World oil production surpassed 75 million barrels per day for the first time ever in December 2011, at 75.45 million barrels, and went even higher in January of this year at 75.58 million barrels, setting a new monthly production record, according to data recently released by the EIA. The red line in the graph shows the upward linear trend in world oil production from 1973 onward, with daily production increasing by almost 600,000 barrels per day on average every year since 1973.
Thanks to Walter Olson for the inspiration for the post title.
- What Happened to Peak Oil? (wallstreetpit.com)
- Texas Oil Production increased 50,000 barrels per day from January to February (nextbigfuture.com)
- Texas Oil Commissioner talks about possible 4 million barrels of oil per day in 2016 from Texas (nextbigfuture.com)
Posted by Michael Klare at 7:42am, May 10, 2012.
There has been much discussion recently about the Obama administration’s “pivot” from the Greater Middle East to Asia: the 250 Marines sent to Darwin, Australia, the littoral combat ships for Singapore, the support for Burmese “democracy,” war games in the Philippines (and a drone strike there as well), and so on. The U.S. is definitely going offshore in Asian waters, or put another way, after a decade-long hiatus-cum-debacle on the Eurasian continent, the Great Game v. China is back on.
While true, however, the importance of this policy change has been exaggerated. At the moment, as it happens, the greatest game isn’t in Asia at all; it’s in the Persian Gulf where, off the coast of Iran and in bases around the region, the U.S. is engaged in a staggering build-up of naval and air power. Most people would have little idea that this was even going on, since it rarely makes its way into the mainstream and even less often onto front pages or into the headlines. The Washington Times, for instance, has been alone in reporting that, for the U.S. military, “war planning for Iran is now the most pressing scenario.” It adds that the “U.S. Central Command believes it can destroy or significantly degrade Iran’s conventional armed forces in about three weeks using air and sea strikes.”
Most of the time, however, you have to be a genuine news jockey or read specialist sites to notice the scale of what’s going on, even though the build-up in the Gulf is little short of monumental and evidently not close to finished. It’s not just the two aircraft carrier task forces now there, but (as the invaluable Danger Room website has reported) the doubling of minesweepers stationed in Bahrain, as well as the addition of minesweeping helicopters and coastal patrol boats that are being retrofitted with Gattling guns and missiles. Throw in new advanced torpedoes for Gulf waters and mini-drone subs; add in newly outfitted units of F-22s and F-15s heading for bases in the Gulf to make up “the world’s most powerful air-to-air fighting team.” And don’t forget the major CIA drone surveillance program already in operation over Iran (and undoubtedly still being bolstered).
And then, of course, you would have to add in what we don’t know about, including — you can be sure — the strengthening of special operations activities in the region. It’s the perfect build-up for a post-presidential-election war season. After a failed war in Iraq that left that country ever more firmly allied with Iran and another failing war in Afghanistan, you might think that the Pentagon would want to back off. Well, think again. To adapt the famed mantra of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential run, “It’s the oil heartlands of the planet, stupid.” And as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author of a new, must-read book, The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, points out, we’re now entering an era when “war” and “oil” may become synonymous. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Klare discusses global energy conflicts, click here or download it to your iPod here.) Tom
Oil Wars on the Horizon
by MICHAEL T. KLARE
Conflict and intrigue over valuable energy supplies have been features of the international landscape for a long time. Major wars over oil have been fought every decade or so since World War I, and smaller engagements have erupted every few years; a flare-up or two in 2012, then, would be part of the normal scheme of things. Instead, what we are now seeing is a whole cluster of oil-related clashes stretching across the globe, involving a dozen or so countries, with more popping up all the time. Consider these flash-points as signals that we are entering an era of intensified conflict over energy.
