Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Oily maneuvers and ultimate objectives

Poland is seeking access to Iraqi oil deposits.

Just a week after the Polish government announced that it would be leaving its troops in Iraq for another year, Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz has indicated that he expects some payback. Getting his hands on Iraqi oil deposits looks sure to be part of the deal.

'Orlen [Poland’s largest oil refining company] should have oil deposits. And it will have them,' Marcinkiewicz said. Asked if he meant Iraqi oil deposits, he added “Sure, those too.”

Surprised he’s so brazen? You shouldn’t be. Whereas other countries like the UK have always maintained that invading Iraq was about ‘keeping us safe’ and ‘getting rid of a tyrant’, etc (and I believe Blair honestly thinks this way – he’s not a liar, just a bit confused) Poland has always been a little more instrumental in its interest in that part of the world.

In July 2003, the then Foreign Secretary, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, told a meeting with a group of Polish firms after they had signed a deal with a subsidiary of US Vice President Dick Cheney's former oil company, Halliburton:

"We have never hidden our desire for Polish oil companies to finally have access to sources of commodities.” [Access to the oilfields] is our ultimate objective."


DBN said...

Good post. And good quotations you found.

Cheers, that is, goodnight!

Pan Emigrant said...

Interesting, although the idea of Orlen securing its own oil deposits in this day and age is HILARIOUS. There are companies like Total or ConocoPhilips out there struggling to replenish their deposits. They are hundreds of times bigger than Orlen, have the backing of governments with some standing on the world stage and, perhaps most importantly, they have experience of actually producing oil. Given what happened at the 2005 oil production licence auctions in Lybia, where desperate magnates bidders like China failed to get a look-in, Cimosiewicz is blowing words out of his ass.

For those who don't know, Orlen is a modest-sized refining business (geared to processing Russian crude) with a group of petrol stations in Poland. It bought a handful of stations from Aral in Germany a few years back. If it wasn't for sentimental nationalists in the Polish government it would long ago have become part of a major.

Orlen can sign all the deals with Halliburton they want - H is a service company and doesn't own any oil.

If H does win more presence in Iraq, it won't be to produce oil that it can market - it will be providing expensive technical services to Iraq's state oil company. (Hmm... although perhaps they will be paid in oil rather than hard currency...)

This is how I speculate oil companies will benefit from the war:

What would best suit the likes of Exxon or Shell, would surely be to get close to the production of oil, perhaps to operate some fields themselves. That way Iraq would have to pay them for their services, perhaps using a production sharing agreement where Exxon would be paid in oil. This would allow Exxon to increase its booked reserves, making it more attractive to shareholders, increasing the share price and making the likes of the Bushes wealthier since they must have a fairly healthy Big Oil portfolio between them.

How can they get anywhere near the oil when the Iraq national oil company seems to be happily pumping away? Well, I would welcome some ideas. Bankrupting is one way, but how do you bankrupt a company with that much resource at today's oil prices? Perhaps insurgents will destroy some capacity, allowing the Exxons to step in? So far, insurgents seem to have avoided this temptation. And anyway, the national oil company could probably afford to rebuild capacity itself. Perhaps Iraq has offshore oil that it can't afford to develop?

I know this isn't too coherent, it's just some thoughts on the burning question of 'how will the coalition get that oil?'

beatroot said...

I have always thought that the 'Blood for Oil' argument was a bit dofgy. Like Tony Blair said once: if we wanted Iraqs oil we would have made a deal with them". Of course they would.

Bush went to war because he thinks its part of the war on terror.' I think Tony probably believes him.

But when it comes to Polish politicians, they are not shy about what is the driving force: prove you are a good NATO member, and 'give us ya oil deposits.!


michael farris said...

I always wished that Bush had gone to war for oil (or more precisely for a combination of revenge and oil). That would at least make sense. The idea that Bush actually believes that invading Iraq was/is part of his mythical 'war on terror' is just too scary to be comfortable with.

Also scary, calling all living former secretaries of state or defense to the whitehouse, ostensibly about Iraq, but I bet really about preemptive war with Iran (I hope I'm wrong).

beatroot said...

If they do something in Iran it will be first trying to get sanctions - but that's not good s the Russians and the Chinese won't go for that. So then they may try bombing 'suspects sites'...but they will have to do it without troops. Got none left.

Pan Emigrant said...

With all the truths about the ugly political dimension of both oil and gas getting pummelling the public on a daily basis, I won't be surprised if the nuclear lobby doesn't actually see that resurgence we're all reading about.