February 5, 2012
Balkanalysis.com Editor’s Note: recent tales of tattooed and muscle-bound Western oil workers laboring in coastal oil fields, while expressionless men in dark suits and sunglasses stand watch for trespassers, only piques existing interest in Albania’s revitalized energy sector and goings-on there. In the followingBalkanalysis.com special report – which discusses the major players involved, legal issues and technical data – readers get an inside view into an important emerging trend with regional implications for economy and possibly political life.
The last few years has seen considerable foreign investment in Albania’s oil sector, a trend that is increasing and that involves not only onshore, but also offshore and refinery investment. Much of what is happening in this lucrative industry remains opaque, however, and issues such as privatization practices have been politicized.
The fossil fuels industry has a long history in Albania, where bitumen was mined in Roman times. Modern oil extraction started in the 1930s and, despite that Albania never became a global oil producer, reached production levels by the 1970s that made the country one of the main Balkan oil producers for a time.
However, plagued by inefficient management and obsolete technologies, Albania’s oil production declined and was on the brink of extinction in the post-independence 1990s transition period. However, in the last seven or eight years, the Albanian oil sector has been revived by foreign oil and gas companies looking to invest. While the major deals are involving onshore oil, other foreign investors have recently entered the game for offshore finds, though decisions are being delayed as the players consider proposed EU regulations which would have an impact on offshore drilling.
Albania is thus now looking at the prospect of becoming once again self-sufficient over the next 3-5 years, by eliminating the need for oil imports. And it could even find a new vocation as a small regional oil exporter, though this is not yet a done deal. Further, international watchdogs and investors are on the lookout for any signs of corruption or problematic dealings with governmental authorities, something that in the Balkans is a chronic issue.
From Boom to Bust
During Roman times, the region near Vlore in southern Albania was the center of significant bitumen extraction activity. Modern oil exploration and extraction started during World War I and, in 1928-1929, significant oil fields were discovered. These were the Kuçova field and part of what is now known as the Patos-Marinza field; today this is one of the largest onshore oilfields in Europe.
Mussolini was tempted by Albania’s oil resources and the refinery in Cerrik, near Elbasan in the south, was built during the Italian occupation in WWII. After the war, the Soviet Union also became interested in Albania’s oil resources, and developed a dominant role in the country’s oil sector.
Following the severance of diplomatic and commercial ties with the Soviet Union by dictator Enver Hoxha, China took the lead in the country’s oil sector and supported Albanian efforts- achieving a peak production of almost 43,000 barrels per day (bpd) or 2.2 million tonnes per year. This production level was enough to cover domestic consumption needs, and freed up some crude volumes for export.
However, in 1978 Albania broke off diplomatic relations with China too, and local oil production entered into a seemingly terminal decline. In the 1980s, the petroleum and bitumen sector was still employing 10% of the Albanian workforce, but its share of the national industrial production declined from 8.1% in 1980 to 5% in 1985, and even less than that at the end of the decade.
Oil sector growth was restricted by factors like obsolete technology that reduced oil field production yields, a lack of exploration to replace produced reserves, a lack of investment in extraction equipment and a very limited and aging transportation and refining infrastructure.
By 1990, oil production was down to 23,500 bpd (or 1.2 million tonnes/year).The breaking down of the Communist regime and its ‘central-planning’ economic system at the beginning of the 1990s worsened the oil sector’s problems. It was being run on autopilot by the national oil company (known as the DPNG until 1992 and Albpetrol after that), and oil production from the existing and aging low-recovery yield wells reached less than 9,500 bpd (or 475,000 tonnes/year) in 1994 [PDF]. No bottom was in sight and the entire Albanian oil sector seemed on the brink of extinction.
Factors: Known Reserves, Unknown Reserves, and the Difference for Investment
So far, Albania has not seen any investment from the oil majors. Rather, the players involved are small companies, some appearing to have been set up specifically for operations there.
To some extent, this is how the oil and gas industry works. Oil and gas supermajors, such as ExxonMobile, Royal Dutch Shell and BP tend to be on the lookout for those smaller companies that have already found oil and gas reserves, to renew their own oil and gas reserves.
