Forum calls for improved Middle East oil pipeline routes

Offshore staff

HOUSTON – A paper from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy recommends improvements to the pipelines crossing the Arabian Peninsula.

This, claims author Dagobert Brito, would allow more of the oil produced in the Persian Gulf to avoid the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Oman, where traffic is under threat due to current international tensions.

The author, who is Peterkin Professor of Political Economy and a Rice Scholar at Baker Institute, cites increased investment by Iran in deployment of submarines, missile boats, and mines in the area. Around 20% of the world’s oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

Two pipelines already transport Persian Gulf oil across Saudi Arabia to ports on the Red Sea, which could obviate the need to transit the Strait of Hormuz in tankers.

As neither line has the capacity to carry the volume required, Brito suggests use of drag-reduction agents, “chemicals that are injected into pipelines to reduce the friction and to increase throughput in pipelines.”

“With a relatively low amount of investment,” he claimed, “it would be possible to ship as much as 11 MMb/d of Middle East oil production through the Red Sea.”

The growing regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, he added, may make the Saudis “more receptive to proposals to augment trans-Arabian pipelines.”

2/16/2012

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