Iraqi Kurdistan is incredibly rich in oil and natural gas. So much so, in some places it is just leaking out.
Just outside the town of Chamchamal, a water well flowing with methane gas has been continually ablaze, the fire burning for more than two years now.
The well was dug in 2015 to irrigate a nearby farm. Since then, the fire has been consuming about 2,200 liters of gas per day, causing health and environmental concerns in the area. The root of the problem are the old wells dug for oil exploration in Chamchamal by the British and Iraqi governments in the mid-20th century. The excavation caused high gas pressure in the area.
The boiling water is combined with an ever present methane which has been ignited and continually blazes. The intensity of the heat is incredible; just standing within the collapsed fenced area and you’re likely to be sweating profusely.
Know Before You Go
Just off the road from Kirkuk to Sulaymaniyah, passing Chamchamal on the left hand side, look out for a brown tourist panel. The springs are just down the little hill, past the bathing shepherds and round the corner.