Middle East Oil Production in WW2

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
TinCow
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Middle East Oil Production in WW2

Post by TinCow » 16 Sep 2004 22:59

When discussing alternate scenarios for WW2 I constantly hear references to how victory in North Africa could have secured Middle Eastern oil for the Axis. This is often mentioned as a major boon. I have always wondered exactly how much oil production came from the Middle East during the war, since it was my understanding that most of the major fields were not discovered and exploited until after the war.

Does anyone know of any production figures?

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panzertruppe2001
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Post by panzertruppe2001 » 17 Sep 2004 20:09

I do not know exact figures but the oil camps were discovered in Saudi Arabia, Persia and Irak. I believe that the Standard Oil and the Anglo Iranian had facilities in this countries.
In Libia where Afrika Korps troops fought the oil was discovered in the fifties.

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DrG
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Post by DrG » 17 Sep 2004 20:32

The oil production of Middle East was not exceptional, but would have been of great help for the Axis (that was mostly based on Rumanian oil: 7,153,000 t in 1937 and 6,603,000 in 1938). Instead for the Allies it was pretty irrilevant (USA oil production of 1937: 172,866,000 t).
This was the oil production in metric tons of Middle East countries in 1937, 1938 and 1946:
Iran: 10,331,000 10,359,000 19,189,000
Iraq: 4,255,000 4,272,000 4,476,000
Bahrein: 1,062,000 n.a. n.a.
Kuwait: oil has been found by an American company, but production had not yet started in 1939. Production of 1946: 800,000 t.
Saudi Arabia: first drillings in the Hasa region; a port was under construction in 1939 in Ras Tanura (N-W of Bahrein) for the transport of the oil production of Hasa. Probable presence of oil in the Red Sea in front of Tihama (in Asir), islands Farsan, El Daba and Hueigh (both in Hejaz). Production of 1946: 8,200,000 t.
Qatar: none.
Oman: none.
Coast of Pirates (United Arab Emirates): none.
Syria and Lebanon: none.
Palestina: none.
Transjordania: none.
(sources: "Calendario Atlante De Agostini. 1940 XVIII" and "Calendario Atlante De Agostini. XX Secolo")

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DrG
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Post by DrG » 17 Sep 2004 20:38

panzertruppe2001 wrote:In Libia where Afrika Korps troops fought the oil was discovered in the fifties.

The search for oil in Libya started after the first congress of the Società Geologica Italiana in Tripolitania in 1932 (just after the defeat of Senussi rebels); the first oil was discovered in 1938 by the explorer Ardito Desio in the well Mellaha-Cini n.8 (photo of the first bottle of oil), soon followed by 18 other wells. But the beginning of the war stopped the 3-years plan of the AGIP oil company, and the next scientific campaign was made only in 1955 by Esso oil company. The large oil field of Zelten was discovered in 1959, and Libya started the export of oil in 1961.

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panzertruppe2001
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Post by panzertruppe2001 » 18 Sep 2004 18:26

DrG wrote:
panzertruppe2001 wrote:In Libia where Afrika Korps troops fought the oil was discovered in the fifties.

The search for oil in Libya started after the first congress of the Società Geologica Italiana in Tripolitania in 1932 (just after the defeat of Senussi rebels); the first oil was discovered in 1938 by the explorer Ardito Desio in the well Mellaha-Cini n.8 (photo of the first bottle of oil), soon followed by 18 other wells. But the beginning of the war stopped the 3-years plan of the AGIP oil company, and the next scientific campaign was made only in 1955 by Esso oil company. The large oil field of Zelten was discovered in 1959, and Libya started the export of oil in 1961.


Thanks DrG for correct me about the oil in Libya

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Post by TinCow » 22 Sep 2004 16:17

Thanks DrG, that goes a long way to explaining why the Germans were more focused on the Caucuses for their oil. The estimates I have seen show the Caucuses region production in 1940 at about 25,000,000 tons (give or take a few million depending on source). Since the decision to make the drive to the Caucuses was made at a time of immense German gains, it makes sense that would have been a more logical target than the softer Middle East.

The Middle East Option is one of those hypotheticals that looks a lot more attractive in hindsight than it probably did at the time.

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JeffreyF
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Post by JeffreyF » 27 Sep 2004 15:28

Does anyone know about refinery capacity for the Axis nations? Or Italian and Albanian oil production?

Thanks.

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DrG
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Post by DrG » 27 Sep 2004 18:22

JeffreyF wrote:Does anyone know about refinery capacity for the Axis nations? Or Italian and Albanian oil production?

