Massive Oil And Gas Find Off Aceh ?  

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Energy Current has a brief report about an enormous (but highly theoretical at this stage) oil and gas find offshore from Indonesia's semi-autonomous Aceh province. The only other source with a report on this seems to be the Jakarta Post.

I vaguely recall some of the (very dodgy) tinfoil theories that washed ashore in the wake of the 2004 tsunami claimed that it was deliberately triggered as part of a grab for the regions' resources. I wonder if any of the foreign forces that landed to help in the clean up and reconstruction are still there ?

Indonesian and German research agencies claimed a massive find of subsea hydrocarbons holding between 107 billion to 320 billion barrels of oil and gas reserves in a basin off the western shore of Aceh Nangroe Darussalam, Indonesia, according to a Jakarta Post report.

Research vessel Sonne encountered the underwater basin while performing a survey to map the geological construction of the surrounding sea in Aceh after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Indonesia's Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) and Germany's Bundesanstalt fur Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR) said in a statement.

The research and preliminary finding remains subject to further tests to determine the actual reserve size of the basin. Further information is required before energy companies would be able to feasibly explore for oil or gas. If the hydrocarbon potential of the basin is proven, the area may well be among the largest oil and gas reservoirs in the world.

The Wall Street Journal has a look at the Matt Simmons vs Aramco debate in "Peak Oil: Simmons v. Saudis, Round Two". I'll note the comments thread has more kooks than most tinfoil sites could muster - where do these people come from - isn't the WSJ supposed to be for respectable people...
Both Nansen Saleri, former chief of reservoir management at Saudi Aramco, and Houston-based investment banker Matthew Simmons are feeling good these days about the famous–and weighty–debate they held four years ago at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. Are Saudi Arabia’s massive oil fields in great shape—or falling apart? Can Saudi Aramco help slake the globe’s soaring energy thirst far into the century—or has that ability already peaked?

Simmons, in his book “Twilight in the Desert” argued that several big Saudi fields, including the massive Ghawar field, were showing signs of serious strain. Their debate before a packed house at CSIS marked an unprecedented moment of openness for the secretive Aramco.

Saleri now says in an interview that time has proven Aramco right. Simmons “was saying four years ago that Ghawar was going to collapse and that Saudi Aramco was going to go into decline….[But] that precipitous decline never occurred,” he says. Saleri, who left Aramco last year to create his own Houston-based reservoir-management company, insists Ghawar will keep pumping five million barrels a day far into the future. Aramco also managed to revive some other behemoths, like Abqaiq. “Abqaiq became a renaissance story for Aramco,” he says, insisting that the field’s pressure remains strong and its water content is going down even after more than 60 years in production. Abqaiq “is doing fantastically,” Saleri says.

Simmons, reached by phone in Houston, says he feels equally vindicated—and increasingly alarmed. He based his book largely on information dug up in old technical journals. In recent weeks he has hit the archives again, with thoughts of writing a second book. What he has found, he says, “is so unbelievably scary you can’t believe it.” He claims that there is mounting technical evidence that Aramco is struggling to deal with increasing volumes of water at its hugest fields. With water production going up, he says, oil production is going down. “It is absolutely clear as a bell now that all of those fields are heading toward being another Cantarell,” referring to the massive Mexican offshore field, which is now in rapid decline.

More on Simmons at The Rude Awakening, looking at "Empty Holes and Black Swans".
It may be blasphemous to ponder in a region that produces a good deal of the world's hydrocarbon-based energy, but what if Peak Oil has already occurred?

"My opinion is that it's increasingly likely that we actually set an all-time record in May 2005 of 74,252,000 barrels per day," states Matt Simmons, founder and chairman of the world's largest energy investment banking company, Simmons & Co. International.

"And for the first three months of 2007," Simmons continues, "we were almost a million barrels per day behind that, and we're dropping fast. If that record still holds a year from now, I'll bet someone ten-to-one that we set peak oil in May 2005 and it's now past tense."

Not one to shy away from a bet, Bud Conrad, chief economist at Casey Energy Speculator and fellow Peak Oil enthusiast, plotted the following slightly more inclusive chart to give us an idea of where we stand today.



As the graph clearly illustrates, world production has been on a rather unimpressive plateau for the past couple of years. Part of this stagnation in global output growth stems from the coughing, spluttering "chokepoints" that we read about in the news every other day.

Just this past weekend we saw crude shoot up about four bucks on the back of threats made by Venezuela's head honcho, Hugo Chavez, that he may sever export lines to the thirsty U.S. Then there was a decline in production in Nigeria...troubles in the North Sea...ongoing issues in Iran...the "problem with Putin"...the list goes on.

