China's vulnerability in Malacca Strait

Discussion in 'China' started by jayadev, Mar 30, 2009.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Pipeline projects in the Middle East

    Saudi Arabia

    Saudi Aramco has awarded an engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) and commissioning contract to the Nacap-Suedrohrbau joint venture to construct the 506 km, 30 inch diameter Ras Tanura – Riyadh multi-product pipeline from refineries in Ras Tanura to Riyadh in central Saudi Arabia, as well as install three pump stations, metering systems, substation buildings and maintenance. The project is expected to be completed by December 2011.

    Saudi Aramco has also awarded Jacobs Engineering Group a contract to develop the associated pipelines as part of the Arabiyah Gas Development Programme, which will facilitate the production and processing of up to 2.5 Bcf/d of gas from the Arabiyah and Hasbah offshore sour gas fields.

    There are four associated pipelines: two offshore pipelines connecting the gas platforms to the tie-in platform of 24 km and 36 km, a 110 km offshore pipeline to transport gas to the Manifa processing facility, and a 100 km onshore pipeline carrying gas to the Berri gas plant. The project is expected to be completed in 2015.

    J Ray McDermott is undertaking pipeline construction at Saudi Aramco’s offshore Karan gas field, in the Khuff region. The gas field development involves a 110 km subsea pipeline from the field to onshore processing facilities at the Khursaniyah gas plant. The project is expected to be complete by the fourth quarter of 2011.

    Meanwhile Stroytransgaz is nearing completion of construction works to expand the second Shaybah – Abqaiq oil pipeline (SHBAB-2).

    The 217 km pipeline will connect a new plant, which separates gas and oil at Shaybah, to an existing pipeline that carries crude oil to a processing facility at Abqaiq. The existing 640 km SHBAB-1 pipeline transports crude oil to Abqaiq from three gas and oil separation plants located in Shaybah.

    Bahrain

    Bahrain and Saudi Aramco are discussing the construction of a new oil pipeline between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Exceeding 100 km in length, the projected $US350 million pipeline project was expected to commence construction by the end of 2009; it has, however, been delayed until later this year.

    Qatar

    Turkey is in negotiations to discuss the development of the Qatar – Turkey pipeline. The pipeline would run from Doha to Istanbul, a distance of approximately 2,500 km. The pipeline would carry Qatari gas to the Mediterranean Sea, crossing Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and may link to the proposed Nabucco gas pipeline.

    United Arab Emirates

    In February 2010, Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO) awarded a contract worth approximately $US683 million to National Petroleum Construction Company (NPCC) for the construction of a 950 km oil pipeline in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

    NPCC will perform the EPC for the new pipeline, as well as production well tie-ins and flowlines that will connect the field to four new production facilities. The contract is expected to be executed in 30 months to increase the capacity of the Bab field from 1.4 MMbbl/d to 1.8 MMbbl/d by 2017.

    Dolphin Energy has completed the commissioning of early gas facilities in August 2009 at the gas receiving station associated with the Taweelah – Fujairah gas pipeline. The 240 km Taweelah – Fujairah pipeline will carry gas from the Taweelah gas terminal on the Persian Gulf coast, to treatment facilities in the emirate of Fujairah near the Oman border. The project is set to be completed later this year.

    In January 2010, UAE-based construction firm Dodsal secured contracts worth over $US160 million to construct two gas pipelines in Abu Dhabi. The first contract is for the replacement of a 100 km, 36 inch diameter pipeline linking Abu Dhabi Gas Industries’ (GASCO) Thamma C production facilities in the northeast to the firm’s Asab field in the south. The contract is worth approximately $US85 million.

    The second EPC contract includes construction of the 45 km, 48 inch diameter Mirfa – Habshan nitrogen pipeline. Part of the joint venture industrial gas scheme by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Germany’s Linde, this pipeline will link Mirfa, in west Abu Dhabi, with the Habshan oil field, located in the south of the capital.

    China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) have signed an EPC contract for the Abu Dhabi crude oil pipeline project.

    The project will involve the construction of a 400 km, 48 inch diameter pipeline, which will run from the Habshan oil field in the west to the Fujairah Port in the east, and will have a designed delivery capacity of 1.5 MMbbl/d and a maximum capacity of 1.8 MMbbl/d.

    WorleyParsons has been awarded the front-end engineering and design contract, while Germany’s ILF Consulting Engineers is managing the project. Trial operation of the pipeline is estimated to start by the end of 2010, while the whole project is expected to be completed in August 2011.

    BJ Process and Pipeline Services has successfully completed a pipeline pre-commissioning operation for the Atlantis development, which comprises a wellhead platform that feeds a stand-alone pipeline extending 75 km to shore. The contract was completed for Global Industries, the installation contractor for the offshore section of the development.

