New Eastern Outlook
by F. William Engdahl
There are two great myths used in recent years to convince the world of imminent catastophe unless we drastically change our living style in the direction of austerity. Both myths are based on scientific fraud and uncritical propagation by sympatheic mainstream and even some alternative media. One is the idea that world climate is warming, or at least “changing,” owing almost solely to us, to our man-made emissions. The second great myth, launched first in 1956 in Houston Texas by an employee of one of the world’s largest oil companies, was dusted off some 15 years ago at the start of the Dick Cheney-George W. Bush Administration. It’s called the theory of Peak Oil.
The good news is our coastal cities are not about to be washed away by melting icebergs or rising oceans, nor is our supply of conventional oil and gas–hydrocarbons–likely to run out for centuries or more. It has nothing to do with the highly damaging and very costly extraction of tight oil from shale rocks, but with the abundance of conventional oil around the world, the vast part of which has yet to be discovered or even mapped.
The most dramatic discoveries of new oil and gas reserves in recent years has come from the Mediterranean in areas off Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and believed to be offshore Greece as well. In 2010 Israel and the Houston, Texas company, Noble Energy, discovered the largest offshore gas field, Leviathan. It was the world’s largest gas discovery in a decade, with enough gas to serve Israel for at least a century. The geophysics of the offshore areas around Greece suggest that that hapless country could also have more than enough undiscovered oil and gas to repay all foreign debt and more. Not surprisingly the Washington-led IMF demands that Greece privatize her state oil and gas companies, a near certainty that major Western oil firms would sit on their development as was done in past decades until leases expired in 2004 and reverted back to the Greek Government.
In 2006 Brazil’s Petrobras made the largest offshore oil discovery of the last 30 years, holding at least 8 billion barrels of oil in the Santos Basin 250 kilometers from Rio de Janiero. Then-President Lula da Silva proclaimed it would give the “second independence” for Brazil, that from Western oil imports. In 2008 nearby Petrobras, a state company, discovered an equally large natural gas field called Jupiter near their Santos oil discovery. Under Lula’s presidency, the Parliament passed measures to insure oil development would remain in Brazilian hands under Petrobras and not in those of the American and British or other foreign oil majors. In May 2013 after Lula retired and was succeeded by Dilma Rousseff as President, US Vice President Joe Biden flew to Brazil to meet with her and the heads of Petrobras. According to Brazilian sources, Biden demanded Rousseff remove the laws that kept American oil majors from controlling the huge oil and gas finds. She politely declined and soon after she was hit with a major US Color Revolution destabilization that continues to this day, not surprising, with a scandal around Petrobras at the center.
More recently, Iceland, recovering from her banking crisis, began seriously looking offshore for oil and gas in the Jan Mayen Ridge north of the Arctic Circle in 2012. The geophysics are the same as offshore North Sea and one Icelandic former senior government official told me during a visit some five years ago that a private geological survey indicated Iceland could be a new Norway. According to the US Geological Survey, the Arctic could hold 90 billion barrels of oil, most of which is untapped. China made Iceland a key partner, and the two signed a free-trade agreement in 2013 after China’s CNOOC signed an offshore joint venture in 2012 to explore the offshore.
In April 2015 the energy exploration firm UK Oil & Gas Investments announced it had drilled near Gatwick Airport and found what they estimated could be up to 100 billion barrels of new oil. By comparison the entire North Sea has yielded some 45 billion barrels in 40 years. As well in May, UK oil company Rockhopper announced a new oil discovery in the disputed waters of the Falkland Islands offshore of Argentina believed to contain up to one billion barrels of oil.
Now in August, 2015 the Italian oil company ENI announced discovery of a supergiant gas field in the Egyptian offshore, the largest ever found in the Mediterranean Sea, larger than Israel’s Leviathan. The company announced the field could hold a potential of 30 trillion cubic feet of lean gas in place covering an area of about 100 square kilometres. Zohr is the largest gas discovery ever made in Egypt and in the Mediterranean Sea.