Six Recent Clashes and Conflicts on a Planet Heading Into Energy Overdrive
From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Argentina to the Philippines, here are the six areas of conflict — all tied to energy supplies — that have made news in just the first few months of 2012:
* A brewing war between Sudan and South Sudan: On April 10th, forces from the newly independent state of South Sudan occupied the oil center of Heglig, a town granted to Sudan as part of a peace settlement that allowed the southerners to secede in 2011. The northerners, based in Khartoum, then mobilized their own forces and drove the South Sudanese out of Heglig. Fighting has since erupted all along the contested border between the two countries, accompanied by air strikes on towns in South Sudan. Although the fighting has not yet reached the level of a full-scale war, international efforts to negotiate a cease-fire and a peaceful resolution to the dispute have yet to meet with success.
This conflict is being fueled by many factors, including economic disparities between the two Sudans and an abiding animosity between the southerners (who are mostly black Africans and Christians or animists) and the northerners (mostly Arabs and Muslims). But oil — and the revenues produced by oil — remains at the heart of the matter. When Sudan was divided in 2011, the most prolific oil fields wound up in the south, while the only pipeline capable of transporting the south’s oil to international markets (and thus generating revenue) remained in the hands of the northerners. They have been demanding exceptionally high “transit fees” — $32-$36 per barrel compared to the common rate of $1 per barrel — for the privilege of bringing the South’s oil to market. When the southerners refused to accept such rates, the northerners confiscated money they had already collected from the south’s oil exports, its only significant source of funds. In response, the southerners stopped producing oil altogether and, it appears, launched their military action against the north. The situation remains explosive.
* Naval clash in the South China Sea: On April 7th, a Philippine naval warship, the 378-foot Gregorio del Pilar, arrived at Scarborough Shoal, a small island in the South China Sea, and detained eight Chinese fishing boats anchored there, accusing them of illegal fishing activities in Filipino sovereign waters. China promptly sent two naval vessels of its own to the area, claiming that the Gregorio del Pilar was harassing Chinese ships in Chinese, not Filipino waters. The fishing boats were eventually allowed to depart without further incident and tensions have eased somewhat. However, neither side has displayed any inclination to surrender its claim to the island, and both sides continue to deploy warships in the contested area.
As in Sudan, multiple factors are driving this clash, but energy is the dominant motive. The South China Sea is thought to harbor large deposits of oil and natural gas, and all the countries that encircle it, including China and the Philippines, want to exploit these reserves. Manila claims a 200-nautical mile “exclusive economic zone” stretching into the South China Sea from its western shores, an area it calls the West Philippine Sea; Filipino companies say they have found large natural gas reserves in this area and have announced plans to begin exploiting them. Claiming the many small islands that dot the South China Sea (including Scarborough Shoal) as its own, Beijing has asserted sovereignty over the entire region, including the waters claimed by Manila; it, too, has announced plans to drill in the area. Despite years of talks, no solution has yet been found to the dispute and further clashes are likely.
* Egypt cuts off the natural gas flow to Israel: On April 22nd, the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Companyinformed Israeli energy officials that they were “terminating the gas and purchase agreement” under which Egypt had been supplying gas to Israel. This followed months of demonstrations in Cairo by the youthful protestors who succeeded in deposing autocrat Hosni Mubarak and are now seeking a more independent Egyptian foreign policy — one less beholden to the United States and Israel. It also followed scores of attacks on the pipelines carrying the gas across the Negev Desert to Israel, which the Egyptian military has seemed powerless to prevent.
Ostensibly, the decision was taken in response to a dispute over Israeli payments for Egyptian gas, but all parties involved have interpreted it as part of a drive by Egypt’s new government to demonstrate greater distance from the ousted Mubarak regime and his (U.S.-encouraged) policy of cooperation with Israel. The Egyptian-Israeli gas link was one of the most significant outcomes of the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries, and its annulment clearly signals a period of greater discord; it may also cause energy shortages in Israel, especially during peak summer demand periods. On a larger scale, the cutoff suggests a new inclination to use energy (or its denial) as a form of political warfare and coercion.