    Oman

    Oman and India are examining the possibility of constructing a 28 inch diameter, 1,100 km subsea gas pipeline that could significantly boost India’s energy industry. The pipeline would be constructed at a maximum depth of 3,500 m, and is expected to have a capacity of 20 Bcm/a.

    Iran

    Iran and Pakistan have signed the final agreement to launch the construction of the $US3.2 billion Iran – Pakistan (IP) onshore gas pipeline. The two countries signed an Operational Agreement and a Heads of Agreement (HoA), which includes a provision for India’s possible participation in the project at a later date, in March 2010.

    Iran will deliver 750 MMcf/d of gas to Pakistan for the next 25 years via the 900 km, 42 inch diameter gas pipeline, which will run from the Assaluyen gas field in southern Iran, to Pakistan. The pipeline is scheduled to become operational by 2015.

    In addition, Iran is planning to construct a 350 km pipeline from its Tabriz refinery to Armenia to increase gasoline and gas exports to the country. Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Noureddin Shahnazi-Zadeh said the two countries have agreed on a contract for the construction of the pipeline and a gas terminal to be located on the border shared by the two countries. The pipeline has been under discussion since 2007.

    Iran has completed initial studies for the construction of the 1,550 km Neka-Jask pipeline. The pipeline has a planned transmission capacity of 1 MMbbl/d of oil and a storage capacity of 20 MMbbl.

    The pipeline will travel between the Caspian Sea port of Neka to the Gulf of Oman port of Jask. The project is targeting crude oil supplies from Kazakhstan’s large Kashagan field, but will also offer Russia, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan the opportunity to export to the Arabian Sea.

    Construction has commenced on the Iranian section of the 56 inch diameter, 1,740 km Pars pipeline that will run to Turkey and on to consumers in Europe. The pipeline is designed to boost exports to Turkey and Europe from the western region of the country by transporting sweet gas produced from Iran’s South Pars field. The pipeline will have an initial capacity of 37 Bcm/a.

    The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) intends to build a 200 km gas export pipeline to Iran. The new pipeline, to be funded by SOCAR, is expected to be 200 km in length and have a gas transmission capacity of 6.57 Bcm/a. Construction works are scheduled for later in 2010, with operation expected in 2012.

    Jordan

    Egypt has given preliminary approval to send Jordan approximately 500 MMcm/a of gas through the 1,200 km, 36 inch diameter Arab Gas Pipeline. Egypt currently exports between 5.7 MMcm/d and 7.1 MMcm/d of natural gas to Jordan.

    Egypt and Jordan have been linked since 2003 by the Arab Gas Pipeline, which extends from Arish in Egypt, passing through Aqaba, Damascus and Banias. The pipeline is currently used to export Egyptian natural gas to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and commissioning of the entire pipeline is planned for 2011.

    Israel

    The Natural Gas Pipeline Company has announced that it will construct a 37 km gas pipeline to Jerusalem. The company estimates that the planning process for the new pipeline will take approximately two years and that the natural gas will be delivered by a distribution company to be set up in the future.

    Negotiations continue between the Israeli Government and the Druze communities situated along the pipeline route. Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office Eyal Gabbai is handling the talks for the government.

    Syria

    In 2008, Stroytransgaz and the Syrian Gas Company signed an EPC contract for the Arab Gas Pipeline Project Phase 2 in Syria.

    The 36 inch diameter Arab Gas Pipeline Project Phase 2 will run 62 km from the Turkish-Syrian border to Alenno, the site of the pressure reduction and metering station. The project will be completed in 18 months.

    In March 2010, Syria announced that a working group would be created to discuss the construction of a new 150km gas pipeline between Azerbaijan and Syria. The working group is to consider technical, commercial issues related to the export of approximately 1 Bcm/a of gas from Azerbaijan to Syria.

    It is expected that 90 km of the pipeline will be situated in Syria, and completion is planned for the end of 2011.

    Iraq

    In November 2009, an agreement was reached between the Baghdad and Amman administrations to construct a pipeline between Iraq and Jordan. The pipeline will carry Iraqi oil to Jordan’s Aqaba port, traversing a distance of approximately 600 km.

    Iraq currently exports 4 MMbbl/a of oil through the approximately 600 km Kirkuk– Yumurtalık pipeline, and via Basra in tankers.

    Turkey hopes to renew an agreement to operate a 941 km Kirkuk to Ceyhan oil pipeline for another 15 to 20 years. The pipeline project comprises two parallel pipelines, which transport oil from fields around Kirkuk, Iraq, to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey, and have a total capacity of 500,000 bbl/d of oil. The first pipeline was commissioned in 1977 and the second in 1987. The pipelines are jointly operated by Iraq and Turkey’s respective national oil companies.

