Terrorism, geopolitics, and oil security: Using remote sensing to estimate oil production of the Islamic State

Quy Toan Do, Jacob N. Shapiro, Christopher D. Elvidge, Mohamed Abdel-Jelil, Daniel P. Ahn, Kimberly Baugh, Jamie Hansen-Lewis, Mikhail Zhizhin, Morgan D. Bazilian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


As the world's most traded commodity, oil production is typically well monitored and analyzed. It also has established links to geopolitics, international relations, and security. Despite this attention, the illicit production, refining, and trade of oil and derivative products occur all over the world and provide significant revenues outside of the oversight and regulation of governments. A prominent manifestation of this phenomenon is how terrorist and insurgent organizations—including the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL/ISIS or Daesh—use oil as a revenue source. Understanding the spatial and temporal variation in production can help determine the scale of operations, technical capacity, and revenue streams. This information, in turn, can inform both security and reconstruction strategies. To this end, we use satellite multi-spectral imaging and ground-truth pre-war output data to effectively construct a real-time census of oil production in areas controlled by the ISIL terrorist group. More broadly, remotely measuring the activity of extractive industries in conflict-affected areas without reliable administrative data can support a broad range of public policy and decisions and military operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-418
Number of pages8
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
StatePublished - Oct 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Fuel Technology
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


  • Energy security
  • Illicit oil production
  • Oil and conflict
  • Remote sensing


Dive into the research topics of 'Terrorism, geopolitics, and oil security: Using remote sensing to estimate oil production of the Islamic State'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this