* Argentina seizes YPF: On April 16th, Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, announced that her government would seize a majority stake in YPF, the nation’s largest oil company. Under President Kirchner’s plans, which she detailed on national television, the government would take a 51% controlling stake in YPF, which is now majority-owned by Spain’s largest corporation, the energy firm Repsol YPF. The seizure of its Argentinean subsidiary is seen in Madrid (and other European capitals) as a major threat that must now be combated. Spain’s foreign minister, José Manuel García Margallo, said that Kirchner’s move “broke the climate of cordiality and friendship that presided over relations between Spain and Argentina.” Several days later, in what is reported to be only the first of several retaliatory steps, Spain announced that it would stop importing biofuels from Argentina, its principal supplier — a trade worth nearly $1 billion a year to the Argentineans.
As in the other conflicts, this clash is driven by many urges, including a powerful strain of nationalism stretching back to the Peronist era, along with Kirchner’s apparent desire to boost her standing in the polls. Just as important, however, is Argentina’s urge to derive greater economic and political benefit from its energy reserves, which include the world’s third-largest deposits of shale gas. While long-term rival Brazil is gaining immense power and prestige from the development of its offshore “pre-salt”petroleum reserves, Argentina has seen its energy production languish. Repsol may not be to blame for this, but many Argentineans evidently believe that, with YPF under government control, it will now be possible to accelerate development of the country’s energy endowment, possibly in collaboration with a more aggressive foreign partner like BP or ExxonMobil.
* Argentina re-ignites the Falklands crisis: At an April 15th-16th Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia — the one at which U.S. Secret Service agents were caught fraternizing with prostitutes — Argentina sought fresh hemispheric condemnation of Britain’s continued occupation of the Falkland Islands (called Las Malvinas by the Argentineans). It won strong support from every country present save (predictably) Canada and the United States. Argentina, which says the islands are part of its sovereign territory, has been raising this issue ever since it lost a war over the Falklands in 1982, but has recently stepped up its campaign on several fronts — denouncing London in numerous international venues and preventing British cruise ships that visit the Falklands from docking in Argentinean harbors. The British have responded by beefing up their military forces in the region and warning the Argentineans to avoid any rash moves.
When Argentina and the U.K. fought their war over the Falklands, little was at stake save national pride, the stature of the country’s respective leaders (Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher vs. an unpopular military junta), and a few sparsely populated islands. Since then, the stakes have risen immeasurably as a result of recent seismic surveys of the waters surrounding the islands that indicated the existence of massive deposits of oil and natural gas. Several UK-based energy firms, including Desire Petroleum and Rockhopper Exploration, have begun off-shore drilling in the area and have reported promising discoveries. Desperate to duplicate Brazil’s success in the development of offshore oil and gas, Argentina claims the discoveries lie in its sovereign territory and that the drilling there is illegal; the British, of course, insist that it’s their territory. No one knows how this simmering potential crisis will unfold, but a replay of the 1982 war — this time over energy — is hardly out of the question.
* U.S. forces mobilize for war with Iran: Throughout the winter and early spring, it appeared that an armed clash of some sort pitting Iran against Israel and/or the United States was almost inevitable. Neither side seemed prepared to back down on key demands, especially on Iran’s nuclear program, and any talk of a compromise solution was deemed unrealistic. Today, however, the risk of war has diminished somewhat – at least through this election year in the U.S. — as talks have finally gotten under way between the major powers and Iran, and as both have adopted (slightly) more accommodating stances. In addition, U.S. officials have been tamping down war talk and figures in the Israeli military and intelligence communities have spoken out against rash military actions. However, the Iranians continue to enrich uranium, and leaders on all sides say they are fully prepared to employ force if the peace talks fail.
For the Iranians, this means blocking the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow channel through which one-third of the world’s tradable oil passes every day. The U.S., for its part, has insisted that it will keep the Strait open and, if necessary, eliminate Iranian nuclear capabilities. Whether to intimidate Iran, prepare for the real thing, or possibly both, the U.S. has been building up its military capabilities in the Persian Gulf area, deploying two aircraft carrier battle groupsin the neighborhood along with an assortment of air and amphibious-assault capabilities.