    Nabucco and Arab Gas Pipeline to link the Middle East?

    The Turkish Parliament has ratified a 2008 agreement with European Union states regarding the nation’s participation in the construction of the 3,300 km Nabucco pipeline.

    The $US10.6 billion Nabucco pipeline will draw gas from the Caspian region — Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan — as well as Georgia and Iraq. From the point where it connects into Turkey’s pipeline network, the Nabucco pipeline will run 3,300 km to a distribution hub in Baumgarten, Austria, potentially delivering up to
    31 Bcm/a of natural gas to Europe.

    Tying into the Nabucco project is the 36 inch diameter, 1,200 km Arab Gas Pipeline, which will transport Egyptian gas through Jordan and Syria to Turkey once completed.

    Construction has been completed on part of the pipeline, extending from Arish in Egypt, passing through Aqaba in Jordan, Damascus and Banias, both in Syria.
    Phase 2 of the pipeline will run to Turkey, and commissioning of the entire pipeline is planned for 2011.

    Lebanon will also tap into the network, having signed an agreement with Egypt for 600 MMcm/a, while Iraq will be integral in keeping supplies of gas flowing into the network.

    Pipeline projects in the Middle East — Pipelines International — The international pipeline magazine
     
  2. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Global Chokepoints and Oil Routes

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    Strait of Hormuz

    MANAMA, Bahrain—For more than 40 years, the U.S. Navy has used the Naval Support Activity base, a sprawling coastal compound in Bahrain’s capital city, as a global oil police headquarters, projecting vast amounts of military power to ensure that oil from the Middle East gets to its intended consumers—especially those in the United States and its allies.

    Protecting oil tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passage off the coast of Iran and the United Arab Emirates, is one of the critical missions of the Navy here. It is also expensive. By some estimates, the United States has spent as much as $8 trillion on maintaining such a menacing military presence in the region in recent decades, including aircraft carrier groups bristling with jet fighters, to make sure countries like Iran don’t choke off the world’s oil supply.

    Roger Stern, a professor at the University of Tulsa National Energy Policy Institute, came up with the $8 trillion calculation in a 2010 study published in the Energy Policy Journal. He concluded that the U.S. has spent that sum on protecting oil resources in Persian Gulf since 1976, when it first began increasing its military presence in the region following the first Arab oil embargo.

    Estimates of the actual cost vary. According to a 2009 study by the RAND Corporation, there is no official public U.S. accounting of the costs of protecting U.S. oil interests in the Persian Gulf or elsewhere. However, others like Stern have come up with numbers ranging from $13 billion to $143 billion per year.

    According to Stern, U.S. officials spent the money out of fear that oil supplies would run out and concerns about containing Soviet expansionism—and access to oil—in the Middle East.

    “The fear grew out of a belief not just in a global peak oil, but a strong CIA conviction, that was shared by the National Security Council, that the Soviets were running out of oil, that their production was going to tank in just a few years and the Soviets [had] no choice but to march to the Persian gulf to get oil, so that was the rationale for the idea that a force was needed,” Stern said in an interview.

    But, Stern added, “I am just not one who believes that the supply was ever threatened.”

    In 2001, the U.S. reached its peak in terms of importing oil from the Persian Gulf – a little less than 2.8 million barrels a day. By 2011, imports from the region had fallen from 23 percent of the U.S. total in 2001 to 16 percent. And that trend is expected to continue, as the U.S. develops better ways to conserve fuel while relying more and more on new technologies and its own production of alternative sources of energy like shale oil and natural gas.

    Today, most of the oil exported from the Middle East goes elsewhere, especially to emerging powers in Asia such as Japan, China, India and South Korea. But none of those countries have any substantial military presence in the Persian Gulf, instead relying on the United States to protect the free flow of oil.

    Gary Sick, a retired Navy captain and former National Security Council official under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, is one of many Gulf watchers who argue that as the U.S. becomes more energy self-sufficient, there may be fewer reasons to keep a large force in the Gulf– especially since most of the oil is going elsewhere.

    “We are sort of the sheriff that watches over the oil flow to make sure they get [oil] because if Japan is cut off or Europe is cut off, that has huge implications for the world economic well-being and our own security,” Sick said in a recent interview.

    “Nobody else is willing to pick up that responsibility,’’ he added, “so at the moment we have almost sole responsibility.”

    Steve LeVine, author of The Oil and the Glory and an energy security professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, said allies like India, which receives about 13 percent of Gulf oil, and Japan, recipient of about 20 percent of the oil, should help the U.S. either patrol the Strait of Hormuz or pay for the security. “Why should we be paying for Japan’s national security?” he asked.

