Strait of Hormuz and other Oil Chokepoints

In January, 2012 we had looked at what would happen the Straits of Hormuz an oil movement if there was war with Iran and the economic impact of Iran attempting to shut the Straits of Hormuz. This is an update.

Iran currently is not exporting much, about 1 million barrels per day.

So an attack that shutdown Iranian exports would be less impactful than the Libyan situation last year.

Iran would attempt to mine and shutdown the straits of hormuz. 17 million barrels goes through the Straits of Hormuz.

Pentagon officials estimate if Iran was foolish enough to try and close the Strait of Hormuz using its estimated arsenal of 2,000 mines, the US Navy and allied nations would be able to clear it in five to ten days. That’s just long enough to likely cause massive spikes in worldwide oil prices, disrupt global shipping traffic. “If they wanted to close the Strait of Hormuz, they could do it, but they would only be able to do it one time,” Christopher Harmer, a retired Navy commander who served as director of future operations at U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, told KTLA

Pipelines in case oil cannot move by ship through the Straits

The Abu Dhabi oil pipeline opened in July and can move 1.5 million barrels per day. It moves oil 230 miles, from Habshan in Abu Dhabi — the collection point for Abu Dhabi’s onshore crude oil production — to an offshore oil terminal in the emirate of Fujairah. This pipeline opened up in July, 2012. The capacity could be further increased to 1.8 million bpd

Saudi Arabia has reconditioned the IPSA pipeline that runs through Iraq. It could carry about 1.65 million barrels per day.

Major buyers of Iranian oil, including China, Japan and India, are reconsidering their oil imports from Iran. The IHS research note said South Korea, one of the five biggest importers of Iranian crude, had already adopted some trade restrictions while China had begun to turn to alternative suppliers, including Iraq, where production is slowly rising, to displace some of the 500,000 barrels that it imports daily from Iran.

Saudi Arabia has the Petroline pipeline can now carry 5 million barrels a day. It would take about 18 months (from Jan, 2012) for a significant upgrade to Petroline to bring its capacity up to 11 million barrels daily, enough to carry all Saudi exports with spare capacity for others.

Currently the unused capacity of the pipelines is about 4.3 million barrels per day and up to 6.0 million if the IPSA could run at full capacity.

Hormuz and US imports and Iranian food

Hormuz, the only exit from the Persian Gulf, lies between Iran on the northern side and Oman on the southern. Almost 17 million barrels of oil pass through it daily, and five of the world’s largest oil producers–Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates–are largely or wholly dependent on it, as is Qatar, the world’s leading exporter of liquefied natural gas.

And while oil gets all the attention, other key products must travel through the Strait, including 28 percent of the world’s liquefied natural gas. It’s the only source of gas for Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, and it’s a vital fuel for reducing European dependence on Russia. Iran’s Arab neighbors on the Gulf rely heavily on seaborne food and other imports.

Like its Gulf neighbors, Iran relies on the Strait to move food and other necessary goods. The regime would only hurt an already struggling economy by shutting down the Strait: Unemployment is officially at 12.5 percent (Iran observers believe the figure is much higher), and Iranian officials admit that inflation could rise more than 20 percent later this year.

The US is ready with mine sweepers to clear the Straits.

So about 8 million barrels per day would be able to get out of the middle east via pipeline. about 9 million barrels of oil could be blocked for 5 to 10 days. If the US was aware of a planned attack on Iran and expected the response then the US could prepare by releasing oil from the strategic reserve.

US net oil imports are about 7-8 million bpd.

3.4 million bpd from Canada and Mexico. About 2 million bpd from Saudi Arabia, Iraq.

World Oil Choke points

The EIA has an analysis of world oil choke points

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