One can debate the extent to which Washington’s long-running feud with Iran is driven by oil, but there is no question that the current crisis bears heavily on global oil supply prospects, both through Iran’s threats to close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for forthcoming sanctions on Iranian oil exports, and the likelihood that any air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities will lead to the same thing. Either way, the U.S. military would undoubtedly assume the lead role in destroying Iranian military capabilities and restoring oil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. This is the energy-driven crisis that just won’t go away.
How Energy Drives the World
All of these disputes have one thing in common: the conviction of ruling elites around the world that the possession of energy assets — especially oil and gas deposits — is essential to prop up national wealth, power, and prestige.
This is hardly a new phenomenon. Early in the last century, Winston Churchill was perhaps the first prominent leader to appreciate the strategic importance of oil. As First Lord of the Admiralty, he converted British warships from coal to oil and then persuaded the cabinet to nationalize the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the forerunner of British Petroleum (now BP). The pursuit of energy supplies for both industry and war-fighting played a major role in the diplomacy of the period between the World Wars, as well as in the strategic planning of the Axis powers during World War II. It also explains America’s long-term drive to remain the dominant power in the Persian Gulf that culminated in the first Gulf War of 1990-91 and its inevitable sequel, the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The years since World War II have seen a variety of changes in the energy industry, including a shift in many areas from private to state ownership of oil and natural gas reserves. By and large, however, the industry has been able to deliver ever-increasing quantities of fuel to satisfy the ever-growing needs of a globalizing economy and an expanding, rapidly urbanizing world population. So long as supplies were abundant and prices remained relatively affordable, energy consumers around the world, including most governments, were largely content with the existing system of collaboration among private and state-owned energy leviathans.
But that energy equation is changing ominously as the challenge of fueling the planet grows more difficult. Many of the giant oil and gas fields that quenched the world’s energy thirst in years past are being depleted at a rapid pace. The new fields being brought on line to take their place are, on average, smaller and harder to exploit. Many of the most promising new sources of energy — like Brazil’s “pre-salt” petroleum reserves deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean, Canadian tar sands, and American shale gas – require the utilization of sophisticated and costly technologies. Though global energy supplies are continuing to grow, they are doing so at a slower pace than in the past and are continually falling short of demand. All this adds to the upward pressure on prices, causing anxiety among countries lacking adequate domestic reserves (and joy among those with an abundance).
The world has long been bifurcated between energy-surplus and energy-deficit states, with the former deriving enormous political and economic advantages from their privileged condition and the latter struggling mightily to escape their subordinate position. Now, that bifurcation is looking more like a chasm. In such a global environment, friction and conflict over oil and gas reserves — leading to energy conflicts of all sorts — is only likely to increase.
Looking, again, at April’s six energy disputes, one can see clear evidence of these underlying forces in every case. South Sudan is desperate to sell its oil in order to acquire the income needed to kick-start its economy; Sudan, on the other hand, resents the loss of oil revenues it controlled when the nation was still united, and appears no less determined to keep as much of the South’s oil money as it can for itself. China and the Philippines both want the right to develop oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea, and even if the deposits around Scarborough Shoal prove meager, China is unwilling to back down in any localized dispute that might undermine its claim to sovereignty over the entire region.
Egypt, although not a major energy producer, clearly seeks to employ its oil and gas supplies for maximum political and economic advantage — an approach sure to be copied by other small and mid-sized suppliers. Israel, heavily dependent on imports for its energy, must now turn elsewhere for vital supplies or accelerate the development of disputed, newly discovered offshore gas fields, a move that could provoke fresh conflict with Lebanon, which says they lie in its own territorial waters. And Argentina, jealous of Brazil’s growing clout, appears determined to extract greater advantage from its own energy resources, even if this means inflaming tensions with Spain and Great Britain.