    A more politically sensitive question, according to LeVine and others, is whether China should also play a bigger role in securing the Middle Eastern sea lanes, relieving the U.S. of some of the burden. That could allow a nonallied country with its own agenda to fill a potential power vacuum in the Gulf, but, conversely, it could also help stabilize the region at no cost to the U.S., they say.

    NEW REALITIES AND CHALLENGES

    As it enters its second term, the Obama administration acknowledges that it has some tough decisions to make about its global military footprint, including whether it will maintain its current military posture in the Gulf. With costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, the military is also facing massive budget cuts, and a shift of assets to the Pacific in a show of force against an expansionist China.

    “We looked around the world and asked a very basic question: ‘Where is the United States overweighted in terms of its presence and resources and efforts, and where is it underweighted?’’’ National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon said in a Nov. 15 speech at the Center For Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

    “It was clear to us that there was an imbalance in the projection of focus of American power around the world,’’ Donilon said. “It was the president’s judgment that we were overweighted in some areas and regions, such as our military commitments in the Middle East, and at the same time, we were significantly underweighted in some regions, including and specifically the Asia-Pacific region.’’

    Some key current and former U.S. national security officials said the Obama administration is firm in its commitment to maintaining a significant presence in the Gulf, especially given a potential showdown with Iran over its alleged illicit a possible nuclear weapons program and other security threats in the region.

    Prompted by economic sanctions and intensified political rhetoric from regional powers, Iran has threatened since 2008 to close the strait or to use mines to shut down global shipping.

    In response, the U.S. and its allies also deployed more military assets to the Gulf. Early in 2011, the Pentagon converted a 40-year-old amphibious assault ship, the USS Ponce, to support countermining and special operations missions in the Middle East.

    And last September, the 5th Fleet hosted the largest naval exercises ever in the Middle East with militaries from more than 27 nations to practice coordinating a response to potential disruptions to the freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz – specifically from mines. The exercises were intended to enhance interoperability between the U.S. and its allies and to also send a signal to Iran that attempts to disrupt the sea lanes will be met with force. [See video of exercises above]

    “I think it’s important to note that there is a broad international commitment to this, in one facet or another, and a broad understanding of the imperative that the global commons are safe for transit,” Vice Admiral John W. Miller, commander of the 5th Fleet, said.

    Indeed, during the exercise, a multiplicity of flags waved above different mine sweeping ships. An English vessel sailed alongside a Japanese one, simulating support efforts in the event one vessel was in danger. U.S. carriers launched and retrieved jets, helicopters and drones. A Japanese vessel deployed a mine hunting submarine and an Iraqi frigate participated in an emergency drill against a potential approaching enemy ship.

    Recently, Iran also stepped up its naval presence by showcasing two new submarines and two hovercrafts. On Dec. 28, it launched its own naval maneuvers in the strait and the Sea of Oman. The six-day exercise was designed to showcase Iranian capabilities to defend its maritime borders and respond to any force used against it.

    “The Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly announced that it is capable of establishing security in this vital and strategic region, especially with the cooperation and coordination of regional countries,” Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari told Iranian television.

    In part due to Iran’s saber-rattling, the United States continues to expand its presence in the Gulf, even as the Obama administration promises a new emphasis on Asia. A 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service, the independent research arm of Congress, said that the U.S. military began a planned $580 million military construction program in Bahrain in May 2010, which will allow larger ships to dock at the naval facility and for more military planes to be stationed there. About $19 million of the budget is allocated for a Special Operations Forces facility. The project is expected to be completed by 2015.

    “There’s a lot of things that go on in Bahrain, the headquarters of the anti-piracy, anti-smuggling, anti-terrorism, maritime operations are headquartered over there,” said Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East affairs specialist with the Congressional Research Service. “The US is always – every year or two – trying to get agreements with the government [of Bahrain] trying to keep expanding that facility and keep improving that facility so that it has more capacity.”

    A LONG HISTORY OF INVOLVEMENT

    The United States’ presence in the Middle East began in the early 1900s with American companies joining their French and British counterparts in oil exploration. However, close U.S. government involvement only began after Saudi Arabia’s vast oil supply was discovered in 1938. By the late 1940s, Saudi Arabia had become the largest oil exporter, and while the U.S. strengthened its ties with Arabian kingdom, it was not yet a main importer of Saudi oil. This is may explain the low military presence in the region and low interest in oil security in the beginning half of the 1900s.

    The U.S. military deployment began in 1948, with the establishment of its first bases in countries like Bahrain. But the U.S. military presence only truly escalated after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when Washington was shocked to find its Persian ally and primary protector of oil supply in the Middle East had suddenly become an adversary.