There are huge undeveloped oil and gas reserves in the Caribbean, the area of an impact crater that made numerous fissures and where three active tectonic plates come together and part. Haiti is one such region, as is Cuba. In May the Cuban government released a study that estimated Cuba’s offshore territorial waters held some 20 billion barrels of oil. Russia’s oil subsidiary, Gazprom Neft, has already invested in one section in Cuban waters, and during Russian President Putin’s July, 2014 visit to Havana in which Russia cancelled 90% of Cuban Soviet-era debt worth some $32 billion, Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia’s state-owned Rosneft, the world’s largest oil company, signed an agreement with Cupet, the Cuban state oil company, to jointly explore the basin off Cuba’s northeast coast. That Russian participation in the huge Cuban oil search might explain the sudden rush of the Obama Administration to “warm up” relations with Cuba.
How oil is ‘born’
The accepted oil industry explanation holds that oil is a finite resource, a so-called fossil fuel, biological in origin, that was created hundreds of millions of years ago by the death of dinosaurs whose detritis by some yet-unidentified physical process transformed into hydrocarbons. The claim is that concentrated biological detritis somehow sank deep into the earth—the world’s deepest oil drillling in Russia’s Sakhalin region, drilled by Exxon, is more than 12 kilometers deep. There it supposedly flowed into underground pockets they call reservoirs. Others say also algae and tree leaves and other biological decayed matter added to the process.
In the 1950s a group of Soviet scientists was tasked with making the USSR self-sufficient in oil and gas as the Cold War heated up. The first step in their research was to critically investigate all known scientific literature on origins of hydrocarbons. As they looked closely at the so-called fossil fuel theory of oil, they were amazed how unscientific it was. One physicist estimated that for the huge oil that has come out of one giant well, Ghawar, in Saudi Arabia, it would require a block of dead dinosaurs, assuming 100% conversion of meat and bone to oil, that would reach 19 miles wide, deep and high. They soon looked for other explanations for the birth of oil.
They made exhaustive tests in the deep-earth research labs in Moscow of the Soviet military. They developed the brilliant hypothesis that oil was constantly being created deep in the bowels of the Earth below the mantle. It pushes upward towards the surface passing through beds of various elements such as ferrite. They did repeated laboratory experiments producing hydrocarbons under tempetrature and pressure imitating that in the mantle. These migration channels, as the Soviet scientists termed them, were fissures in the mantle caused over millions of years under the expanding of the earth and forced by the enormous temperatures and pressures inside the mantle. The path the initial methane gas takes upwards towards the surface determines whether it emerges and collects as oil or as gas, as coal, as bitumen as in Canada’s Athabasca Tar Sands, or even as diamonds which are also hydrocarbons. The Russian and Ukrainian scientists also discovered, not surprisingly, that every giant oilfield was “self-replentishing,” that is new oil or gas is being constantly pushed up from inside the mantle via the faults or migration channels to replace oil withdrawn. Old oilwells across Russia that were pumped far beyond their natural full rate during the end of the Soviet era when maximum production was considered highest priority, were then shut, considered exhausted. Twenty years later, according to Russian geophysicists I have spoken with, those “depleted” wells are being reopened and, lo and behold, completely refilled with new oil.
The Russians have tested their hypothesis to the present day, though with little support until now from their own government, whose oil companies perhaps feared that a glut of new oil would collapse oil prices. In the west, the last thing Exxon or other Anglo-American oil majors wanted was to lose their (once) iron grip on the world oil market. They had no interest in a theory that would contradict their Peak Oil theory.
Today a geopolitical decision by Saudi Arabia to wipe out the market-disturbing recent emergence of the United States as world’s largest oil producer owing to the major increase in shale oil production, has temporarily collapsed world oil prices from over $100 a barrel in July 2014 to around $43 today in the US market. That is leading to a dramatic cut-back in oil exploration around the world. In a fair world, oil or gas should be available at affordable prices to every nation to serve its own energy requirements and not the monopoly of a tiny cartel of British or American companies. Good to know is the fact that the oil and gas are there in super-abundance that we need not freeze in the dark or turn to windmills until the time mankind develops completely different forms of energy that are clean and earth-friendly. Wars to control oil or gas would become silly nonsense.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.