And these are just some of the countries involved in significant disputes over energy. Any clash with Iran — whatever the motivation — is bound to jeopardize the petroleum supply of every oil-importing country, sparking a major international crisis with unforeseeable consequences. China’s determination to control its offshore hydrocarbon reserves has pushed it into conflict with other countries with offshore claims in the South China Sea, and into a similar dispute with Japan in the East China Sea. Energy-related disputes of this sort can also be found in the Caspian Sea and in globally warming, increasingly ice-free Arctic regions.
The seeds of energy conflicts and war sprouting in so many places simultaneously suggest that we are entering a new period in which key state actors will be more inclined to employ force — or the threat of force — to gain control over valuable deposits of oil and natural gas. In other words, we’re now on a planet heading into energy overdrive.
This article originally appeared on TomDispatch.
- Tomgram: Michael Klare, Why High Gas Prices Are Here to Stay (tomdispatch.com)
- Easy Oil Vs. Tough Oil (integralpermaculture.wordpress.com)
- WAIT: Does The New Israeli Coalition Mean War With Iran Is More Likely Or Less Likely? (businessinsider.com)
Aker Solutions has been awarded a FEED (front-end engineering and design) contract from Statoil to design the world’s largest Spar platform for the Aasta Hansteen field development in the Norwegian Sea.
With a total hull length of 193 meters and a draught of 170 meters, the Aasta Hansteen (formerly named Luva) Spar platform will be the largest of its kind. A Spar platform is a cylinder shaped floating offshore installation. Aasta Hansteen will be the first Spar platform on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS), and also the world’s first Spar platform with condensate storage capacity – a so called Belly-Spar.
The Belly-Spar concept is an exclusive Aker Solutions design. The ‘belly’ refers to the increased diameter on part of the circular shaped hull, where the condensate storage tanks are located. This gives the Aker Solutions’ Belly-Spar its characteristic shape.
Henning Østvig, head of Front-End & Technology in Aker Solutions says: “The Aasta Hansteen Spar will be the first production platform on the NCS with steel catenary risers. With a water depth of 1300 meters, this is probably the only riser technology that can meet the challenges on the Aasta Hansteen field”.
The steel catenary risers are made of self-supporting steel pipes in a bow shape between the platform and the seabed. The shape helps the risers compensate for the motions on the floating facility.
“The Belly-Spar concept is a result of the innovative spirit and culture among our engineers, who have come up with the right solutions for the challenging conditions on the Aasta Hansteen field,” says Valborg Lundegaard, head of Engineering business area in Aker Solutions.
The mooring system for Aasta Hansteen Spar platform consists of a set of polyester lines. “There are currently no installations on the NCS with polyester mooring. Aasta Hansteen may be the first, and it will definitely be operating in the deepest water,” says Henning Østvig.
The FEED study will be completed in the third quarter of 2012. The contract value is undisclosed.
Aker Solutions’ contract party is Aker Engineering & Technology AS.
- USA: Aker Solutions to Provide Umbilicals for Anadarko’s Lucius Development (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Aker Solutions wins NOK 1 Billion Contract to Upgrade Snorre A Drilling Facilities (gcaptain.com)
- USA: Aker Solutions to Open Hi-Tech Drilling Equipment Simulator in – Houston (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: Aker Solutions Delivers Subsea Templates for Skuld Fast-Track Development (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Aker Solutions to Deliver 6 More Trees to Statoil’s Giant Troll (gcaptain.com)
- Ghana: Aker Solutions Signs Well Service Contract with Tullow (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: EMAS AMC Wins Fram SURF Deal from Statoil (mb50.wordpress.com)
Drydocks World has signed a contract with Singapore based AET, for two Tanker-to-Modular Capture Vessel (MCV) conversion projects. AET is converting these vessels as part of the Marine Well Containment Company’s (MWCC) well containment system.
MWCC is a not-for-profit, stand-alone organization with 10 member companies ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell, BP, Apache Anadarko, BHP Billiton, Statoil and Hess. The conversion will be implemented at the Drydocks World – Dubai facility.
