Japan and oil

Discussions on all aspects of the Japanese Empire, from the capture of Taiwan until the end of the Second World War.
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Peter H
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Japan and oil

Post by Peter H » 03 Oct 2005 10:45

Last edited by Peter H on 03 Oct 2005 11:02, edited 1 time in total.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 03 Oct 2005 10:50

The dilemma for the IJN in 1942,even after the capture of the oilfields of the Dutch East Indies,is highlighted here:

http://www.combinedfleet.com/guadoil1.htm

The week-long Battle of Midway alone had consumed more fuel than the Japanese Navy had ever used before in an entire year of peacetime operations.

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Post by Peter H » 03 Oct 2005 10:57

Oil logistics: in the Pacific War,Air Force Journal of Logistics,Spring 2004:

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/ ... i_n6172425

By September 1941, Japanese reserves had dropped to 50 million barrels, and their navy alone was burning 2,900 barrels of oil every hour. The Japanese had reached a crossroads. If they did nothing, they would be out of oil and options in less than 2 years, If they chose war, there was a good chance they could lose a protracted conflict. Given the possibility of success with the second option, versus none with the first option, the Japanese chose war.

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Post by Kim Sung » 03 Oct 2005 14:02

Peter, please go to this thread

viewtopic.php?t=87111&highlight=

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Post by Peter H » 09 Oct 2005 05:31

So they were sitting on an enormous reserve and didn't know it!

More on the Dutch East Indies:

http://f16.parsimony.net/forum27947/messages/2817.htm

The most important oil field was Palembang. Before the war, 8,000,000kl oil was produced in the NEI and more than half of it was produced in Palembang.

The Japanese GHG estimated that the production of oil would be 300,000kl in the first year after occupied the NEI and 1,000,000kl in the second year. However, the actual production in the first year was 5,000,000kl. It is because the damage of the oil fields was less than expected and 7,700 Japanese oil engineers worked hard to recover the oil production. In 1943, the oil production was recovered to the prewar level.


Also:

There is no information about the oil production in Burma during the Japanese occupied period. Japanese had no interest in the oil of Burma, because abundant oil existed in the NEI which is nearer than Burma.

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Post by Peter H » 03 Sep 2006 14:09

http://www.energybulletin.net/18793.html

The old man and the oil
by Byron W. King


HE WAS A frail old fellow, dressed in loose-fitting clothes, working in his garden and chopping potatoes. Less than a year before, in 1945, he was in command of one of the largest fleets that had ever been assembled by any nation. His name was Takeo Kurita, vice admiral of the former Imperial Japanese Navy.

A young U.S. naval officer named Thomas Moorer and his translator approached Kurita. They explained to the admiral that they were working for a historical study group, gathering information about the war that had recently ended for Japan on such unfavorable terms. They asked Kurita if he would agree to discuss his experiences. And so began a series of interviews of the former Japanese military commander by representatives of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, Naval Analysis Division.

"We Ran Out of Oil"

Kurita held nothing back. There were no state secrets any more. "What happened?" asked the American officer. "We ran out of oil," replied Kurita, matter-of-factly.

Again and again during the interviews with Moorer and others, Kurita referred to a lack of fuel as the key reason that the Japanese forces were ground down to memories and ghosts. Kurita reflected on why his fleet was all but annihilated at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944. Kurita explained that he brought his ships into that action without knowing whether there was sufficient fuel to bring them out of the zone of combat. Thus, Kurita's ships sailed slowly to their fate, conceding the element of surprise to the vigilant Americans, because the Japanese commanders were attempting to conserve enough fuel to return home. And so, lacking surprise, many of Kurita's ships never had the opportunity even to turn around before being sent to the bottom by U.S. submarines and air power, along a track of sorrow that covered several seas.

Kurita explained that during the Leyte Gulf battle, he deployed his ships on a dangerous night passage through the San Bernardino Strait. "I was low on fuel," he said. Kurita's fleet tankers had been sunk or dispersed. The only fuel available to the Japanese ships was whatever was in their own tanks. "Fuel was an important consideration, the basic one," said Kurita. There was not enough fuel for his ships to sail around the adjacent landmasses, so they were forced by necessity to transit the relatively narrow straits.

