Author Rasoul Sorkhabi, Ph.D.
Flashbacks on the first discoveries of oil fields in the Middle East.
1908 (May 26):
Masjid Sulaiman field (Masjid Sulaiman-1 well), southwest Zagros basin, Iran (Persia) by the Concessions Syndicate Ltd. (owned by Englishmen William Knox D`Arcy and Lord Stathcona, and the Scottish Burma Oil), forerunner of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later British Petroleum). Reservoir: Asmari limestone (Oligocene-Early Miocene), 354 m deep; oil 39.4° API gravity.
1927 (October 14):
Kirkuk field (Baba Gurgur No. 1 well), Kurdistan region, Iraq, by the Turkish (Iraqi) Petroleum Company (IPC, a consortium of the Anglo-Persian, Shell, Francaise des Petroles, American Near East Development Corporation, and Gulbenkian Foundation). Reservoir: “Main Limestone” or Kirkuk formation (Asmari equivalent) limestone (Oligocene), depth unknown; oil 36° API. Production began in 1934.
1932 (June 1):
Jabal Dukhan field (Jabal Dukhan-1 well), Bahrain, by the Bahrain Petroleum Company (a subsidiary of the Standard Oil of California); Reservoir: Waisa limestone (Cretaceous) at depths of 600-750 m; oil 38° API. Production began in 1934.
1938 (February 23):
Burgan field (Burgan-1 well), Kuwait, by the Kuwait Oil Company (owned by the Gulf Oil and the Anglo-Persian). Reservoir: Burgan sandstone (Middle Cretaceous), 1120 m deep; oil 32.5° API. Production began in 1946.
1938 (March 4):
Dammam field (Dammam-7 well), eastern Saudi Arabia, by the California Arabian Standard Oil Company (a subsidiary of Standard Oil of California). Reservoir: Arab limestone (Upper Jurassic), 1441 m deep; oil 34-35° API. Production began in the same year.
Dukhan field (Dukhan-1 well), Qatar, by the Petroleum Development of Qatar (a subsidiary of the Anglo-Persian/IPC). Reservoir: Zekrit (Arab) limestone (Upper Jurassic), 1733 m deep; oil 37° API (Limestone 3) and 42° API (Limestone 4). Production began in 1940 and export began in 1949.
Bab (or Murban) field (Murban-1 well), Abu Dhabi (later part of the United Arab Emirates), by Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company (formerly Oil Development of Trucial Coast, a subsidiary of IPC); Reservoir: Kharaib Formation (Lower Cretaceous limestone), 3,776 m deep; oil 40° API. Production began in 1963.
Marmul field (Marmul-1 well), Oman, by Petroleum Department of Oman (subsidiary of IPC). Reservoirs: Umm Er Radhuma (Paleocene) 576 m deep (18° API) and Biyadh sandstone (Lower Cretaceous) 854-976 m deep (20.8° API). The field was non-commercial. 1963-67: The first producing fields, Yibal (1963, depth 2275 m, 38° API), Natih (1963, depth 2202 m, 31° API) and Fahud (1964, depth 590 m, 33.6° API) (all Cretaceous limestone), in Oman were discovered by Shell and Partex (Gulbenkian Foundation). Production began in 1967.
Karatchok field (Karatchok-1 well), northeastern Syria, by the American independent James W. Menhall Drilling Company. Reservoir: Massive Limestone Formation (Cretaceous), 3155 m deep; oil 19-21° API. Production began in 1969.
1984 (March 4):
Alif field (Alif-1 well), Ma`rib Jawf graben of the Sab`atayn basin, Yemen, by the American Yemen-Hunt Oil Company. Reservoir: Sab`atayn Formation (Upper Jurassic), 2400 deep; oil 43 API. Production began in 1987.
US quest for energy independence – a short history
February 19, 2012
IT might be the last truly bipartisan policy aim in Washington, and the least plausible one: every US president since Richard Nixon has pledged allegiance to the goal of “energy independence,” even as the US has remained dependent on imported oil.
And as China`s appetite for fossil fuels surpasses America`s, energy anxiety has gone global – just in time for another presidential election year.
Edwin L Drake drills the world`s first oil well outside Titusville in Pennsylvania.
In The Coal Question, British economist William Stanley Jevons warns Britain is in danger of running out of coal, threatening the country`s strategic and economic pre-eminence – a matter, he writes, of “almost religious importance”.
Winston Churchill, then first lord of the admiralty, begins converting Britain`s Royal Navy – the world`s largest – from coal to oil, exchanging energy independence for power and speed. Over the next several years, Britainwrestles the oil fields of the Persian Gulf away from a crumbling Ottoman Empire.
Oil exporters Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela form the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).
After taking power in a military coup, Muammar Gaddafi starts nationalising Libya`s oil fields – then the source of 30 percent of Europe`s oil imports – thus beginning Western oil companies` expulsion from the Arab world.
The US becomes a net oil importer.
Oil production in Texas, the motherland of US crude, begins to decline. “Texasoil fields have been like a reliable old warrior that could rise to the task when needed,” Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Byron Tunnell says. “That old warrior can`t rise anymore.”