The thumbscrews are tightening for net oil importers. As we explained in yesterday's Rude, "The American SUV driver was a tad sluggish in his gait this morning. Once again his pocketbook has been pinched. The hefty drive from his suburban McMansion to work in the city and the heating in his Connecticut vacation home just became a little more expensive."

But the issues that face net-importing nations around the world may soon be felt by the net-exporting nations too. Oil, as a finite commodity, will one day dry up. The impetus for economies with a heavy oil hand to diversify, therefore, is rather serious.

Consider that Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE and one of the Middle East's largest crude exporters, has just pumped $15 billion into their Masdar Green City initiative and one begins to understand just how seriously even the crude rich nations are taking the issue of ultimate depletion.

In the following column, Bud sits down with Matt Simmons to root out some of the grim realities emerging at the tail end of our petroleum age. This may hurt a little...but we hope it also helps. Enjoy...

Energy Bulletin has an interesting article on the "Pakistan problem: Washington's perspective", outlining a theory that the US would like to see Pakistan broken up and then merged back into India. The idea of merging Pakistan into India seems pretty far-fetched (I really can't imagine it being possible under any circumstances) but the idea that US policy involves making sure there are no functioning states within the middle east that could pose any threat to US control of the oil seems more plausible.
The Bush administration has persistently supported Pakistan’s military dictator, General Musharraf, despite widespread criticism of this policy at home and abroad. With the likely induction of the Democrats in to the White House, should one anticipate a different U.S policy towards Pakistan? This question is best answered when placed within the framework of Washington’s long term objectives in South Asia.

The neocon vision of national security is described by President Bush in the 2006 edition of the official document titled the “National Security Strategy of the United States of America” in the following words:
“We seek to shape the world, not merely be shaped by it; to influence events for the better, instead of being at their mercy”.

This preemptive foreign policy is driven by “Peak Oil” related anxiety. Cognizant of the fact that the world is headed towards a new type of international rivalry that will entail a scramble for world’s diminishing supply of fossil fuel, and encouraged by the U.S’s unrivaled status, the necocons embarked upon a policy to establish greater control over the world’s energy resources. As a functional prerequisite of this control, Washington has set out to establish alliances that will strengthen its created “energy order”, prevent China from emerging as a competitor of the U.S, and prevent major Asian countries from forming a multi polar power bloc against the U.S.

The Middle East is at the heart of this policy, where Washington is pursuing the following objectives.

1. Middle Eastern countries that produce fossil fuel and those through which vital pipelines transit (called the “strategic core” of the Middle East), should not be allowed to develop or retain, state-of-the-art military. U.S protected Gulf kingdoms are deemed harmless and therefore allowed the purchase of military hardware.
2. No Middle Eastern state (except Israel) should be allowed to develop or retain nuclear weapons.
3. The concept of modern “nationhood” encompassing large states overriding ethnic loyalties should be discouraged in the “strategic core” of the Middle East as a preemptive strategy against pan-Islamic revolutions such as the '79 revolution in Iran.

U.S policy in these areas is aimed at scuttling the “sources” of modern nationalism, i.e. a large, multiethnic nation state equipped with an equally large military. (These two ingredients serve simultaneously as the symbol and the source of modern nationalism as it evolved in Europe out of the Napoleonic wars). This explains the Bush administration’s bid to petrol the high seas under the “Proliferation Security Initiative”, its itch to attack Iran, the result of its engagement in Iraq, its post Cold War policy in Afghanistan and its current policy in Pakistan.

The imperatives of the above objectives negate the institutional strengthening of Pakistani state and society and require, above all, the dismantling of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Furthermore, for reasons elaborated below, an altogether end to Pakistan as an entity, rather then its continuity, serves long term interests of the U.S better. Events in Pakistan, it seems, are being influenced in that direction.

For Washington, the strategic importance of Pakistan has been replaced by India and Afghanistan, in that order. Afghanistan’s long term relevance to U.S energy policy lies in its proximity to resource rich Central Asian republics and Russia. Its short term importance lies in its 800 mile long border with Pakistan, a proximity which is being utilized for destabilizing the latter. The fact that Pakistan is a nuclear Islamic state is a significant negativity in the neocons’ envisaged world order. Pakistan’s size and its nuclear arsenal discourages overt military engagement to neutralize this negativity. The long standing, entrenched CIA presence in the country, on the other hand, facilitates the deployment of covert means, pivotal to which is the spill over into Pakistan of terrorism caused by U.S invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. As a “terror inflicted, failed state”, Pakistan becomes vulnerable to international pressure to disarm its nuclear arsenal.

