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The Al-Omar oil field in Rmeilan, in northeast Syria, was captured from ISIS control by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on October 22, 2017. Photo: Hussein Malla / AP

Oil has been a key revenue source for ISIS, yet new data shows that production has steadily declined in areas under the group's control.

Historically, it has been difficult to get an accurate measure of ISIS's oil production. Past estimates extrapolated from chance observations at a small number of production sites — typically wherever journalists have had a source or intelligence documents have been seized. But that is like counting employees at a few McDonalds locations to draw conclusions about the number of workers across the fast food industry.

To arrive at a more precise figure, my colleagues and I developed a tool, as reported in a recent paper, that uses satellite imagery to evaluate in real time all 42 of the oil production sites once controlled by ISIS. The results show that production levels were approximately 56,000 barrels per day from July to December 2014. Production dropped to an average of 35,000 barrels per day throughout 2015, before declining further to approximately 16,000 barrels per day in 2016.

Why it matters: Our study shows that ISIS has been highly ineffective in managing its oil fields, limiting its revenue from these valuable assets and forcing it to fall back on taxation and extortion for funding. This data can also help to shape plans for rebuilding areas liberated from ISIS control by setting priorities for needed repairs and providing revenue projections for local economies.

Go deeper

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.