“The era of low-cost energy is almost dead,” US Commerce Secretary Peter G Peterson declares. “Popeye is running out of spinach.”
April: In a Foreign Affairs article titled The Oil Crisis: This Time the Wolf Is Here, James E Akins, who would become US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, warns that “the threat to use oil as a political weapon must be taken seriously”.
October: Egypt and Syria launch a surprise attack on Israel, beginning the Yom Kippur War. The US responds with $2.2 billion in arms and aid to Israel. The following day, Opec declares a halt to oil shipments to the US, Western Europe and Japan. By January 1974, oil prices have more than quadrupled.
November 7: US President Richard Nixon announces “Project Independence”, a plan to wean the US off foreign oil. The dream of US energy independence is born.
The US Congress passes the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, creating the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and imposing the first fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles.
US President Jimmy Carter makes energy independence the central ambition of his presidency, later establishing the Department of Energy, investing billions of dollars in research and development, and installing solar panels at the White House.
An uprising topples Iran`s Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and one of the two pillars of US energy supply in the Middle East crumbles, leaving only Saudi Arabia.
US President Ronald Reagan announces his plan to lift price controls on oil and begins disassembling the renewable-energy research programmes begun under Carter.
The Exxon Valdez oil tanker runs aground in Alaska`s Prince William Sound. Americans` support for offshore drilling plummets and remains low well into the 1990s.
After accusing Kuwait of stealing Iraqi oil with slant-drilling techniques, Saddam Hussein seizes its oil fields. US President George |HW Bush leads a coalition to oust him.
For the first time since the 1910s, the US imports more oil than it produces. Deputy Energy Secretary Bill White describes the situation as “the biggest trade problem we have”.
Vice President Dick Cheney`s energy task force releases its National Energy Policy. “Our increased dependence on foreign oil profoundly illustrates our nation`s failure to establish an effective energy policy,” the report states, recommending a renewed commitment to domestic oil, coal, natural gas, hydropower and nuclear power.
Congress passes the Energy Policy Act, including quotas and millions of dollars in subsidies in hopes of nearly doubling US ethanol production by 2012.
Congress passes the Energy Independence and Security Act, which imposes tougher fuel-efficiency standards on vehicles and orders a whopping 766 percent increase from 2007`s targeted biofuel production by 2022. By 2008, ethanol has become a $32 billion business in the US.
Oil prices hit $148 a barrel.
September: At the Republican National Convention, Michael Steele calls on Americans to “reduce our dependency on foreign sources of oil and promote oil and gas production at home. In other words: Drill, baby, drill!”
China`s oil imports surpass domestic production for the first time.
Hashing out its new five-year plan, the Chinese government embraces ambitious new targets for reducing China`s reliance on imported oil.
A weak economy and more efficient vehicles cause oil imports to fall below half of US consumption for the first time in 13 years.
The International Energy Agency predicts that the European Union will surpass the United States as an energy importer by 2015.
US shale gas production (via the method known as fracking) reaches 5 trillion cubic feet, five times its 1990 level, reigniting hopes for homegrown energy.
© 2012 Independent Newspapers (Pty) Ltd
Lifeblood of The World
September 29, 2006
How Crude Oil Powers Our Lives
Come one, come all! This is your lucky day, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Right here in this little bottle is the most amazing substance known to man! It will cure all your ills. It will make you healthy, happy, and rich. I guarantee it.
Snake-oil salesmen traveled from small town to small town in the 1800s trying to sell bottles of elixirs that, they claimed, would cure all ills. None could have imagined, however, that petroleum (from the Greek for “rock oil”), one of the main ingredients in many elixirs, would actually change their world beyond recognition.
Petroleum, or crude oil, has almost single-handedly made modern industrial civilization possible. We are more than just dependent on oil; we are addicted to it, says U.S. President George W. Bush. Without a constant supply of petroleum, the global economy would screech to a halt. Cars and trucks would not run, factories would lie idle, airplanes would not fly, and store shelves would be nearly empty. Hundreds of millions of people around the world would be thrown out of work; chaos would reign from Europe to North America toAsia.
The roots of our economy`s dependence on crude oil go much deeper than our reliance on gasoline, jet fuel, and heating oil. Petrochemicals, or substances derived from petroleum, are important in almost everything we eat, wear, and use. Most plastics are made from petrochemicals. Many pesticides and fertilizers have petrochemicals as their main ingredients. Detergents, food additives, tires (most tires are made from artificial rubber, a petrochemical), nail polish, lipstick, pen ink-all come from petrochemicals.
Dead Sea Creatures
The amazing array of uses for crude oil in 2006 would have astounded the workers who drilled the nation`s first oil well in Pennsylvania in 1859. (See “From Camel Skins to Cars.”)
Crude oil was formed long before the United States existed-even long before humans existed. According to the most widely accepted theory, rivers that flowed hundreds of millions of years ago emptied sand and silt into warm, shallow seas. Over time, the layers of silt trapped countless trillions of tiny, one-celled plants and animals under the sea. The organisms died and decayed, and the sand and silt gradually turned into rock. The old seas disappeared, and new ones arose to take their place.
