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Kuwait oil reserves secret for national security

Arab Times (Kuwait)
KUWAIT (RTRS): Kuwait will never disclose the size of its oil reserves for reasons of national security, Oil Minister Sheikh Ali Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah was quoted as saying after Kuwait announced a new oil find. “Kuwait has not and will not disclose the size of its oil reserves,” he told Al-Arabiya Television late on Monday. “The Kuwait people are not concerned with numbers. This is related to national security.”

Industry newsletter Petroleum Intelligence Weekly (PIW) said in January 2006 it had seen internal Kuwaiti records showing reserves were about 48 billion barrels – half the officially stated 99 billion, or some 10 percent of global oil reserves. Kuwait’s former oil minister, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahd Al-Sabah, has said that PIW’s report only paints a partial picture while other oil officials said the report was inaccurate.

PIW said official public figures do not distinguish between proven, probable and possible reserves. Sheikh Ali told Arabiya that just because some fields were not proven it did not mean there was no oil there but that they were not being used.
(5 May 2007)

Have the Kurds Abandoned All Hope of a Stable Iraq?

Jeff Vail, Energy Intelligence Newsletter
Salman Banaei recently published an analysis of Iraq’s draft Oil & Gas Law in the Association of International Petroleum Negotiator’s March issue of “Advisor” (also available via his Western Energy Blog). He shows how the draft law allocates control over production from “current” fields to the Iraqi National Oil Company, and that regional governments retain control over “undiscovered” fields. While regional governments can sign contracts with international oil & gas firms, the draft law ensures federal oversight by requiring approval of these contracts by Iraq’s Federal Oil & Gas Council (FOGC).

Recent events in Kurdistan, however, suggest that the Kurds may have other plans. UAE-based Dana Gas announced recently that they have agreed with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to develop the Kormor gasfield (see graphic). The Kormor Field clearly falls under the draft law’s envisioned federal control, as it is a “current” field, discovered in 1928. The contract has not received FOGC approval, and it breaks the KRG’s promise to avoid signing new contracts until the end of May, to give the federal government time to pass the Oil & Gas Law.

What does this signify? It seems that the KRG is not satisfied with the division of gas fields between federal control (“current” fields) and regional control (“undiscovered” fields). This “current” vs. “undiscovered” designation seems to have little basis in geological reality, but rather is the political gloss given to the apportionment of existing fields, which is detailed in an annex to the draft law.
(1 May 2007)

How Much Iraqi Crude Oil is Being Stolen? Mystery of the Missing Meters

Pratap Chatterjee, CorpWatch via AlterNet
Nobody really knows how much crude oil is being stolen by corrupt corrupt Iraqi and U.S. officials because, four years after the invasion, the oil meters haven’t been fixed.

The line of ships at the Al Basra Oil Terminal (ABOT) stretches south to the horizon, patiently waiting in the searing heat of the Northern Arabian Gulf as four giant supertankers load up. Close by, two more tankers fill up at the smaller Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT). Guarding both terminals are dozens of heavily-armed U.S. Navy troops and Iraqi Marines who live on the platforms.

These two offshore terminals, a maze of pipes and precarious metal walkways, deliver some 1.6 million barrels of crude oil, at least 85 percent of Iraq’s output, to buyers from all over the world. If the southern oil fields are the heart of Iraq’s economy, its main arteries are three 40-plus inch pipelines that stretch some 52 miles from Iraq’s wells to the ports.

Heavily armed soldiers spend their days at the oil terminals scanning the horizon looking for suicide bombers and stray fishing dhows (boats). Meanwhile, right under their noses, smugglers are suspected to be diverting an estimated billions of dollars worth of crude onto tankers because the oil metering system that is supposed monitor how much crude flows into and out of ABOT and KAAOT — has not worked since the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Officials blame the four-year delay in repairing the relatively simple system on “security problems.” Others point to the failed efforts of the two U.S. companies hired to repair the southern oil fields, fix the two terminals, and the meters: Halliburton of Houston, Texas, and Parsons of Pasadena, California.
(30 April 2007)
Also at Znet.

The Other Oil-Rich Gulf

Daniel Morris, National Interest
While most media attention on African oil focuses on the sensational, spectacular or just plain lurid, important developments are taking place at sea. Widely considered to be one of the most promising new oil sources in the world, the 34 billion barrels of proven reserves buried in the deep waters off Africa’s western coast in a region expected to account for as much as 25 percent of U.S. oil supplies in the coming years represent a critical opportunity for the United States to diversify its energy supplies. But doing so will require being mindful of the considerable security risks and adeptness in engaging in the cut-throat competition for contracts that often makes no accommodation for scruples.

When oil fields in the Persian Gulf were tapped for the first time in the twentieth century, few made a connection between energy policy and national security. The no-questions-asked investment helped prop up regimes with little concern for their citizens’ well-being and has contributed to that region’s well-known volatility. Now it is the oil blocks in another gulf-Africa’s Gulf of Guinea-that are being leased, and policy-makers need to be sure to balance commercial interests and energy supplies with security concerns. In their book Oil, Terrorism, and West Africa, two professors at the U.S. Military Academy say, “This is our chance to get it right.”

…The U.S. military could increase its presence in the gulf, directly contributing to security efforts. Moreover, joint exercises with the navies of key countries like Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe serve as force multipliers, building up their capacity to track activity while generating goodwill towards the United States.

Sao Tome and Principe has been a special target of attention for the U.S. Navy. Home to as much as 11 billion barrels of oil in its waters, there have been rumors that the U.S. presence in the tiny twin-island state could become permanent with the establishment of a naval base (the president of the country announced that talks were underway in 2003, but U.S. officials denied it). A base in Sao Tome makes sense. The U.S. Navy would need to construct the necessary deep-water port, which would benefit Sao Tome’s fishing, trade and other industries. The location of the recently announced U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has not been made public, but a forward operating base in Western Africa could serve as a valuable complement to U.S. interests.

Daniel Morris is the program director of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, a New York-based think-tank. The National Interest is published by The Nixon Center
(25 April 2007)