    According to a 1981 RAND Corporation report written by Paul K. Davis, former acting deputy assistant to the sectary of defense, the U.S. was largely unprepared for this shift in the Persian Gulf policies and began almost “from scratch” to develop a more preemptive, organized and powerful military deployment capability. That was done, in part, to counter suspected efforts by the Soviet Union to gain control over Iran and the Middle East and hence, the oil fields and choke points.

    In 1980, in response to that perceived threat, President Jimmy Carter announced that the U.S. would take any action needed to protect its interests in the Persian Gulf. This became known as the ‘The Carter Doctrine,’’ and it continues to drive U.S. policy today.

    In the years that followed, the U.S. developed the Rapid Development Joint Task Force with the sole purpose of being a mobile unit responding to any regional contingencies. It was later expanded into what is now Central Command, which oversees a swath of territory that extends far beyond the Persian Gulf.

    “The concept of staying home except in crisis, and then responding with the cavalry, had long has an attraction for U.S. policymakers and diplomats,” Davis noted in his 1981 Rand study, advocating for the expansion of the military presence there.
    “Militarily, however, the concept has serious drawbacks and vulnerabilities,” he wrote. “As a minimum, we need arrangements with regional countries for use of bases as early in crisis as possible; and it means that the base facilities must be suitable.”

    Indeed, as Reagan took office in 1981, efforts to double the U.S.’s force in the region were underway, allocating larger and larger budgets to security in the Persian Gulf.

    A Congressional Budget Office report from 1983 warned about the growth and expense of the task force, whose name had been shortened to the Rapid Deployment Force:

    “As the RDF is constituted today, it comprises 222,000 troops. The administration plans to increase the size of the RDF, perhaps doubling that number… Moreover, the RDF could affect the U.S. defense budget… particularly the plans for a larger version, could give rise to pressure for eventual increases in the defense budget and could hamper efforts to reduce the budget deficit in the next few years.”

    The need for a U.S. presence in the Gulf increased in the so-called Tanker Wars between Iran and Iraq that began in 1984, when Iran began attacking oil tankers travelling out of Iraq into Kuwait. In 1987 the U.S., fearful of the effect of the attacks on the oil market and supply, responded to a call for help from its ally Kuwait, and reflagged the oil tankers with U.S. flags – making any attack on the ships an attack on the U.S. It also escorted many of the ships, and increased patrols in the Gulf.

    According to a 1991 U.S. General Accounting Office report, the U.S. spent $359 billion nominal dollars to defend American interests in South West Asia, namely the Persian Gulf. The report noted that much of that money went toward Central Command resources, reflagging of the Kuwaiti oil tankers, and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

    A 1992 report by the Congressional Research Service concluded that far less– about $13 billion per year— was spent specifically on protecting oil resources.

    Since the 1980s, the U.S. military and diplomatic presence in the Persian Gulf has only increased. First came the Gulf War of 1990, and then again in the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003. Today, the U.S. presence in the Middle East has extended beyond ground bases in the Gulf and naval patrols in the Strait of Hormuz, to broader military efforts that include training and maintaining strategic alliances, peacekeeping forces and providing humanitarian aid.

    “The U.S. presence in the Middle East now has more to do with advancing global principles of nonaggression, human rights and democracy than it does oil,” according to the CRS’s Katzman.

    “Just because we’re not importing as much oil from the Middle East, doesn’t mean we don’t have objectives aside that.”

    Sick, the retired National Security Council official and Navy captain, would beg to differ.

    “If the Persian Gulf had no oil, we would treat it with the same degree of attention as say – as we do Bolivia,” he said.

    In early February, the U.S. Navy has announced it will not deploy the USS Harry S. Truman carrier to the Persian Gulf region due to budgetary constraints, leaving only one carrier to patrol the Gulf – a shift away from the U.S.’s usual two carrier group deployment in the region.

    Straits of Malacca

    The Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Singapore is the second largest oil choke point in the world; about 15 million barrels of oil pass through these waters on a daily basis. The choke point, which links the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean, is critical to the Persian Gulf and Asian countries – especially as demand for oil in these countries continues to rise.

    The oil shipped through the Strait of Malacca mostly goes to Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.The greatest threats facing this sea lane are piracy and robbery, according a 2011 Center for Naval Analyses study on the economic implications of disruptions of global chokepoints.

    While the choke point has remained relatively calm in recent years, recent increases in oil tanker traffic due to increased Asian demand make the strait more of a potential hot spot for pirates and other hostile groups. According to the latest International Maritime Bureau piracy report, there was only one report of piracy or attempted robbery in the strait in 2011, the latest year for which figures are available. Four pirates hijacked two fishing boats that year. This is an improvement from previous decades.

