The US Energy Information Administration recently updated its brief on world oil transit chokepoints—one of which is Egypt’s Suez Canal. The EIA defines chokepoints as narrow channels along widely used global sea routes, some so narrow that vessel size is restricted. They are a critical part of global energy security due to the high volume of oil traded through their narrow straits, the agency notes.
|The Suez Canal. Satellite photo: NASA. Click to enlarge.|
Major chokepoints in addition to the Suez Canal include: Strait of Hormuz; Strait of Malacca; Bab el-Mandab; Bosporus/Turkish Straits; Panama Canal; and the Danish Straits.
The Suez Canal is an artificial waterway in Egypt extending from Port Said to Suez, connecting the Red Sea and Gulf of Suez with the Mediterranean Sea—a distance of 120 miles. Some quick facts:
- Petroleum (both crude oil and refined products) accounted for 16% of Suez cargos, measured by cargo tonnage, in 2009.
- An estimated 1.0 million bbl/d of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed northbound through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea in 2009, while 0.8 million bbl/d travelled southbound into the Red Sea. This represents a decline from 2008, when 1.6 million bbl/d of oil transited northbound to Europe and other developed economies.
- Almost 35,000 ships transited the Suez Canal in 2009, of which about 10% were petroleum tankers.
A 200-mile long pipeline—SUMED, or Suez-Mediterranean—provides an alternative to the Suez Canal for those cargos too large to transit the Canal. The pipeline moves crude oil northbound from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and is owned by Arab Petroleum Pipeline Co., a joint venture between the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), Saudi Aramco, Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC, and Kuwaiti companies.
Transit through the pipeline declined from approximately 2.3 million bbl/d of crude oil in 2007 to 1.1 million bbl/d in 2009.
Closure of the Suez Canal and the SUMED Pipeline would divert tankers using it around the southern tip of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, adding 6,000 miles to transit.