Several months after the Japanese disaster at Leyte Gulf, in February 1945, forces of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps met with no naval resistance whatsoever during the invasion of Iwo Jima. The Japanese had simply conceded the sea and airspace around the island to the American attackers. The reason was that the Imperial Navy had elected to conserve fuel for the final defense of Japan.

By early 1945, almost all ships of the Japanese fleet had been deactivated. Powerful battleships, and even aircraft carriers, that had cost immense sums to construct before the war with the U.S. and during the early years of the conflict, were mere cold iron tied up to the pier for lack of fuel. Japan's basic military decision-making process was not how to defend against American attacks on many fronts. Japan's main effort was simply to struggle to preserve its dwindling levels of oil reserves.

Flying on Pine Needles

By mid-1944, Japan's economy and its military were being starved of energy supplies, the consequence of an ever-tightening noose applied by U.S. and Allied air and naval forces. U.S. submarines sank hundreds of Japanese ships in this time frame, including critically needed tankers full of oil. The American submarine campaign against Japanese sea power all but cut off the sea lines of communication between Japan and its so-called "southern resource area."

In desperation, Japanese war planners utilized every possible means to convert available resources into fuel substitutes. The Japanese manufactured alcohol from confiscated food supplies such as potatoes, sugar, and rice, thus forcing a direct competition between human stomachs and mechanical gas tanks. But alcohol has an energy content of about 65,000 Btu per gallon, whereas aviation gasoline delivers about 130,000 Btu per gallon. So on the best of days, Japanese aircraft took off with half the energy equivalent of their American counterparts in their fuel tanks. And aerial combat proved the disparity, with American aircraft utterly dominating the skies.

People in Japan were forced to tighten their belts even more when large amounts of garden vegetables began to be used for manufacturing lubricating oils. And even old rubber products such as tires and rain slickers were "distilled" to recover whatever oil could be had. But it was not enough.

By late 1944, the Japanese navy commenced a project to manufacture aviation fuel from pine tree roots. "Two hundred pine roots will keep an airplane in the sky for one hour," said a Navy spokesman. The Japanese navy distributed over 36,000 kettles and stills, in which countless pine tree roots met their fate. Many a hillside of Japan was utterly denuded of trees. But each kettle or still could produce only about 4 gallons of raw product, and even that required significant treatment to upgrade to anything approaching usable fuel. Compounding the problem, each still required its own fuel supply, and this exacerbated an already severe fuel shortage in Japan. By one estimate, 400,000 Japanese worked full-time in order to support a dispersed, inefficient industrial base that could produce all of about 2,500 barrels of pine oil per day. In the end, a mere 3,000 barrels of "pine root" aviation fuel were ultimately delivered to the Japanese navy. And the pine derivative gummed up aviation engines after just a few hours of use. The entire project was a massive waste.

The Way to Lose a War

Many years later, the American naval officer Thomas Moorer had retired as a four-star admiral and chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. In an interview, the retired American Adm. Moorer reflected on the retired Japanese Adm. Kurita that he had met long before. "He had been in command of the entire fleet," recalled Moorer, "and now here he was digging potatoes."

"The lesson I learned," said Moorer, "was never lose a war." And the American admiral added, "The way to lose a war is to run out of oil"

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Post by Sewer King » 03 Sep 2006 22:49

I seem to remember that Manchurian soybean oil was considered for marine fuel oil. But no one wanted it because of the residue it would leave after combustion, apart from any other drawbacks such as lower efficiency,

It may have been from Russell Spurr's book A Glorious Way to Die, an early-1980s account of battleship Yamato's last sortie.

Does anyone know if the IJN actually considered soybean oil -- or if it served any other large-scale wartime use as fuel?

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Post by Jon G. » 04 Feb 2008 15:00

From a May 1939 entry by Alvin Barber in Far Eastern Survey, Vol. 8, no. 11, prosaically entitled 'Record Output of Petroleum in Netherlands India'

Image
Image

Sorry for the mangled typography.

'Peak oil' isn't just a modern term, it seems :) Were the Dutch East Indies oil wells already past their prime by the time the Japanese invaded? I wonder if the exports to China which Barber is talking about weren't in fact exports for Japan?