Italian crude oil production of 1938 was only 13 t (in 1937: 14 t). During the war it didn't change much. No data are avaible for the few sintetic oil produced from bitumen.
Albanian production in 1938 was 126,820 t.

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Michael Emrys
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Post by Michael Emrys » 15 Jan 2005 23:37

In addition to the oil fields of the Middle East not being stupendously productive in those days, there were additional problems the Axis would have been faced with even if they had managed to capture them. The first is that they would have been unlikely to capture the pumping and refining equipment intact, and the Axis had little to replace it with. Secondly is the problem of transporting the oil to where it was needed even if they had it. I believe I have read that Italy lost something on the order of two-thirds of its tanker fleet when it declared war. And of course another major fraction was lost in transit to North Africa. My guess is that the returns on capturing the oil fields during war time would have been negligible, although had the Axis won the war, they would have been extremely valuable afterwards.

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Latrans
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Wehrmacht on a Short Leash

Post by Latrans » 23 Jan 2005 17:48

The Wehrmacht was very impressive during World War 2,
but oil was their Achilles heel. They were always on the verge
of running out of fuel. Their major source was Romania and
this was lost to the Red Army in 1944, so the fuel situation
became critical. German fuel reserves had been between
800,000 and 1,200,000 tons until Romania was lost, with about
half that amount being in transit to the field units. After the
loss of Romania fuel reserves sank to about 400,000. Aircraft
and tanks were the big consumers of fuel, so training was cut
back by Panzer and Luftwaffe crews. This lowered the skill
of air and tank crews. The coal-to-gas plants were about the
only source of fuel. The German engineers had done some
pioneering work on this expensive method of producing fuel.
With the Red Army advancing, the Wehrmacht had to burn
more fuel. They had plenty horses, but these could not replace
the truck for delivering supplies.

In addition to having poorly trained replacements, the
Wehrmacht had to plan battles with an eye on the fuel gage.
It is remarkable that they could launch the Ardennes
offensive at the end.

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Dietrich79
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Post by Dietrich79 » 09 Feb 2005 03:23

Was there any hypothetical plan drawn out by Hitler to take the oil fields in the Middle East?

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Latrans
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Post by Latrans » 09 Feb 2005 17:00

No, for there were not yet oil fields in the middle east. At least, there
were none of any size. The Saudi development was started about
1946. My cousin went over in 1946 as a driller for Texaco.
The Saudi fields, had they existed, would have been a little too far
to extend his troops.

Rommel did most of his operations around the Libyan-Egyptian border.
The Germans would have welcomed the high quality Libyan crude, but
it was still not developed. I don't know when Libyan development began.

I believe one of the goals of Army Group South in Russia was to secure
the oil supplies in the Caucasus.

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Michael Emrys
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Post by Michael Emrys » 12 Feb 2005 08:19

Latrans wrote:...there were not yet oil fields in the middle east.


Do you not consider Iraq and Iran as part of the Middle East? They had been producing petroleum for some years by the start of the war.

I don't know when Libyan development began.


I think they actually started pumping crude in the very early '60s.

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Latrans
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Post by Latrans » 12 Feb 2005 17:58

Grease_ Spot wrote ---
Iraq and Iran ----had been producing petroleum for some years by
the start of the war.


I knew about Iraq ...was ignorant about Iran. The Afrika Korps was
sent to North Afrika to help out the Italians. They had supply troubles
with their ships being sunk by aircraft, subs, mines, and surface ships.
The desert environment was hastening the demise of their vehicles.

To have built (or enlarged) a refinery in Iraq, for instance -----the
Germans would have had to capture the then primitive port at Basra.
They would have had to send in civilian refinery specialists and also
specialized equipment to build a facility Allied bombers could have
destroyed in one bombing. The Brits could have hired Iraqis to torch
the pipelines regularly. (They are good at that to this day). Even if
they had succeeded the distance back to Germany was too great. We
have seen that 140,000 troops can barely occupy Iraq.

I don't think Hitler had any big ambitions in that area. He did not
yearn to emulate Napoleon and view the Sphinx.

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Post by Jon G. » 17 Feb 2005 15:23

Oil was also drilled in Egypt, though I don't know anything about quantity. It probably wasn't much. British Petroleum had a big refinery at Abadan which could make high-octane aviation fuel. After Hitler attacked the USSR, some of this aviation fuel was shipped to the Soviets.

There were also oil pipelines from Iraq to both Syria and to Palestine - the Syrian leg of the pipeline must have been dry after the fall of France in 1940 I presume and all oil sent to Haïfa, where there also was a refinery.

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