British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

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Tom from Cornwall
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British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 31 Jul 2021 19:51

In a report of the British Joint Intelligence Committee of August 1941 on the likelihood and effects of a Russian Collapse, there is a section on likely German exploitation of an occupied Soviet Union ("The problems facing Germany in occupying part of Russia") which includes:
As regards petroleum, Germany will be faced with a dilemma. The oil from the Caucasus is at present barely sufficient for Russia's internal needs, of which her collectivised agriculture accounts for about half. If therefore Germany wished to exploit the grain resources of the Ukraine, as well as taking substantial quantities of Caucasian oil for her own use, she would have to sacrifice pro tanto the needs of transport, industry and the civil population of occupied Russia. Alternatively, if she provided for the latter, agricultural production would suffer.
Does anyone with a better understanding of the Soviet Union's oil production and usage have any comments on that argument or can anyone point me towards any sources that might help understand if that was wishful thinking on the behalf of the British or based on a solid understanding of the Soviet economy?

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Tom

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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by AriX » 31 Jul 2021 23:03

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
31 Jul 2021 19:51


Does anyone with a better understanding of the Soviet Union's oil production and usage have any comments on that argument or can anyone point me towards any sources that might help understand if that was wishful thinking on the behalf of the British or based on a solid understanding of the Soviet economy?

Regards

Tom
The role of agricultural sector in oil product consumption is exaggerated. For instance, from 30 mln. tons of crude oild, at least 10 mln. were used in production of aviation fuel ( aprox. 1 mln tons.) Export deliveries of crude oil and oil products also should be added.
Will give a try in more detailed explenation in the morning :roll:

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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 01 Aug 2021 11:08

AriX wrote:
31 Jul 2021 23:03
The role of agricultural sector in oil product consumption is exaggerated. For instance, from 30 mln. tons of crude oild, at least 10 mln. were used in production of aviation fuel ( aprox. 1 mln tons.) Export deliveries of crude oil and oil products also should be added.
Hi,

Thanks for the reply. That's interesting, as I assumed that the British intelligence would be coming from their embassy/mission in Moscow and fed directly by the Soviet authorities. I suppose the Soviets might not want to have admitted how much oil they were exporting to Germany before 'Barbarossa' started. Any more details you can find would be gratefully received.

I'll also have to have a look at the process for making aviation fuel from crude - and whether the by-products were still useful.

Regards

Tom

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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Art » 01 Aug 2021 12:07

Here is production of liquid fuel in 1941 as an example:
Automotive gasoline - 2983 thous. tons
Aviation gasoline - 1269 thous. tons
Kerosene - 4497 thous. tons (incl. 3829 thous. tons of tractor kerosene)
Diesel fuel - 936 thous. tons
Motor fuel - 1313 thous. tons
Fuel oil (boiler oil) - 9211 thous. tons

So a lot of fuel other than tractor fuel. Just from a common during the war sense armed forces consumed millions tons of fuel annually. I don't see any reasons why theoretically speaking Germans couldn't take the same amount for themselves instead.

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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 01 Aug 2021 16:43

Art,

Thanks - so should I take it that from annual production of about 30 million tons of crude oil, the Soviet Union produced about 20 million tons of liquid fuels?

And of that 20 million tons of liquid fuel, just short of 1/5th was used for tractor kerosene?

Was the boiler oil mainly used in industry, do you think?

Regards

Tom

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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Art » 02 Aug 2021 15:31

Here are data for the year 1940:
oil 1940.png
So, total output of oil products was:
Aviation gasoline - 883,600 tons
Automotive gasoline - 3,476,600 tons
Kerosene - 5,600,000 tons
Diesel fuel - 1,459,000 tons
Ligroin (petroleum naphta) - 1,274,00 tons
Lubricants - 1,469,000 tons
Burner oil/heating oil - 9,800,000 tons
Bunker fuel oil - 413,200

That gives 24.4 million tons of oil products. According to the same source production of oil in 1940 was 31.1 million tons, processing - 28.4 million. What accounts for the difference (losses, byproducts) is not described.
And of that 20 million tons of liquid fuel, just short of 1/5th was used for tractor kerosene
Usual tractors consumed kerosene or ligroin with smaller amount of gasoline. It's clear that it was a smaller part of liquid fuel production.
Was the boiler oil mainly used in industry, do you think?
Various uses: domestic heating, electric power, industry, ships etc.
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Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 02 Aug 2021 16:32

Art wrote:
02 Aug 2021 15:31
Here are data for the year 1940
Art,

That's fantastic, thank you.