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Post by cstunts » 04 Feb 2008 20:03

Hello,

I have never read anything else suggesting NEI oil fields were on the verge of exhaustion. This sounds suspiciously like a deliberately misleading statement. I would not put it beyond the Dutch to have attempted to float this illusion. Who could blame them?

Oil was being shipped to China still, but of course it was being contested at every stage by the Japanese, and increasingly so as the Thirties concluded, and Japan's choke-hold on Chinese entrepots grew...British and American diplomatic documents reveal countless "incidents" and inevitably at ports, with many involving the restricted movement of oil throughout China caused by the Japanese.
Even when they had seized the NEI fields & refineries and resumed production, Japan lacked the trained specialists, [a huge number were lost in 1942 when their transport was sunk by an Allied submarine] and shipping bottoms and escorts to get the oil where it was most needed.

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Post by South » 05 Feb 2008 13:07

Good morning Jon G,

Of course as we all know after 1937 and WWII ended, oil was still pumped from the Dutch East Indies and later, the new Indonesia (finally completed 1963).

We can do the history research by just looking at the banks financing the oil companies. There was - and still is - a reason for ESSO Eastern to have a base in Singapore, the economic capital of Indonesia.

I trace all this back much earlier than 1937.

The Naval Treaty of 6 Feb 1922- so shortly after WWII - provided for a formula of battleships and aircraft carriers for 5 nations on the following ratios:

US: 5
UK: 5
Japan: 3
France: 1 and two thirds
Italy: "

To build ships requires the raw materials to make steel.

Sail cloth had been phased out much earlier and any staff officer worth anything knew Japan didn't have oil wells in downtown Kobe.

Where would the fuel for the ships come from ?

One reason the western oil companies talk about peak oil and related expressions, is that the companies have the knowledge about the oil pools and if there's an inventory tax ... well, they are running low and circa 1968:

oil is running out and there are limits to growth as per Aurelio Peccei and Alexander King of the Club of Rome !!

Let me close with mentioning that prior to Watergate, America's biggest scandal was named "Teapot Dome". Teapot Dome, in Wyoming, is the name of the location of a US Naval oil reserve.

Warm regards,

Bob

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Post by stulev » 05 Feb 2008 15:55

Did Japan try to make synthetic oil or gasoline like the Germans during the war??

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Post by Jon G. » 05 Feb 2008 20:01

Thank you all for your input,

cstunts wrote:... I have never read anything else suggesting NEI oil fields were on the verge of exhaustion. This sounds suspiciously like a deliberately misleading statement. I would not put it beyond the Dutch to have attempted to float this illusion. Who could blame them?...


That's an intriguing way of interpreting Barber's claims. But does it fit with the chronology? A US oil embargo was probably in the cards already in May 1939, but had the Japanese begun pressing the Dutch for larger oil deliveries by that date?

... Even when they had seized the NEI fields & refineries and resumed production, Japan lacked the trained specialists, [a huge number were lost in 1942 when their transport was sunk by an Allied submarine] and shipping bottoms and escorts to get the oil where it was most needed.


I've seen some rather conflicting statements about just how much oil Japan managed to get from the DEI. I will try and return with some numbers later. BTW, DEI oil was sought after not just for quantity, but also for quality. Apparently, some of the oil pumped in the DEI was so chemically pure that it could be used as bunker fuel straight from the well, without any refining.

South wrote:...any staff officer worth anything knew Japan didn't have oil wells in downtown Kobe.

Where would the fuel for the ships come from ?


The Japanese were looking wide and far for prospective oil sources. At one time, it was even considered to purchase a substantial part of Mexico.

...Let me close with mentioning that prior to Watergate, America's biggest scandal was named "Teapot Dome". Teapot Dome, in Wyoming, is the name of the location of a US Naval oil reserve...


Who on earth would place a naval oil reserve in Wyoming? :)

stulev wrote:Did Japan try to make synthetic oil or gasoline like the Germans during the war??


I believe the Japanese were looking into that as well, but it wouldn't have solved Japan's oil problems in the same way that synthfuel solved Germany's oil problems to a degree. In part because the Japanese didn't have the same expertise and resources to devote to such a project, in part because synthfuel production takes exorbitant amounts of coal - which metropolitan Japan didn't have, either.

