Thursday, April 28, 2005

oil refining

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah said that high gas prices in the US are the result of of lack of refining capability in the US.

This may or may not be true right now. I am wondering if something similar to the California electicity crisis of a few years back is going on in oil refining, with oil companies deliberatly letting refineries suffer breakdowns in order to profit from a shortage.

But long term will be different. There will be refining over-capacity, which is why even huge multinational oil companies (which make huge profits refining oil) are reluctant to build new plants. My point is that there are going to be oil shortages as many oil exporting countries' output peaks. Indonesia, Mexico, and the North sea nations may choose to use their remaining oil domestically, instead of sending it abroad (according to Richard Heinberg, author of The Party's Over, this may be in violation of WTA rules and may spark intense trade disputes). China may gain control, economically or militarily, over some Indonesian oil, much as the USA has been doing for decades.
So, some refineries will be sitting idle becuase they can't get the oil they they were built to process. More capacity may be needed to process heavy oils, but this will require huge investments. It is a lot harder to refine heavy oil, and a lot more polluting.

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