Tags: Middle East | pipeline | oil | saudi | putin

Pipelines and War: What You Need to Know

By Thursday, 26 February 2015 08:14 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Pipelines, some bigger than 36 inches, criss-cross practically every state in the Middle East. They transport vital oil and natural gas, the life blood of our economy, from sometimes landlocked wells to ports, from where it is shipped by sea vessels to consuming countries.

For this reason, they are a vital part of geopolitical strategies of all developed countries, causes of intense political and economic pressure, and quite often wars.

A typical example is the problem Russia had with Chechnya through which country Russian oil was transported from Baku to Russia. The government of Chechnya thought it could blackmail Russia and demanded a transit fee of $ 3.00 per barrel. This was at a time when a barrel of oil traded for about $5.00.

This was intolerable for Russia and it invaded Chechnya, starting a long and protracted war trying to “regime change.”

In order to understand the politics and international rivalry involved, we should consider pipelines that recently got canceled or blocked.

A most outstanding example is the planned trans-Afghan pipeline, also called the TAPI pipeline. Its history started in 1991 with the collapse of the Russian empire and the subsequent independence of oil- and gas-rich countries such as Kazakhstan, the latter is said to hold 200 billion barrels of crude oil and vast amounts of natural gas, a tempting target for big U.S. oil companies.

As a result, Unocal Corp. (now a part of Texaco) and a consortium of other companies negotiated a deal with the Kazakhstan government for drilling permits. The big problem then was how to get the gas out, since this country is landlocked.

A plan was devised to build a pipeline, crossing Afghanistan and Pakistan, where oil and gas were to be shipped to a harbor at the Arabian Gulf, with a portion of the gas (and later oil) to be shipped to the energy-starved country of India.

To get permission for such a pipeline from Pakistan was no problem but when the Taliban took over Afghanistan all prior agreements were canceled.

We all know what happened next. Our country was getting involved in a land war in Afghanistan lasting 12 years and costing us over a trillion dollars. Despite a change in government, construction across Afghanistan still has not started, due to continued fighting.

The irony of all this is that the Chinese government since built their own pipeline which, for the last two years, has pumped oil from Kazakhstan directly to China.

We all know there are vast natural gas deposits in Saudi Arabia and in the small state of Qatar. The problem is where to sell it. The only way to do it is by liquefying the gas and shipping it to Europe.

This is very expensive, and the gas could not be sold competitively against the Russian gas, shipped by pipelines, which is now the dominant source of energy in Europe. This fact always irked American oil companies, and they thought of a way to solve both problems.

The idea was to build a gas pipeline from Arabia and Qatar all the way to Israel and ultimately across Turkey to Italy for sale through Europe, pushing the Russians out of this important market.

In 2006, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Romania reached an agreement to build an extension of the Trans-Arabian pipeline through Syria to the Turkish border.

From there it would have been transported through the planned Nabucco pipeline to central Europe.

However, as with Afghanistan, a problem arose.

There was a country blocking the portion between Israel and Turkey. That country was Syria. In early 2009, the contract agreed upon in 2006 got annulled. Syria refused the transit, very likely because it is a good ally of Russia. To this day, Russia even maintains a naval base there.

The thought now occurred, how about if we managed to overthrow the government of Syria and replace it with one more flexible for our purposes. Previously, in 1949, the U.S. did such a change in government in Syria. Despite a long civil war, that change of government has not happened, at least not yet. The pipeline, now empty, is stalled near Haifa in Israel.

The quite recent case happened in 2014 with Russia being the main actor. Here Gazprom, the Russian gas conglomerate, is trying to expand gas sales to the southern and south-eastern parts of Europe.

The plan was to build a pipeline from Novorossiysk in southern Russia, through the Black Sea and then on to Bulgaria and the Balkan states. After long and finally fruitful negotiations with the Bulgarian government, involving Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, an agreement was reached in 2014 to allow for passage of the proposed pipeline.

However, this development alarmed the U.S. State Department which sprang into action and, after some arm-twisting, forced the European Union to counteract. The Europeans responded by threatening to withhold badly needed financial aid to Bulgaria, unless they rescind the agreement.

Having no choice, the Bulgarian government informed the Russians that the deal was dead. This, in turn, killed the Gaszprom project and President Putin subsequently canceled the whole deal. At least there was no war this time.

Hans Baumann is a licensed engineer in four states and a member of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. He is an adviser to the dean of the University of New Hampshire Business School. Baumann has published manuals on valves and was a contributor to many works including the "Instrument Engineers' Handbook" and the "Control Valves Handbook." He has also published several books on business management and German history. His book "Hitler's Fate," suggests that Adolf Hitler did not commit suicide and survived World War II. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Oil pipelines criss-cross practically every state in the Middle East. They transport vital oil and natural gas. For this reason, they are a vital part of geopolitical strategies of all developed countries, causes of intense political and economic pressure, and quite often wars.
pipeline, oil, saudi, putin
Thursday, 26 February 2015 08:14 AM
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