As is my usual problem, I've gone done a rabbit-hole and now want to know more! Where was it refined? how was it distributed? how much was used across different sectors of the economy? how much was exported pre-war and to whom? were there other oil resources that could have been developed if the Soviets had lost the Caucasus? etc, etc.

I've begged enough information from you already though so could you recommend a couple of good books about the Soviet economy during '30s and 40's that might help with those kind of questions? Sadly I would be limited to English language only. I'm struggling to pick up some German at the moment, and Russian will definitely have to wait until I am retired. :D

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Tom

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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Art » 02 Aug 2021 20:08

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
02 Aug 2021 16:32
Where was it refined?
"By 1940 oil refineries were situated in 19 regions of the USSR. Principal refineries were those situated at Grozny, Baku, Ufa, Saratov and Yaroslavl region (Konstantinovsky refinery)"
From the same source between 1931 and 1939 14 new refineries of varying capacities were launched, which were situated at Berdyansk, Odessa, Kherson, Krasnodar, Batumi, Tuapse, Moscow, Saratov, Verkhnechusovskiye Gorodki (Perm region), Ufa, Ishimbai, Orsk, Ukta, Khabarovsk. There were obviously two centers of gravity here: southern ports and newly developed Volga-Ural oil region.
In addition a refinery at Nadvornya was appropriated from Poland in 1939, several more were under construction after 1939.
Total capacity in 1940 was about 25 million tons of finished oil products, which nearly coincides with production figures quoted above.
how much was exported pre-war and to whom?
Not very much. Export in 1940 was 874 300 tons of oil products (260 000 tons of gasoline, 80 200 kerosene, 262 400 diesel fuel, 169 500 burner oil, 93 200 lubricants, about 9000 tons of paraffin, asphalt etc). The bulk went to Germany - 657 400 tons.
how much was used across different sectors of the economy?
Don't know. There are numbers on allocations to military: 576 400 tons of automotive gasoline and 26 000 tons of diesel fuel in 1940, 1 035 300 tons of automotive gasoline, 828 600 tons of aviation gasoline, 183 200 tons of diesel fuel in 1941. In the following years the numbers went larger peaking in 1944.
I've begged enough information from you already though so could you recommend a couple of good books about the Soviet economy during '30s and 40's that might help with those kind of questions? Sadly I would be limited to English language only
Frankly, I just don't know.

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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 02 Aug 2021 20:16

Art wrote:
02 Aug 2021 20:08
Frankly, I just don't know.
No problem, and thanks again for the information. I'll go off and do some reading.

Regards

Tom

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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 05 Aug 2021 10:28

The British assessment assumes SU could not grow, and Germany could not divert, food absent prewar tractor usage. We know that Germany took ~3mil tonnes of grain from the occupied SU in 42 while providing its farmers very little tractor fuel.

A lot of WW2 economic thinking about "bottlenecks" ignored the enormous means of substitution inherent in any economy. Bombing prophets, for example, looked at industrial web theory and said hey if we just knock out these few ball-bearing factories everything in the German economy grinds to a halt. But of course there are substitutes for ball bearings and for those specific production sites. They're less efficient but they vastly mitigate planned damage. Same with Soviet agriculture: manual labor became a less efficient substitute that nonetheless produced a food "surplus" for Germany.

The economist Mancur Olson wrote a paper on this blind spot of WW2 thinking, which Mark Harrison discusses here: https://voxeu.org/article/economic-warf ... n-ur-olson.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 05 Aug 2021 17:24

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Aug 2021 10:28
The British assessment assumes SU could not grow, and Germany could not divert, food absent prewar tractor usage. We know that Germany took ~3mil tonnes of grain from the occupied SU in 42 while providing its farmers very little tractor fuel.
Agreed, but what we don't know is the long term impact of such exploitation on the prospects for the sustainment of food production in the occupied part of the Soviet Union.

