- Oil production has fallen by over 2 million barrels per day in five MENA countries (Libya, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia and Sudan) affected by violence stemming from the Arab Spring that began with riots in Tunisia in December 2010.
- The loss of this production has had surprising little effect on international oil markets. Syria, Yemen and Tunisia were never significant exporters and the loss of production in those countries is a simple loss of energy supplies to the indigenous populations. The loss of Libyan and Sudanese exports has likely been cancelled by increased production in N America.
- Oil production in Egypt has not been affected by the uprising in that country.
- Wikipedia give a good account of the history of the Arab Spring. With thousands dead, chaos and suffering spreading across a vast region, it would seem more appropriate to rename this uprising the Arab Winter.
Figure 1 Production stack for 5 oil producing countries affected by the Arab Spring. The initial impact and subsequent partial recovery is plane to see. However, not widely reported in the mainstream media is the fact that production in Libya and S Sudan has once again been disrupted by new outbreaks of violence. Pre-Arab Spring, production from these countries was over 3 million bpd. This had fallen to 0.955 million bpd in September 2013. All charts are based on data reported by the EIA, latest data updated to September 2013.
Figure 2 Libya Libyan oil production recovered strongly following the civil war but never regained the pre war production level. Not so easy to see on this chart is that by September 2013 production was once again down to 390,000 bpd. The IEA reported production of 220,000 bpd for November. The cause of recent falls is growing unrest between tribal factions and the central government that has closed oil terminals. Most recent news is that production is now back over 600,000 bpd. Recent unrest has also impacted Libyan gas exports to Europe.
Figure 3 Egypt Egypt’s oil production has not been affected by the troubles in that country. But it needs to be noted that C+C production has fallen from 900,000 bpd in 1994 to 534,000 bpd in September 2013. According to the EIA, Egypt exported 85,000 bpd crude oil in 2010 and 90,050 bpd of refined petroleum products. In the same year Egypt imported 48,740 bpd of crude oil and 164,248 bpd of refined products yielding a small net import balance of 37,938 bpd. In 2006 Egypt exported 52,334 bpd of crude oil and 102,828 bpd of refined products whilst importing 71,000 bpd of crude oil and 75,206 bpd of refined products giving a small export balance of 8,956 bpd. The country has a rapidly growing population that it cannot support and is dependent on food imports that need to be paid for somehow.
Figure 4 Tunisia With production < 100,000 bpd, Tunisia is an oil production minnow, dependent I believe on foreign investment and expertise to maintain this trickle. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia in December 2010 and, like Egypt, did not have a major impact on oil production although production decline has accelerated since. As a working theory, I imagine that foreign participation in Tunisia may have been reigned in resulting in accelerated decline of the industry.
Figure 5 Sudan & S Sudan I simply do not know enough about Sudan to provide any form of reliable commentary and let the oil production figures speak for themselves. Oil resources are concentrated in the South of this recently partitioned country. Most recent reports are that oil production has been halted by regional violence.
Figure 6 Syria The impact of the civil war on Syrian oil production is plane to see. The IEA report production of 30,000 bpd in November 2013. The EIA report Syria exporting 152,412 bpd crude oil in 2010 but importing 104,833 bpd refined products. It seems likely that Syria has been more or less self sufficient in oil prior to the civil war. The loss of this production is a loss to the Syrian people whom I presume are living in abject energy poverty.
Figure 7 Yemen Oil production in Yemen was in steady decline since 2000. The onset of the Arab Spring appears to have accelerated declines in a manner similar to Tunisia. The IEA reports production of 140,000 bpd in November 2013. According to the EIA, Yemen imported 59,051 bpd refined products in 2010 with zero crude oil imports. In the same year Yemen exported 14,329 bpd refined products and 175,176 bpd crude oil. Yemen, therefore has been a small net exporter but one can only assume that exports have now fallen to zero starving The State and the people of a vital revenue stream.
The six countries investigated here represent a small part of spreading violence throughout the MENA region. While Iran, a non-Arab country, is taking steps to come in from the cold, new unrest in Iraq linked to al-Qaeda must give cause for concern in the oil rich gulf states and the OECD that are dependent upon their oil exports. In 2004, an al-Qaeda attack on the massive Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia went barely noticed by the mainstream media but serves to demonstrate the vulnerability of Gulf oil production.