Strait of Hormuz

Assessing the threat to oil flows through the Strait

pipeline_map

Pipeline Map

Source: Energy Information Administration. Country Analysis Briefs: Persian Gulf Region

Caption: An EIA map showing the pipeline network in the Middle East

Key pipelines in the region include:

PIPELINE CAPACITY (barrels per day)
East-West Pipeline (Petroline) 5 million
Abqaiq-Yanbu Natural Gas Liquids Pipeline 290,000
Trans-Arabian Pipeline (Tapline) 50,000
Iraqi Pipeline through Saudi Arabia (IPSA) 1.65 million
Strategic Pipeline 1.4 million*
Iraq-Turkey Pipeline 300,000*
Iraq-Syria-Lebanon Pipeline (ISLP) 700,000
*needs repair and/or significant upgrade before operational at this capacity

 

Source: Data taken from Energy Information Administration. Country Analysis Briefs: Persian Gulf Region

It is possible to inject chemical drag reduction agents (DRAs) into existing pipelines to increase throughput without new construction. However, most pipelines, including the Petroline, need additional pumps and other equipment upgrades to use DRAs.

In general, increasing pipeline capacity is costly and time consuming. In 1997, the Baker Institute published a study proposing different options for increasing pipeline capacity in Saudi Arabia. The most ambitious option would increase Petroline capacity to 11 million barrels per day at a cost of $600 million. In addition to the staggering cost, construction would take at least 18 months.[iv]

Increasing pipeline capacity is clearly not possible as a short-term response to any conflict in the Strait of Homuz. From a long term perspective, countries within the region might explore incremental increases in capacity over longer periods of time in order to reduce their vulnerability to conflict in the Strait. The United Arab Emirates has been discussing a pipeline from Abu Dhabi to Fujayrah, circumventing the Strait, for a long time, and actually began construction on a 1.5 million barrel per day pipeline in 2007.[v]

[i] Energy Information Administration, Country Analysis Briefs: Persian Gulf Region (June 2007). Online. Available: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Persian_Gulf/pdf.pdf. Accessed: February 10, 2008.

[ii] Energy Information Administration, Country Analysis Briefs: Persian Gulf Region (June 2007). Online. Available: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Persian_Gulf/pdf.pdf. Accessed: February 10, 2008.

[iii] Energy Information Administration, Country Analysis Briefs: Persian Gulf Region (June 2007). Online. Available: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Persian_Gulf/pdf.pdf. Accessed: February 10, 2008.

[iv] M. Webster Ewell, Jr., Dagobert Brito, and John Noer, "An Alternative Pipeline Strategy in the Persian Gulf," The Baker Institute (April 1997). Online. Available: http://www.bakerinstitute.org/publications/TrendsinMiddleEast_AlternativePipelineStrategy.pdf. Accessed: February 11, 2008.

[v] Matt Chambers, "What Happens if Iran Blocks the Strait of Hormuz?" Wall Street Journal (August 27, 2007).

This page last modified in August 2008

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