No War for Oil Pipeline Routes
Caspian oil reserves estimate revised down
Mr McKillop sends the following press report confirming that Caspian oil potential has been greatly exaggerated. While the press release is not quite clear about what precisely the 7..8 billion barrels refers to, the thrust of the article to dismiss earlier exaggeration and question the geopolitical strategies to gain control of a possibly empty target is valid. This is further confirmed by another statement from Agip reported in Energy Day of May 30th, stating that the recoverable reserve potential of Kashagan is only 1.2 Gb. In short, it begins to look as if the once glorious Caspian turns out to be a bust, confirming the old adage that distant fields are green.
Boston, 10 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A new estimate of Caspian Sea oil resources suggests that the region will see significant growth in production by 2010. But the numbers may also dampen some expectations and serve as a reminder that the area will not assume the strategic importance of the Middle East. One of the largest oil companies in the Caspian Sea region recently sounded a note of reality with a new and more modest estimate of the area's oil reserves. Speaking on 8 April in Almaty at the Eurasian Economic Summit, Gian Maria Gros-Pietro, chairman of Italy's Eni oil company, said the Caspian contains 7.8 billion barrels of oil, the Interfax news agency reported.
The good news for Kazakhstan is that it is believed to hold nearly 70 percent of the Caspian total, Gros-Pietro said. The bad news may be for political analysts, because the numbers are far smaller than those that many have used.
Since the first foreign oil deal in the Caspian was signed in September 1994, analysts have pumped up the region's importance as a strategic issue. Early estimates claimed that the Caspian could hold as much as 200 billion barrels, a figure that was soon trimmed to 115 billion or less.
Over the years, many officials who tried to create a "great game" with various Caspian pipeline strategies also played a numbers game, largely ignoring industry experts who argued that the Caspian would never affect the oil market as much as the Middle East.
Most analysts now agree that future flows of oil from the Caspian will make only a marginal difference to world prices, perhaps ranking in importance with Britain's and Norway's production from the North Sea.
Gros-Pietro seemed to endorse that view in estimating that in 2010, the Caspian region will produce 3.8 million barrels per day, or about 60 percent of North Sea output. While his comments may have been intended to stress the region's importance, they may have underscored the fact that it will not rival Saudi Arabia or Russia, which each produce about 7 million barrels per day.
Political strategists have never made a distinction between possible, probable, and recoverable oil reserves. In a recent report, the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that the Caspian may hold up to 233 billion barrels of possible reserves, which means those with a 50 percent probability. But the report said there may be only 17 billion to 33 billion barrels of proven reserves, meaning those with a 90 percent likelihood.
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