    Security in the Malacca strait has improved due to more aggressive patrolling, but anti piracy lookouts are still strongly advised for ships transiting through.

    Due to the strategic location of the strait, China has been trying to project its naval power in the region, which is one reason the United States has increased its own naval forces in the area.

    Suez Canal

    Egypt’s Suez Canal, spanning 120 miles, connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the oil transiting through the canal is destined for European and North American consumers. Traffic through the canal has generally declined over the past decade, partly because of the decreased demand for oil from the U.S. and Europe.

    The main threat facing the Suez Canal is piracy – specifically by Somali pirates. While Somali piracy has declined in recent years, it continues to be a danger to maritime security in this area.

    The canal extremely narrow—only 1,000 feet wide in some points—which means it is no longer able to handle some of the world’s supertankers plying regional waters. In response, the 200-mile long SUMED Pipeline, or Suez-Mediterranean Pipeline, was built to provide an alternative.

    Bab el-Mandab

    This important choke point carries 3.5 million barrels of oil a day and is located south of the Suez and links the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. The strait, whose name means “Gate of Grief” in Arabic, is located between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. Any disruption to this passage would block tankers from reaching Suez Canal and their Western customers as well block oil passage to the Persian Gulf. While Saudi Aramco’s East-West Crude Oil pipeline could take on 2.5 million barrels of Bab el-Mandab’s daily transported oil, the rest would need to travel around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

    Like the Suez Canal, Bab el-Mandab, also known as the Mandab Strait, is a highly volatile shipping lane and especially vulnerable to Somali pirates.

    In 2011, the International Maritime Bureau reported 37 piracy attacks on ships passing the chokepoint and near the Gulf of Aden. This is decline from the 117 attacks in 2009.

    All of the attacks were conducted by Somali pirates, who often launch rocket propelled grenades and fire automatic weapons at the ships before boarding them and taking hostages for ransom.

    Turkish Straits

    According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “increased oil exports from the Caspian Sea region make the Turkish Straits one of the busiest and most dangerous choke points in the world supplying Western and Southern Europe.

    The Turkish Straits, the Bosporus Strait and the Dardanelles connect many of the East Asian markets with the European ones. The Bosporus links the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea, and the Dardanelles passage connects the Sea of Marmara with the Mediterranean, south of Turkey.

    The Turkish Straits supply western and southern Europe with oil from the Caspian Sea region. As oil production continues to increase from countries like Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, the traffic through the Turkish Straits also will rise.

    “Only half a mile wide at its narrowest point, the Turkish Straits are one of the world’s most difficult waterways to navigate…” according to the EIA’s most recent World Oil Transit Chokepoints report. “With 50,000 vessels, including 5,500 oil tankers, passing through the straits annually it is also one of the world’s busiest chokepoints.”

    The 2010 Center for Naval Analyses report notes that although piracy is less of a concern in the Turkish straits, its vulnerabilities lie in difficulty of navigation and risk of environmental catastrophe that could block almost 3 billion barrels of oil a day from reaching European and other Western markets. The environmental risks include water pollution from oil spills. For example, in November 2003, a Georgian cargo ship spilled around 500 tons of oil into the canal.

    Closure of the Turkish straits is unlikely, but in the event it happened, 100 percent of transited oil could find alternative travel through the CPC Pipeline to the Russian market and the BTC Pipeline reaching European markets.

    Panama Canal

    The Panama Canal, which is 50 miles long and only 110 feet wide at its narrowest point, is a key trade route that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The primary destination for oil being shipped through the canal is the United States. However only 800,000 thousand barrels of oil pass through the canal a day, making it a low risk area for any major disruption.

    Despite efforts by the Panama government to expand the capacity of the canal by widening and deepening the canal, almost doubling limit on the maximum size of ships, it is unlikely the expansion will impact oil transportation from the region, according to the 2011 Center for Naval Analayses study.

    The IMB has reported no piracy attacks in the straits in recent years. However, in the event of any closure, transit times for vessels would greatly increase. Vessels would have to reroute by traveling an addition 8,000 miles around the Straits of Magellan, Cape Horn and Drake Passage under the tip of South America, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration report.

    http://oilchangeproject.nationalsecurityzone.org/choke-points/
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2013
  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Now check the strategic implications.
     
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Entangling the dragon in Middle-Eastern quicksands

    The quicksands of the Arabian Desert are notorious for swallowing up anyone trying to control the area. Historically, that’s what happened to Turkey, Britain, France, Russia and the US. Sooner or later, all discovered that instead of dominating the Middle East, they ended up being dominated by the region’s never-ending problems.

