kuwait contained the multi-reservoir Greater Burgan field, the second-largest oilfield in the world. There were 661 wells in southeast Kuwait and it produced 1.1 million barrels per day. Of the total 1,111 wells in these three areas, 980 were in production on August 1, 1990. Of the 900 wells in the Wahfra field, 350 were active and produced between 170,000 and 180,000 barrels per day. Half of Wafra’s production was transported through underground pipelines to a refinery at Mina Az Zawr, Saudi Arabia, which is owned and operated by Texaco for the benefit of Saudi Arabia. Part of the other half went by underground pipelines to the refinery at Mina Abd Allah, Kuwait, but was processed at the Mina al Ahmadi refinery. The rest was stored in tanks at Ahmadi town.[258] A map showing Kuwait’s major oil fields is presented in Figure 30.

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Figure 30. Major oil fields of Kuwait

The crude oil flowed by natural gravity through an intricate system of manifolds and underground pipelines to Kuwait’s three refineries at Mina al-Ahmadi, Mina Abd Allah, and Mina Shuaiba, as well as to its crude off-loading facilities at Mina al-Ahmadi. Oil also flowed through marine pipelines to an offshore sea-island and a single point mooring facility for off-loading to tankers.[259]

1. Oil Refining

In addition to the oil wells, the Kuwaiti oil infrastructure includes refinery complexes, a pipeline network, oil storage depots, gathering stations, major pumping stations, tank farms, and oil/product loading terminals.

The Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), a subsidiary of KPC, operated the refineries and associated export facilities. At the time of the Iraqi invasion there were three refineries in Kuwait operated by KNPC: Mina al-Ahmadi, Mina Shuaiba and Mina Abd Allah. A fourth one, at Mina Az Zawr (Saudi Arabia), was operated by Texaco to process its share of the crude coming from the Wahfra area. The three KNPC refineries are connected through inter-refinery transfer pipelines and are only a short distance from the crude oil storage facilities of KOC at Ahmadi. Their pre-war combined refining capacity amounted to about 820,000 barrels per day.[260]

2. Natural Gas Production

In addition to crude oil compositions, natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are found in the sub-surface in solution with crude oil and as free gas in the pores of the section of rocks overlying the oil saturated rock layer. The chemical composition of natural gas includes combustible hydrocarbons, CO2, helium, H2S, nitrogen, and argon. The combustible hydrocarbon fraction includes methane, propane, butane, hexane and pentane.[261] Natural gas reserves in Kuwait were estimated at 1.32 trillion cubic meters. The gas is separated from the oil at the gathering stations in the well fields and sent to the LPG plant after having passed through gas booster stations, also located in the well fields. The LPG plant had a capacity of 43 million cubic meters per day and supplied the local bottling plant with LPG for domestic use. The rest of the LPG was exported.[262]

3. Off-loading Facilities

Kuwait had a well-developed infrastructure for exporting crude oil, refined products, and LPG. Four of these facilities were at Mina al-Ahmadi: a) the south pier, which had eight berths varying in depth from 12 to 15 meters, b) the north pier, which had four berths with a depth of about 18 meters and could handle tankers with a cargo of up to 100,000 tons, c) the artificial sea-island, which could handle 375,000 ton tankers and consisted of a loading platform with six docking platforms in almost 30 meters of water, and d) the single point mooring, which was controlled and connected by marine pipelines to the artificial sea-island.[263]

The smaller ports at Mina Shuaiba and Mina Abd Allah were also used for the export of oil products. The pier at Mina Shuaiba had four berths and could receive tankers up to 100,000 tons. Mina Abd Allah had an artificial sea-island in 13 to 17 meters of water and had an off-load capacity of 214,000 tons.[264]

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