Thursday, February 18, 2010

Demonic Duo: Al Qaeda and the Somali Pirates Eye Global Oil

This blog hasn't looked at the wider world lately; events have been largely status quo. But hat tip to Ollie for this item worth watching:

Oil & Gas Journal is citing a recent report that Al Qaeda has its eye on disrupting the safe passage of oil at one of the world's key choke points: the exceedingly narrow Bab al-Mandab straight just off the coast of Yemen.

Here are the key points excerpted from the article:
  • DOE says an estimated 3.3 million b/d flowed through the Bab al-Mandab toward Europe, the US, and Asia in 2006. The majority of traffic, about 2.1 million b/d, flows north through the Bab al-Mandab to the Suez-Sumed complex
  • By closing or disrupting the Bab al-Mandab, al-Qaeda could keep tankers from the Persian Gulf from reaching the Suez Canal or Sumed Pipeline, while also blocking southern oil transits such as China's transport from Port Sudan - a lifeline for that country's rapidly increasing appetite for energy
  • London-based Al-Quds newspaper acknowledges that al-Qaeda's control of the Bab al-Mandab "might not be easy, especially as it does not possess heavy weapons and modern boats that can be used for this purpose. But this does not mean it does not possess the logistical capabilities that can disrupt navigation in this vital international passageway"
  • Mentions Somali pirates who have hijacked more than 100 ships-some of them giant oil tankers. "They must surely have gained considerable expertise in how to intercept commercial ships in the past 5 years-during which their activity intensified."
Sounds like a good disruption to disrupt. But also a energy management contingency worth planning for. For a nice review of Bab al-Mandab and other global oil choke points, see this Energy Information Administration (EIA) summary.

Image credit: EIA

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