This post is the first in a series of three that will focus on 1) defining, 2) exposing, and 3) mapping the invisible supply chain.
In 2014, the Wall Street Journal published a story detailing how the Saltpond Oil Field off the coast of Ghana was exporting as much as five times the crude oil it could possibly produce. The article exposed the contours of an extensive transnational criminal operation. As the story unfolded, it was revealed that stolen Nigerian crude would be shipped to Saltpond, where it would either be mixed with the facility’s Ghanaian oil or simply transferred into different tankers before being shipped to refineries elsewhere in Africa and Europe for processing and then distribution through legitimate channels.
Five nuclear power vendors are competing for a sizeable sale in Saudi Arabia, with Westinghouse facing off against state-owned enterprises (SOEs) from France, South Korea, Russia, and China. A few decades ago, the US was the world leader in nuclear power technology. However, today the US needs to sell nuclear power plants (NPPs) in the export market in order to sustain domestic nuclear industrial capability and have a chance in future nuclear export opportunities.
During his 2019 State of the Union speech, President Donald Trump claimed credit for getting European NATO members to pay an additional $100 billion in military outlays to the alliance by the end of 2020. Similarly, instead of raising the specter of further sanctions on Russia that would impact European allies, the United States should claim credit for ameliorating European energy security by contending that these improvements—including additional liquefied natural gas (LNG) capacity, storage, and reverse flow capability—are ultimately a result of US efforts following the Ukraine gas crises of 2005–2006 and 2008–2009.
In January, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority established the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) in an effort to coordinate energy policies and establish a regional gas market. The group will attempt to develop and organize the region’s rising gas market, allowing its members to tap their vast natural gas resources, and potentially become an exporting hub for Europe. Although the formation of the EMGF may be a step in the right direction, Turkey’s exclusion remains a major stumbling block to the future of energy cooperation in the region. Incorporating Turkey into the Forum will improve EMGF’s prospects of success, although Turkey is unlikely to be invited to join as long as Cyprus remains in the Forum—or without a resolution between the two countries.
Many commentators noted the absence of any reference to climate change, clean energy, or the Green New Deal in President Trump’s State of the Union address on February 5th. In fact, the only mention that Trump made of energy at all was to praise the US for becoming “the number one producer oil and natural gas in the world,” and calling it a “revolution in American energy.” However, despite the president’s denial of climate change and the absence of any mention of clean energy in the State of the Union, the Trump Administration—with bipartisan support in Congress—has made significant strides in passing legislation to promote civilian nuclear power, a carbon-free source of energy.
At the Atlantic Council’s recent Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi, the global energy transformation and diversification in energy and power markets were recurring themes. A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation, helped to frame the discussion of these themes. The report argues that the emergence of economically competitive renewable energy sources is fundamentally changing the nature of energy geopolitics by driving changes in import and export dependency on oil and gas, as well as creating new leaders and international alliances in clean energy technologies, reducing the role and leverage of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) countries, and furthering the decentralization and democratization of the energy system.
Late last year, a group of us from the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center had the opportunity to travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a series of meetings on hurricane recovery and the future of the island’s electric grid. It was an interesting time for a visit. While the remnants of the storm were visible if you looked hard, the clear message from our hosts was that Puerto Rico is open for business—an amazing fact given what the island confronted just over a year earlier.
However, Ukraine still faces a dire choice as inefficiency, corruption, and lack of transparency continue to hamper its natural gas sector.