The conversion shall allow the tankers to continue to operate normally as tanker in the US Gulf of Mexico, with capability to be deployed as MCV within shortest possible time. The first vessel is expected to arrive at the yard in December 2011 and the second vessel in February 2012. Each project will be completed within a period of nine months. Each vessel will handle about 100,000 barrels of liquid and about 200 million standard cubic feet of gas per day. The MCVs are capable of operating at depths of 10,000 feet.
The vessels will be equipped with new state-of-the-art containment system provided by Marine Well Containment Company. Conversion scope includes installation of 4 off power generators, 4 off retractable type azimuth thrusters one tunnel thruster, Dynamic Positioning, Pipe racks on deck and supports for Process Module, Flare tower, turret etc..
“We are extremely happy to sign this prestigious Contract with AET, a well-known global service provider, as part of our well-articulated strategy of building our presence in the oil, gas and energy industries. We already have an established reputation and strong expertise in carrying out sophisticated vessel conversion projects for world-leading companies. Our thrust on expanding our knowledge base and creating a technology-driven state-of-the-art facility has borne fruit and we are able to effectively serve the industry,” said Khamis Juma Buamim, Chairman of Drydocks World.
The Arctic Scientific Center planned to be set up by the Russian Rosneft oil giant jointly with the US ExxonMobil Corporation will become sort of a technological core for developing the region’s ice shelf. Pursuant to the strategic partnership agreement signed earlier, the Russian and American companies will have 66.7 and 33.3 percent interests respectively in the future joint venture.
The new scientific center is meant to study the climate and geology of the Arctic, engineer icebreakers and drilling platforms, as well as engage in all shelf cooperation-related projects.
The region faces serious yearlong development, given an estimated one third of the world’s natural resources originating from the Arctic Ocean floor. The shelf is especially rich in coal, gold, copper, nickel, tin, platinum and manganese, with the region’s hydrocarbon fields holding up to 30 and 13 percent of global gas and oil reserves.
It is clear that one company cannot cover the development of all these deposits single-handedly, which requires cooperation with foreign specialists. According to partner of the RusEnergy consulting company Mikhail Krutikhin, the project has an essential economic aspect:
“ExxonMobil possesses enough shelf exploration technology and experience; it cooperated with Russia on the Sakhalin-1 project. Any opportunity to get access to new deposits and develop them appears more than attractive for any international company of this class,” says Mikhail Krutikhin.
One should realize, however, that exploration efforts on the Russian shelf will also require a specific approach, stresses oil investment expert Dmitry Alexandrov:
“In general, no one can be deemed highly experienced in carrying out geologic exploration under such conditions, given that the Russian Arctic differs much from what we observe in Alaska. Russia finds it particularly important to cooperate with a large foreign company in order to adopt its knowledge of shelf activities. We are dealing with the shared financial risks on the one hand and high-level technological solutions on the other,” Dmitry Alexandrov points out.
One should also bear in mind that the Arctic is a region attractive for all oil giants, the expert adds:
“The shelf’s resource base arouses interest of many foreign companies. Giants like ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips and Statoil have insufficient resource bases and always seek to engage in high-potential projects,” Dmitry Alexandrov says in conclusion.
The Arctic center is expected to absorb some $500 or 600 million, with overall Rosneft and ExxonMobil investment estimated at $200-300 billion. The total economic impact may reach half a billion dollars.
Partnership between the Russian and American giants is not only limited to Arctic projects. ExxonMobil may take part in exploring an area of the so-called Tuapse Trough in the Black Sea, while Rosneft is likely to get access to oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico, Texas and Canada.
- Russia: Rosneft Gets Clearance to Buy More Offshore Assets in the Arctic (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Rosneft hooks up with ExxonMobil on Arctic and Black Sea development (rt.com)
- ExxonMobil strategic agreement puts Rosneft on global stage (rt.com)
- ExxonMobil clinches Arctic oil deal with Rosneft (guardian.co.uk)