Deep beneath both the new seas and the new land, heat and pressure turned the long-dead organisms into crude oil. Today, we classify petroleum, coal, and natural gas as fossil fuels because they were all formed by once-living things.
Pumping and Refining
After it was formed, most crude oil eventually collected in underground pools, or reservoirs. Some reservoirs are under pressure, and the oil rises to the surface naturally through oil seeps. Most oil today, however, has to be pumped out of the ground through oil wells. After the oil is pumped out, it is sent to a refinery through a pipeline, on a barge, or in an ocean-crossing oil tanker. oil refineries are factories that convert the oil into a multitude of products, such as gasoline and asphalt.
Refineries cost billions of dollars to build and millions to maintain and upgrade. They pipe the crude oil through hot furnaces, where components of the oil boil off at different temperatures. Inside a refinery, the heated liquids and vapors condense in tall, narrow distillation towers. The lightest parts of the oil-gasoline and liquid petroleum gas-condense at the top of the tower. Medium-weight parts, including kerosene and diesel fuel, condense in the middle. The heaviest components, including asphalt and tar, settle at the bottom.
Could a complete shutdown of the world`s oil supply actually happen?
It`s not likely, say experts. The world`s oil supply is too widely dispersed across the planet. No one nation has a stranglehold on the world`s oil supply. In 2004, the top five petroleum-producing countries were Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United States, Iran, and Mexico.
Still, the world is so dependent on a constant supply of crude oil that just a slight disruption in the supply could cause a major financial crisis. The United States, with the world`s largest economy, gobbles up more than 20 million barrels of oil per day. The next-largest oil consumer is China, consuming 6.5 million barrels a day. (see the graph of top oil producers and consumers below.)
The United States today gets about 60 percent of its oil from outside the country, with much of that corning from countries in the unstable Middle East. A hostile Middle Eastern government, such as Iran, or an expanded war in the Persian Gulf could cripple the supply of oil to the United States. To protect against such a disruption, the United States has a strategic petroleum reserve of about 700 million barrels of crude oil stored underground. The reserve was most recently used in 2005 to keep U.S. oil supplies flowing after Hurricane Katrina damaged U.S. oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
Another factor in the economics of oil is its rising price. In 2002, the average price was about $30 a barrel, In September 2006, it was at about $70 a barrel. Because oil is so important to the world economy, such a steep rise tends to increase the price of all goods, from food to clothing. High crude oil prices pushed the price of gasoline in the United States to more than $3.00 a gallon last summer.
China and India
The basic economic forces are supply and demand. If supply does not keep up with demand, prices rise. And demand for crude oil has been increasing at a rapid rate.
The main reason for the expanding demand has been the rapid growth of two Asian nations, China and India. With populations of more than a billion people each and annual economic growth rates of 9 percent and 7 percent, respectively, both countries need more oil to power factories, build cars, and operate industrial machinery. By 2010, India will have 36 times more cars than it had in 1990. By 2020, China will have more than 140 million cars, surpassing the United States.
Beyond the growth of India and China, economists worry that the world oil supply will actually run out. There is only so much oil in the ground, and some experts predict it will run out within 60 years.
A Way Out?
Critics say alternative power sources, including nuclear energy, solar energy, and wind power, must be developed to decrease U.S. reliance on foreign oil. Ethanol, a fuel from com and other natural products, can be used to power cars and trucks. In a number of places in the United States, ethanol is already added to gasoline. Several world automakers have developed hydrogenpowered car engines.
In a late-August press conference, President Bush said the nation needs to “diversify away” from its dependence on crude oil. U.S. reliance on crude oil, Bush said, “hurts us economically.”
Critics of the Bush administration`s policies, however, say the United Stateshas not spent enough money to encourage the development of alternate forms of energy to lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
“By not charting a … direct course away from oil dependence, President Bush is leaving … the U.S. economy to struggle for some time to come,” said an August 12 editorial in Maine`s Portland Press Herald.
From Camel Skins to Cars
Humans have used petroleum in various ways for thousands of years. The ancient Babylonians, people who lived more than 4,000 years ago in what is now Iraq, sealed their ships with petroleum tar. Native Americans used crude oil as a medicine for skin rashes and other ailments. Marco Polo (1254-1324), an Italian who traveled in Asia, found that the natives of central Asia used petroleum to treat the skin diseases of camels. In the early United States, people drilled into the ground mainly to find water. If they came up with oil, they considered it a nuisance and abandoned the well.
The first successful well drilled for the sole purpose of finding oil was the Drake Well, named after Edwin L. Drake. Drake drilled his well in 1859 into the rich farm soil near Titusville, Pa., where oil seeps could be seen aboveground. He and his business associates thought they could make money by refining oil to produce kerosene. Kerosene had become valuable just five years before, with the invention of the kerosene lamp. In 1879, another oil well was drilled inCalifornia, and yet another in Texas in 1887.
Another by-product of the refining process, which Drake and his associates called gasoline, was considered useless, so they tossed it away. That changed in 1893, when brothers Charles and Frank Duryea tested the first U.S.gasoline-powered automobile.
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