As a transit route for Central Asian fossil fuel, Afghanistan circumvents Russia, China and Iran. It establishes an alternative route which passes through the Afghan-Pakistan territory to the Indian Ocean. To stabilize this route, the neocons plan to break Afghanistan into smaller, ethnically contiguous states capable of ensuring the safety of pipelines as they transit through the area into India. Washington does not envisage a unified Afghanistan, otherwise it would have used King Zahir Shah and his family to rally disparate Afghans, instead of the ineffective Hamid Karzai. That is why in the 2003 budget proposal, the Bush administration did not request any reconstruction aid for Afghanistan, a state it declared central to the war on terror. The Bush administration slashed reconstruction aid to Afghanistan from one billion dollars in 2005 to $623 million in 2006. Washington’s monetary commitment to the reconstruction of Afghanistan is paltry and is executed with blatant insincerity. Similarly, Washington did not engage in de-radicalization of Pakistan after the end of Soviet Afghan war, like its post Camp David engagement with Egypt. Pakistan, the only nuclear Islamic state, is too important a country to have suffered such neglect simply due to policy oversight. Washington did not commit its resources to de-radicalizing Pakistan because it does not envision a stable Pakistan as a long term U.S ally. ...

During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, when Pakistan’s defeat in the Eastern sector became imminent and the fear that New Delhi would invade West Pakistan increased, U.S sent its nuclear armed USS Enterprise to the Indian Ocean to prevent India from dismembering Pakistan. In response, the Soviet navy dispatched its nuclear submarines to ward off the U.S threat to India. The imperatives of the Cold War, thus, saved Pakistan. The new alignment of international political forces and the imperatives of Peak Oil politics are both fatefully arrayed against Pakistan. The forces with a plausible interest in destabilizing Pakistan include groups as diverse as the Indian RAW, the American CIA, the global Al Qaeda and the regional Taliban. Pakistani military dictators have failed to enter into a system of alliance that would serve Pakistan well in the post Cold War era. Their continued alliance with the U.S has enriched them personally, but it has augured ill for their country. Under the current circumstances, Pakistan’s nukes, instead of serving as its strategic asset, have become a liability. Instead of being able to dyke the flood of instability that is engulfing Pakistan, Musharraf is drowning in it more and more by the day. This, above all, explains why the neocons are so pleased with him.

The above analysis by no means entails that Washington’s policy in Pakistan will alter radically with the induction of the Democrats in to the White House. Although the current U.S energy policy, and its offshoot “the new South Asia policy” was “envisioned” by the neocons, the Democrats have already embraced it publicly during Bill Clinton’s historic visit to India in March 2000. Pakistan is not only of no use to Washington any more, it is a thorn in its side. Washington hopes to manipulate a new military rivalry in Asia to its advantage. It wants the Indo-Pak rivalry replaced by the Sino-Indian rivalry. With India as its ally, Washington hopes to gain much out of this rivalry. There is every likelihood, therefore, that the neocon policy of covertly engineering Pakistan’s dismemberment will continue under the Democrats till such time as the policy objectives have been met.

Idleworm also points to a story (what it calls "a socialist analysis of Obama") that mentions the goal of dominating the middle east and central asia.
Obama is not, however, the product of the civil rights struggles against racial oppression, nor is he associated with any popular movement from below. His career has far more in common with those of Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, individuals selected and groomed by the American ruling class to carry out its policies. Like them, he is being used to put a new face on fundamentally reactionary policies and institutions...

Important sections of the ruling elite have concluded that, particularly for the overseas interests of American imperialism, a President Obama would provided important advantages. He would at one stroke put a “new face” on American foreign policy, and make it more likely that Washington could overcome the international isolation and global hostility created by the arrogant unilateralism of the Bush White House and its failed intervention in Iraq. And it may well require a Democrat in the White House to reinstate the draft and provide the manpower required to sustain and expand the US drive for military domination of the oil-rich Middle East and Central Asia...

An Obama presidency (or a Clinton presidency, should her campaign ultimately prevail), would thus represent a fine-tuning or adjustment in American foreign policy, but no let-up in American imperialism’s drive to war and conquest, which arises not out of the brains of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, but out of the historical crisis of American and world capitalism.

Heading back to the fringes of the Indonesian archipelago, Crikey has some comments ("More questions than answers in East Timor") on the recent assassination attempts on the East Timorese Prime Minister and President. There's something very fishy about this whole affair, though not as obviously dodgy as the original set of events kicked off by the now-deceased Major Reinado that resulted in the downfall of previous Prime Minster Mari Alkatiri, who I suspect paid the price for trying to be too assertive about East Timorese independence. For what its worth, the Green Left Weekly probably had the most accurate take on that one.

The power plays in East Timor (with Australia, Indonesia, China and Portugal all jostling for control of the country's energy resources) are murky, and whowever who was behind this latest outbreak of violence is beyond me.
If you'd heard that East Timor president Jose Ramos Horta had been shot, and Prime Minister Gusmao shot at, you'd immediately suspect the hand of rebel leader Alfredo Reinado. Ipso facto.