For their own exploration activities, the supermajors usually focus on established production regions, where, even if they drill a new well, discovery chances are higher than in an unknown region where proven reserves are limited or non-existent. Thus regions like West Africa, the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico take precedent over newcomers like Albania, Greenland, Suriname/French Guyana and the Falklands.
These unexplored new regions thus become niche markets for small players. Since the risks are huge, they have to focus their efforts, and usually on only one region. In fact, many small players disappear because they drill three or four wells, that turn out to be dry. Of course, if they hit pay dirt, the result is different.
The strategy of many of these companies, not unlike that of internet start-ups, is actually thus to find oil and gas and then be acquired by a major. This is the next step once a new production region is opened; the oil majors and supermajors will arrive in a second wave. In a recent example from the Balkans, in Romania’s Black Sea, Sterling Resources and other “small fish” spent almost two decades doing the groundwork, and now ExxonMobil is currently drilling offshore, with Petrom (OMV).
In the case of Albania, it is not yet clear whether the majors will arrive, which is not necessarily a bad thing, so long as those who participate abide by the law and pay their dues to the state.
Auspicious Developments: the Petroleum Law and PSC Definitions
On the legislative side, however, things have started to change for the better. They process actually began in the mid-1990s; in 1993, a Petroleum Law was adopted and amended in 1994 (and yet again in 2008) to create a legal framework for the exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons in Albania.
According to the Petroleum Law, the Albanian state, which owns all the oil and gas reserves in the country and is represented by the National Agency of Natural Resources (AKBN) can enter into Production Sharing Contracts (PSC) with state or private companies. These PSCs give exclusive rights to the state’s partner to explore and produce oil and gas in a defined perimeter for 25 years (five additional years can be added to the PSC if the partnership is successful).
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Frank Wisner mit seiner Firma Patton Boogs ist ein Sonderfall an krimineller Dummheit des CIA, und im Gefolge die ganzen Ja-Sager der NATO und EU Politik. Verstand braucht man ja nicht in der Politik, noch beim Militär. siehe der Kriegs Treiber und Ober Dummi, Georg Tenet, oder gar der Geschäftemacher Richard Holbrook, der schon entsorgt wurde, als Partner des Frank Wisner.
Die MEICO Waffen Lieferungen an die Hisbolla gegen Drogen und die Folgen: viele CIA Spione verhaftet und ermordet
Waffen gegen Drogen: 12 CIA Agenten wurden im Iran festgenommen, welche aus Albanien Waffen besorgten
Frank Wisner, der Welt Drogen Boss Nr. 1 und uralt Profi Verbrecher, ist praktisch der Lehrmeister der NATO, weil Alle nur nachplabbern was der Verbrecher wünscht. Jetzt ist die Firma des Frank Wisner auch für die Privatisierung von Albpetrol (Rezart Taci Mafia)auch noch beauftragt, die entgültig privatisiert wurde. Da sollte man wissen, das für Salih Berisha, diese Öl Firma schon vor 18 Jahren, u.a. mit Hilfe eines Österreicher, sehr erfolgreich Öl verschob und Treibstoff im Auftrage des Salih Berisha, während des UN Embargos an die Serben lieferte. (siehe Agron Musaraj, oder auch der heutige Minister Fatmir Mediu)! Auch gegen den US Senator Eliot Engel, rund um Geldwäsche und Drogen Handel, ermittelt das FBI und Interpol inzwischen und gegen die hoch kriminellen Familien Bytyci, Sahit Muja, Bajraktari.
Ein besonders kritischer Brief von Gary Kokolary, der eine Legende ist, als echter Albaner Lobbyist (Ausnahmsweise in positiven Sinn) an Frank Wisner, wo er nach seinen Provisionen gefragt wird, rund um die Albpetrol Privatisierung.
Kokalari: Uisner, shpjego rolin e dyshimtë të “Patton” në privatizimet e dyshimta të Berishës!
Aserbeidschan, the new investor for Albpetrol? nobody, want this corruption firma, of the international mafia!