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The Suez chokepoint

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.



Ultimately the Suez Canal is the primary reason the US gives Egypt 2 billion dollars per year in foreign aid, with the suppression of extremism also being a goal to a lesser extent. If Egypt is taken over by radicals, giving rise to the Taliban & Al-Qaeda...the money will stop & the unmanned drone flights & drone strikes will begin.


Good insight.


So...better the devil you know than the devil you don't?


"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."

And right past Somalia


Foreign Aid to Egypt in 2010:
$1.3 billion for military funding
$250 million for civilian assistance
-$25 million for democracy, human rights and governance
-$15 million for health
-$60.9 million for education & social services
-$149.1 million for economic development

Maybe if you had given more for civillian assistance there would be less of a worry about Al-Qaeda getting control of such a large military.


You left out the category of "goes straight into the pockets of crooked officials".


This article really highlights the vulnerability of the U.S. economy and why the development of alternatives to mideast oil is so important.
Choke off the Suez canal and you choke of the U.S. economy.


Look at the bright side. We could cut the deficit by 1.5 Billion immediately. Of course, there will be no tax income, but we can cut spending. :-)


A well informed friend is convinced that recent uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen and Jourdan (and more coming) have many common characteristics, the main one being underground actions by by a very interest group known as A-Q.

If crude oil supply from Middle East to EU and USA is reduced, oil price would rise at a very fast rate and the economic recovery would be affected.

Many of our 200+ million ICE vehicles may have to be converted to NG or other alternative fuels (if available).


I think Hosni Mubarak isn't getting out of this alive...he's an old military guy and will cling to power until probably there's a military coup of some kind...Hosni will probably be assassinated in the coup or will commit suicide as rebels are breaking into his compound. There were a bunch of prisoners who broke out & many people have been killed already. I think it's just a matter of time before it really gets ugly & out of control...who fills the vacuum after Mubarak is gone is anyone's guess --- but there is going to be some nasty turmoil in the meantime.


I've been watching a lot of news and youtube reports about what's happening in Egypt and they give me some limited amount of hope for a post-Mubarak Egypt. The hope comes from the protesters: In other countries where protests led to the rise of extreme islamic governments the protesters were mostly young adult men with lots of pro-islam flags being waved around. I do not see this here, the protesters are mixed [young, old, men, women] and the flags seem to be mostly Egyptian flags. I even watched a youtube where a midaged muslim[?] man yelled "we will not be silenced, whether you are a christian, whether you are a muslim or whether you are an atheist, you will demand your god damn rights! And we will have our rights one way or the other!" Rather inclusive, I thought.

I say my hope is limited because the only 'organized opposition' in the area are the religious extremists.

George Furey

Chokepoints such as this scare the crap out of me.

Just look at what Russia did when they wanted to teach Ukraine a lesson.

"The dispute reached a crescendo on January 1, 2006, when Russia cut off all gas supplies passing through Ukrainian territory."

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