EGEE 120
Oil: International Evolution

The Quest Chapter 13 - Security of Energy


Operating Systems

As we step beyond the Suez Crisis, the world that does not produce oil now has a critical need to find ways to guarantee their access to oil. Not only to their citizens, but also guaranteed access for their militaries. This crisis inspired the creation of the International Energy Agency (IEA). The overarching theory focused on diversification of supply.

If a country was only receiving oil imports from one location, it was vulnerable to disruption. If a country increased supply locations, then if one location was disrupted, that would only disrupt a portion of its supply.

If countries worked together to coordinate a world trade regulation of the oil supply, then countries would be even less vulnerable by one location disruption. This could be further stretched to include a variety of types of petroleum sources, including unconventional sources, also. We already discussed the challenges for Japan when the United States cut off oil supplies leading up to the Second World War. In addition to the battling we saw between Shell and Anglo-Persia - which became British Petroleum (BP), in 1954, the British Government had a good deal with 51% ownership of BP, but still set up a contract with Shell to have increased number of sources of oil.

Not all disruptions of the access to oil revolve around war or country disputes; we know how hurricanes can impact drilling rigs and refineries. In 2005, 2900 oil platforms were in the combined paths of Katrina and Rita Hurricanes according to Interior Secretary Gale Norton. “As a result, 90 percent of crude production and 72 percent of natural gas output is paralysed,” she stated. This natural disaster regarding the oil access was lessened through the coordination of countries to fill the gap left by the tragic weather.

There have been three large situations where the IEA responded with coordinated efforts. The three situations are: the build up to the 1991 Gulf War, 2005 hurricanes discussed above, and extended disruption of Libyan oil supplies, as noted on the IEA facts page.

DOE coordination of US supplies following Hurricane Katrina

IEA response following Hurricane Katrina


Pipelines are another piece of the overall transportation of oil. They have been in the news through the discussion about Keystone Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline. This is not to endorse the use of pipelines, but just consider all the pipelines that the United States has without the controversy. Here are two maps that allow you to visualize the interconnections and vast land coverage.

Where are pipelines located?:

Choke Points

Energy security on transportation has many aspects. The intricate and many moving parts can scratch the surface here. The focus will be on the narrow straits that the huge oil tankers frequently pass through. Highlighted in the readings, Suez Canal remains a critical choke point where supplies can be halted. These choke points could be compromised by natural and man motivated actions. Several points have frequent interactions with pirates, or non state actors trying to seize possession of oil and gain profits from selling it. These points are also no secret any country could cut of the lanes as a specific way to disrupt the worldwide oil supply. It is in most countries’ best interest to keep these points free from disruption. Several navies add these lanes to their commitment to continual order on the sea.

Geographic locations that accommodate a shorter shipping lane or those that are out of a necessity such as the Strait of Hormuz. From Lesson 2, Marcus Samuel and the Coup of 1892, the Suez Canal cut tanker travel time down but also recognized the challenges with transportation.