    And that may also be the fate of China, the latest power to be lured by the idea that it has to engage in Middle-Eastern diplomacy. Unless decision-makers in Beijing are thoroughly prepared for what awaits, they will also find that the region can absorb all their energies, and usually for no practical effect.

    Traditionally, the Chinese have tended to avoid high-profile global diplomatic efforts. That proved to be a clever strategy in the Middle East, where China did exactly what it wanted while avoiding giving offence. It bought Israeli weapons but claimed to be the Palestinians’ most ardent supporter. China identified Islamic extremism as its biggest domestic threat, but maintained cordial links with the Middle East’s most radical Islamic movements. Beijing also embraced Arab monarchs while remaining close to Iran, their mortal enemy.

    When Libya’s revolution erupted in 2011, Western governments discovered to their astonishment that the single-biggest group of foreign workers keeping the Libyan oil industry going was Chinese: no fewer than 36,000 of them. Yet it was still up to the West to sort out Libya’s problems; all the Chinese did was dispatch some ships to evacuate their workers.

    The same is now happening in Syria: everyone is asking what Washington, Moscow, Paris or London will do, but nobody is even thinking that Beijing may also have an obligation to deal with this tragedy.

    For decades the Chinese remained free-riders in the Middle East, mouthing cliches about “peaceful solutions”, “harmonious outcomes” or “win-win strategies”, while leaving others to do the diplomatic heavy-lifting. As seen from Beijing, the Middle East was about oil, gas and troubles, in that order; the first two could be bought with cash, troubles could be ignored.

    All this is changing. In one of his last foreign policy initiatives before retiring, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao warned Iran “not to even think” about interfering with oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz. It was the kind threatening language previously only the Americans used in the region.

    Chinese ambassadors throughout the Middle East have also started taking a more active role in countries to which they are accredited; Gao Yan Ping, in Tel Aviv, is particularly energetic. And more recently, Chinese president Xi Jinping unveiled China’s own plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The plan contains nothing new but is significant because it comes from China; it’s the context rather than content that matters.

    There are several explanations for this change of heart. There is growing realisation in Beijing that, as is already the case in Africa, China cannot just purchase raw materials from the Middle East without involving itself in maintaining regional stability.

    But the most persuasive explanation is the fact that, for the first time in almost half a century, the US is now self-sufficient in energy and no longer buys oil or gas from the Middle East – while China now gets half of its oil from the Gulf sheikhdoms alone.

    In what must surely count as one of the world’s more bizarre strategic twists, the US remains the Middle East’s hegemonic power despite the fact that it has no major commercial interests, while China has no regional influence despite the fact that its economic well-being largely depends on the region.

    In theory, getting Washington to pay for the security of China’s energy supplies should be the perfect deal for the Chinese. But that’s not how big, emerging nations think.

    “If you look back at rising powers in history, one of the things they do is get very uncomfortable with leaving the security of trade routes to established powers,” observes Michael Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, one of America’s leading think-tanks. In that respect, therefore, the Chinese may be following in the historic footsteps of the British, who were also initially interested only in the oil, but then quickly found that this required delving deeper into local politics and controlling sea routes.

    So “just as the US is pivoting East, the Chinese are pivoting West”, says Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies dean Vali Nasr, who points out that the Chinese refer to the Middle East as “West Asia”.

    The question is whether China’s officials realise that a true “pivot” to the Middle East is not for the faint-hearted, and it can work only if China changes the tenets of its foreign policy in some fundamental ways.

    The first obstacle for the Chinese is that they have precious few people who truly understand the Middle East. None of the top decision-makers in Beijing has any exposure or interest in Middle-Eastern affairs. Even the Chinese military’s Second General Staff Department, responsible for intelligence collection and dispatching military attaches, is forced to rotate the same small number of agents from one Middle East country to the next, simply because it has no others.

    This sense of ignorance in China is reciprocated throughout the Middle East. The overwhelming bulk of the Middle East’s sovereign wealth funds are invested in North America and Europe, while Chinese products – including weapons systems – are invariably dismissed throughout the region as inferior copies of Western goods. Dispelling such psychological barriers will take years, if not decades.

    If China wants to become more deeply involved in Middle-Eastern affairs, it will also have to come off the fence by choosing those it wishes to support and those it opposes.

    Until now, China’s historic record in making such choices was disastrous. Beijing supported the Shah of Iran until the day he was overthrown. It also supported Muammar Gadhafi, well after the Libyan leader faced the wrath of the entire Arab world. In both cases, China’s stance was influenced by its inherent dislike of popular revolutions and its instinctive preference for the status quo.

    The snag is, however, that in a Middle East where the sectarian confrontation between Shi’ite and Sunni is growing more acute, the Chinese will have little credibility or diplomatic footprint if they simply avoid taking sides.