Thanks to the link to the article by Mark Harrison - I really need to catch up on some economic reading - in both meanings of the word. :lol:

Regards

Tom

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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Richard Anderson » 05 Aug 2021 21:24

One major problem for the Soviets was the limited output of high-octane gasoline from their refineries. Of the 883,600 tons of aviation fuel produced in 1940, only 4 percent was B-87, 87-octane fuel. The rest was 70-74 octane.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Art » 06 Aug 2021 12:08

Another piece which might be of interest: a plan of wartime fuel distribution in 1941 (thousands tons annually):

Aviation gasoline B-78: 174.5 Army, 22.5 Navy, 33 civil, total 230
Aviation gasoline B-74: 216.8 Army, 30.5 Navy, 2.7 civil, total 250
Aviation gasoline B-70/RB-70: 555.6 Army, 61.2 Navy, 13.6 NKVD, 147.1 civil, total 777.5
Aviation gasoline B-59: 25.4 Army, 0.9 Navy, 0.6 NKVD, 3.1 civil, total 30
Cracking aviation gasoline KB-70: 163.3 Army, 13.3 civil, total 176.6
Cracking aviation gasoline KB-76: 5.9 Navy, 0.9 NKVD, total 6.8
Ethanol: 60 Army, total 60
Automotive gasoline: 2498 Army, 156.5 Navy, 111 NKVD, 1967 civil, total 4732.5
Ligroin: 134.7 Army, 11.3 Navy, 1.2 NKVD, 1417.3 civil, total 1564.5
Kerosene: 352.1 Army, 14 Navy, 15 NKVD, 6741.7 civil, total 7122.8
Diesel fuel: 749.2 Army, 3,2 Navy, 473.6 civil, total 1226
Motor oil: 31.7 Army, 47 Navy, 0.4 NKVD, 1507.5 civil, total 1586.6
Bunker oil: 722.4 Navy, 0.4 NKVD, 45 civil, total 767.8
Diesel fuel oil: 107.9 Navy, 1.1 NKVD, 35 civil, total 144
Aviation lubricant oil: 73.6 Army, 6.6 Navy, 1.1 NKVD, 21.6 civil, total 102.9
http://militera.lib.ru/research/melia_aa/pril4.html

This plan was compiled before the war based on projected capacity of oil and oil processing industry.

At the same time wartime army requirements were calculated as:
Av.gas. B-78 - 1,030 thous. tons annually
Av.gas. B-74 - 1,107 thous. tons annually
Av.gas. B-70 - 693 thous. tons annually
Av.gas. KB-70 - 284 thous. tons
Automotive gasoline - approximately 4.1 million tons
Diesel fuel - approximately 1.7 million tons
Kerosene - 544 thous. tons
Ligroin - 186 thous. tons
Various lubricants - about 600 thou. tons

These numbers were based on expected number of vehicles on strength (actual numbers, not authorized) and more or less realistic consumption rates for each type of airplane or vehicle. It's probable that these rates were somewhat overstated and also real numbers of airplanes/tanks/motor vehicles on strength happened to be smaller than projected. Anyway, it is obvious that supply of aviation gasoline, especially high-octane gasoline in war was very problematic. Using gasoline with lower octane number was possible, but only at a cost of performance of modern airplanes.

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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Art » 06 Aug 2021 13:03

The curious question here is if the Soviet leadership ever realized that they had a problem here. I mean, that made grandiose plan on build-up of air forces (more than 20,00 airplanes in VVS combat units by the end of 1941) and equally grandiose plans on development of ground serves and construction of airfield network. All these programs combined were shockingly expensive. At the same time gasoline for this air armada was lacking and there was nowhere to find it. People who were concerned with supply of fuel were figures of secondary importance and it is not clear if Stalin, Timoshenko or Zhukov themselves ever considered reconciling plans of air forces expansion with actual fuel limitations.

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Re: British Assessment of Soviet Union oil supplies/usage - Aug 41

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 07 Aug 2021 18:00

Art wrote:
06 Aug 2021 12:08
Another piece which might be of interest: a plan of wartime fuel distribution in 1941 (thousands tons annually):
Art,

Thanks again. My first bit of reading arrived today:
Farm to Factory: A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution, by Robert Allen
Richard Anderson wrote:
05 Aug 2021 21:24
One major problem for the Soviets was the limited output of high-octane gasoline from their refineries.
Rich,

That's not something I'd ever considered before so thanks. German capture of SU oil resources wouldn't necessarily be a huge bonus from the perspective of the LW then?
Art wrote:
06 Aug 2021 13:03
The curious question here is if the Soviet leadership ever realized that they had a problem here.
If they did, I imagine they would have asked for high-octane fuel as a priority of lend-lease. I'll have a look and see if I can find anything that suggests that in either British or US records.

Regards

Tom

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