03/21/2007, 00.00
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – IRAN

UAE pipelines to avoid Iranian threats

The goal is bypass the Strait of Hormuz which Tehran has threatened to close should tensions with the West worsen over the nuclear issue. Once built, pipelines might knock down oil prices.

Dubai (AsiaNews) – Gulf governments are planning two oil pipelines that would bypass the Strait of Hormuz, aiming to avoid possible Iranian threats to global oil shipments.

In reporting the news the Kuwait Times said that, if built, the two pipelines could move as much as 6.5 million barrels of oil a day around the strait, an amount equal to nearly 40 per cent of the daily exports currently shipped through the narrow channel at the entrance of the Gulf.

Construction of the first, smaller line is forecast to begin this year, the Dubai branch of Britain's Standard Chartered Bank announced this week.

A second, more ambitious line carrying some 5 million barrels a day is still under discussion and could take a decade to build.

The attraction of the plan for oil traders is easy to understand. Around two-fifths of the world's traded oil is shipped by tanker through the Hormuz Strait. But the 54-km-wide passage is highly vulnerable to threats from neighbouring Iran. With tensions rising between Iran and the West over its nuclear programme, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned last June that his country could disrupt the world's oil supply if it comes under attack.

Bypassing the Strait of Hormuz could also stabilise oil prices. The new pipelines would reassure traders over the stability of exports and knock down the few dollars per barrel they have to pay in “security premium.”

The first, 360-km pipeline that Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co is planning would carry only UAE oil to the emirate of Fujairah, located outside the strait on the Gulf of Oman. It would involve 1.5 million barrels per day of crude oil, about 55 per cent of the Emirates' production.

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