    Ultimately, however, China will have to make a decision on whether it wants to team up with the US to uphold the stability of the Middle East, or to challenge it. This is not just an academic debate for, although China is now the chief beneficiary of the international order the US created after the Second World War, the Chinese also like to portray themselves as allies of those seeking to undermine this order. But this cannot work in the Middle East, where the response to increased Chinese presence will largely be dictated by whether it is seen as upsetting or strengthening the current order.

    “China is no longer a weak country to be bullied by imperialist powers, but an economic and military power capable of claiming what is rightly China’s,” claims Professor Chen Yiyi, who runs the Institute of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Peking University in Beijing and is one of the country’s top Middle-Eastern experts.

    But such sweeping declarations are easy to make and far more difficult to realise. Just ask all the previous powers that dabbled in Middle-Eastern affairs and invariably got their fingers burnt.

    Entangling the dragon in Middle-Eastern quicksands | StratRisks
     
    binayak95 and W.G.Ewald like this.
  5. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    No matter what China does, if it gets into a shooting war with India its oil imports will always be in jeopardy.
     
  6. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    Such a minor role as China has may be a goal set for the US by the Obama administration, and first suggested by Obama's "lead from behind" position in Libya. Unfortunately, what the US is doing, and proposing to do in Syria, completely reverses any progress with such a policy. As it turned out, Obama wanted arms from Libya to go to insurgents in Syria, which lead to the death of the US ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, brought about by a CIA operation which he, H.Clinton and S. Rice had to attempt to cover up.

    Personally, I think it may not be such a bad idea for Uncle Sam to need fewer appearances in the world's trouble spots.
     
  7. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    Would Indians hit oil tankers that might also carry crude for other East Asian nations? Remember that an oil tanker usually carriers POL for multiple destinations at once...
     
  8. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    Given that China has land-based options in Central Asia and Russia, that's not necessarily the case. By contrast, India is the only nation that has to have all its oil imports transit the IOR via tanker.
     
  9. sesha_maruthi27

    sesha_maruthi27 Senior Member Senior Member

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    Iran has already offered a pipeline to India.......
     
  10. binayak95

    binayak95 Senior Member Senior Member

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    YES!!! But the IOR is under complete scrutiny and control of the IN, not the PLAN! So we don't have much to worry about, do we??
     
  11. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    A pipeline running through Pakistan?
     
  12. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    You honestly think the IN's ASW capabilities are good enough to deal with wolfpacks of modern Russian subs operating out of Gwadar and Sri Lanka?
     
  13. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    [​IMG]

    At 8%, Russia wouldn't come close to making up for it much less the 4% from Kazakhstan. Chini oil must pass around India which makes you far more vulnerable. Indian oil transit can be protected from land bases, China can't defend its imports.
     
  14. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    You do realize that the 8% and 4% can be ramped up quite dramatically if needed, right? Currently, Chinese pipelines and railroads to Russia and Kazakhstan stand at 20 and 25% utilization, respectively, and more infrastructure is in the planning stages.

    As for land based protection for IOR shipping, Gwadar is much closer to IOR energy lanes than any of India's ports are. Even if China can't offload any oil there, China could certainly use it as a staging point for a heavy contingent of submarines - subs, that in a time of war, could be loosed to raid Indian shipping in the IOR at will.
     
  15. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    You do realize Russian fields are not your personal oil pool? You also realize those fields operate at 90% capacity most of the time? You also realize Russia would gouge you 60% over price? You also realize Russia has strategic interests with India and may shut off the taps at their request? :rofl:

    Gwadar isn't a military base and if it ever housed PLAN ships in a time of war it would be destroyed. You couldn't use any of the string of pearls as a staging area because IAF and IN would quickly destroy them. China doesn't have the projection power to stop an attack from mainland India, you are just too weak.
     
  16. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Don't worry China will support India to replace France in UNSC in exchange for India not hitting either the facilities in neutral Myanmar or convenient flag multi-stop tankers around India. Salaam!
     
  17. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    Given how much the French are pissing off Germany and the UK over Chinese solar panels, this is statement is more realistic than it looks :lol:
     
  18. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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  19. AVERAGE INDIAN

    AVERAGE INDIAN EXORCIST Senior Member

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    that will be taken care by this baby

    [​IMG]

    by the way what it has to do with russian subs aren't you guys making your own subs if it is kilo class is that you mean
     
  20. bose

    bose Senior Member Senior Member

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    Thank You China!! Please do another favor, please free Tibet & East Turkmenistan, then Asia will be an island of peace... India will in return ensure safe passage of Chinese oil supplies through Malacca…
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2013
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