A floating storage and offloading (FSO) terminal less than five miles off the coast of Yemen has turned into a massive bomb—capable of explosion due to its contents and lack of maintenance. The risk of explosion increases by the day, and if that were to happen, not only would it damage or sink any ships in the vicinity, but it would create an environmental crisis roughly four and a half times the size of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
This post is the third in a series of three that focuses on 1) defining, 2) mapping, and 3) addressing the invisible supply chain. You can read the first and second posts here.
Criminals have the advantage of being agile. They are unencumbered by the constraints that impede the governments and institutions arrayed against them. A criminal network operating an invisible supply chain can, when challenged, often disassemble that supply chain and reassemble a new one overnight. Accustomed to finding the path of least resistance around the law, successful criminals tend to maintain a nimble footing, ready to make rapid adjustments in pursuit of continued profits.
Hopes were riding high on the discovery of Romania’s Black Sea natural gas deposits in 2012, which were expected to provide a cheap and local source of the fuel for Central and South Eastern Europe (CSEE). ExxonMobil and OMV Petrom would carry out the offshore production, and the Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary-Austria (BRUA) pipeline project, formally conceived in 2016, would deliver 4.4 billion cubic meters per year to the preeminent regional hub located in Baumgarten, Austria. The European Commission prioritized BRUA and made European Union (EU) funding available for it, given its contribution to regional energy security, market integration, and competition. Furthermore, the project had also been meant to incentivize Romania and Bulgaria to speed up market liberalization efforts.
In the autumn of 2017, Italian authorities busted a lucrative smuggling ring that was bringing hundreds of millions of liters of stolen Libyan fuel into the European Union. The criminal operation involved coordination between a host of players: Libyan militias, a Libyan crime boss, Maltese criminals, corrupt bureaucrats, Italian mafia groups, Italian fuel traders, and “white pump” (off-brand) retail suppliers willing to pay cut-rate wholesale prices without asking questions.
This post is the first in a series of three that will focus on 1) defining, 2) mapping, and 3) addressing 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.