But there's muddying of the waters in the press and across blogs today, as people try to come to grips with what's happened. Reinado himself was killed in the shoot-out at the President's residence.

Timor-Leste radio has been reporting that Reinado was actually staying with Ramos Horta, according to one blogger. This is directly contradicted by Gusmao in today's Australian: "Some people have said that President Ramos Horta had called Alfredo Reinado to come to Dili. But this is not true. Before taking any action, the President always contacts me and the President of the national parliament to co-ordinate activities. I would have known if he had contacted Alfredo."

What does seem clear is that the threat wasn't taken seriously enough, either by East Timor's leaders or the ADF and the UN. (In fact, UN forces apparently stayed 300 metres away from Ramos Horta after he was shot, ABC's PM was told last night.)

Tough questions must be asked over the security role of the ADF in East Timor, writes Patrick Walters in today's Australian:
Why, amid renewed threats last week from Reinado against East Timor's leaders, did the ADF and the UN-sponsored International Stabilisation Force not lift security around Jose Ramos Horta and Xanana Gusmao? While both leaders have declined the offer of Australian personal bodyguards in recent months, why, given the heightened threats, did the ADF and UN authorities not move to lift the overall level of surveillance protection and perimeter security provided to both men?

And if yesterday's attacks really were an attempted coup, some are asking why security hasn't been more significantly stepped up since.

Conspicuous by their absence yesterday were "extra security at the TV and radio station (if this was a coup attempt these places should both have extra guards)", writes Xanana Republic's English blogger.

Perhaps it's just with Reinado gone, the threat seems diminished. As Tom Allard writes in today's SMH, "there is no-one to replace him".

Below are a couple of the blog posts that digest the situation, trying to untangle the half-based truths and jumbled facts. In East Timor, unconfirmed stories need to be taken with a grain of salt. As one of the bloggers says, they're "about 90% correct but that 10% error can affect conclusions by 100%. Some local media were reporting that the President had died which everyone seems to agree is not the case. It is rarely straightforward here."

Eyewitness report and some unanswered questions. I received an email this afternoon from a mate who is the de-facto head of the Dili surf life saving club. This is the 3rd person I know who was in the area at the time but this one is a bit closer to the bone. In fact, TS has had the nervous sh-ts all day - I can understand why. He writes :
I went out for my morning exercise at 0630, and got to the intersection to The President’s house when it all went pear shaped.

I had turned up the road for the hill ride, stopped and started when I heard the gunfire. There was a vehicle straddling the road, some rubbish as well, and I could see what looked like uniformed personnel running around the area. Lots of gunfire, then three rounds went off just beside me, but in the bush. I was still about 400 metres from the house so hopefully they were only shooting quail and not me. But I don’t think so. It was still around dawn, so I couldn’t see exactly what the vehicle was, but it looked familiar.

I turned back, and headed east, and bumped into the President who was with two of his guards. One was on the road, the other with the President on the beach. All this was about 6.40am.

I stopped them and told them what had happened … he said no to the offer of a ride, saying it should be OK...

My old mate FOS over at xananarepublic.blogspot.com also has his acquaintances down the eastern end of town and all I can suggest is you read what his take is. So if Radio Timor-Leste is correct and Alfredo really was staying at the President’s place, which group of people dressed as soldiers attempted to simultaneously (give or take 5 minutes) take out Alfredo, the President and the Prime Minister who lives some 10 kms away? -- Dili-gence

Was Reinado staying with Ramos-Horta? As speculated earlier, it seems that the attack was carried out during JRH's normal morning walk/run. A friend who lives about 300 metres away reported a fire-fight occurring at about 0650 this morning. From various wires/radio sources it appears that two vehicles drove by and then opened fire. Radio Timor Leste is reporting that Alfredo Reinado was indeed killed in the shootout but rather than being an attacker he was in fact a guest at JRH's house and had been there for up to a week and ran out of the house during the attack to try and stop it and was killed in the crossfire. A contact at Dili hospital confirms two dead were brought to the hospital, neither of whom whas Alfredo. The Deputy PM is saying that three people were killed in the attack so maybe Alfredo was among them and not taken to Dili hospital. We are also hearing about an attack on a convoy containing Prime Minister Gusmao roughly 30 minutes after the attack on JRH. I have had a bit of a trawl around Dili in the past few hours and here are some observations:
Conspicuous by their absence: UN police cars outside Castaways and Dili Beach Hotel.

Conspicuous by their absence: Extra security at the TV and radio station (if this was a coup attempt these places should both have extra guards).

Conspicuous by their absence: Malae in Dili centre, apart from security forces.

Conspicuous by the non-absence: Many Timorese on the streets, especially in central Dili but not many people on the street in my area. Maybe the news hasn't filtered down yet. -- Xanana Republic

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