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Post by South » 06 Feb 2008 07:16

Good morning Jon G,

I'm sure basic research would show potential Mexican oil imports to Japan as facing US restrictions of various types precluding the transactions from ever occuring.

Teapot Dome was a Naval oil RESERVE. Like some other naval oil reserves such as Elk Hills and Buena Vista Hills, Kern County, Californa, they were pools of oil not yet pumped. This is in contrast to Naval Supply Depots for fuel like Craney Island, Virginia supporting the huge USN base complex around NAVSTA Norfolk.

The selection and designation of Naval oil reserve sites wasn't solely governed by the geologists and engineers. The political decisions were made by the politicans trying to do what would be best for _______________(fill in the blank).

I'm still convinced when the 1922 naval fleet ratio treaty was signed, it was recognized that the Dutch East Indies was a major acquisition area for Japan - because of the need for fuel.


Warm regards,

Bob

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Post by cstunts » 06 Feb 2008 17:05

Hello,

stulev: Yes, the Japanese had a dedicated synthetic oil program, but it wasn't terribly successful. Nothing like the Germans. You can find good data on this in the USSBS volumes, IIRC. I've seen other pages on this subject in the wartime reports of OSS[?] I have copies of these pages somewhere anyway.

Re the NEI: of course the Japanese had been hungrily eyeing those fields since the First World War, if not before. The failure to discover or develop fields in Manchuria also forced them to look to the NEI. By 1940/41 the Japanese were attempting, through "diplomatic" means which verged on coercive tactics, to strong-arm the Dutch into much larger contracts for oil. The Dutch very courageously (& rightly) resisted these "offers." You can find all of the relevant numbers for amounts sold to Japan, but this does not tell us very much, frankly. Nothing short of turning over [i]all [/i]the fields to Japan would have been enough in the long run.

The Teapot Dome Scandal was symptomatic of a much greater corruption in Harding's oily administration. There was a false oil-shortage scare after WWI which peaked (oddly) during Harding's presidency, when a number of major oil companies had landed plum positions in the gov't.--By the mid-1920s this had passed, and by the time of the East Texas discoveries, we were again very much on the "plus" side of the scale with regards to oil production. But in the period of 1919-1924 (roughly) the oil industry was able to exert a great deal of influence on not only the government but on foreign policy, and the chief instrument for supporting this was the US Navy...but, that's another subject altogether.

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Post by Jon G. » 07 Feb 2008 10:11

As promised, some numbers on Japanese oil sources. I've added figures for the DEI in the far right colum. All figures are in barrels per day:

Code: Select all

               Japanese Oil Sources 1938-1945, barrels per day

        Crude          Refined        Domestic        Syntetics/      Total    |DEI Crude Oil
        Imports        Imports        Production      Substitutes              |Production
                                                                               |
1938    50,422         38,477          6,753            912          96,564    |157,036
                                                                               |
1939    51,625         32,378          6,389          2,011          92,403    |170,101
                                                                               |
1940    60,411         41,398          5,652          3,984         111,445    |169,429
                                                                               |
1941     8,576         14,361          5,318          5,159          33,414    |147,134
                                                                               |
1942    22,318          6,515          4,630          7,345          40,808    | 65,753
                                                                               |
1943    26,981         12,745          4,970          5,551          50,247    |132,312
                                                                               |
1944     4,496          9,334          4,342          5,693          23,865    | 60,820
                                                                               |
1945       0              0            4,432          4,874           9,306    | 20,822
(1st half)

From Robert Goralski & Russell W. Freeburg: Oil & War. How the Deadly Struggle fof Fuel in WWII Meant Victory or Defeat, p 337 & 348

Barber's claims about declining production in the DEI are at least partially validated by Goralski & Freeburg's numbers, although the ravages of war and the state of the Dutch wells by the time the Japanese seized them of course also play a role in the decline of DEI oil production. Oil which went from DEI sources directly to Japanese overseas consumers (i.e. without taking a detour via Japan) has to be added to the metropolitan Japan totals.

By the time of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty at least, Japan appeared to have been looking north rather than south for sources of oil. In a 1925 accord with the Soviet Union, Japan gained oil concession rights in Sakhalin. More about that here

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