Petroleum geopolitics : a framework of analysis
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The playing field upon which actors, both state and non-state, develop strategies to secure existing supplies of oil and seek access to new ones is as systemically, politically and strategically complex is as it is geographically vast. In considering this activity, the terminology used by pundits and journalists to describe the significance of issues such as oil demand, the complexities of access to petroleum and concerns over security threats to supplies of oil is familiar. Juxtapositions such as the ‘geopolitics of oil’, ‘energy geopolitics’, the ‘geopolitics of resource wars’ and the ‘geopolitics of oil and gas’ are all familiar. But what do they mean when they use ‘geopolitics’ in this context? Thus, by extension, can petroleum geopolitics - a hybrid conceptual construction used in this thesis - be disassembled into its component parts, analysed and systematically understood. This is the aim of this thesis. This thesis contends that the very nature of oil and gas reserves, the processes of exploration and production, and the means that govern and characterise the transportation of petroleum overland and by sea is inherently geopolitical - that some core features of geopolitical theory and key geopolitical concepts are pivotal in determining the ontology and process of the international oil business. Indeed, so central has oil been to the advancement of industrial capacity, technology, warfare, transportation and economic prosperity of states since the 20th century, it could be argued that petroleum is the single largest determinant of the geopolitics that characterises the modern international system. In order to address the interrelationship and correlations between core aspects of the petroleum industry and causal geopolitical phenomena, I begin by advancing a framework of analysis that systematically binds key geopolitical features and concepts – specifically: Spatial Phenomena; Environmental Ontology; Territorial Access; Geopolitical Features; State and Non-state Concepts; and, Strategic Resources and Geopolitics - with examples of empirical findings revealed in subsequent chapters in the thesis. Fundamentally, this process works to assess causality and correlations between geopolitical phenomena such as space and distance, sovereignty, territory, boundaries, chokepoints, resource nationalism, transnationalism, resource security and conflict, and the features and processes inherent in petroleum reserves and the exploration, production and transportation of oil and gas. The framework is followed with a sequential analysis of the three empirical foci of the project: the ontology of oil and natural gas reserves; the planning and processes of exploration and production; and, the processes of the conveyance petroleum. I have concentrated my research to activities within Eurasia, which comprises the traditional continents of Europe and Asia, and the Indo-Pacific maritime realm, which extends eastwards from the Red Sea to the western Pacific Rim. After systematically assessing the empirical findings and examining key areas of geopolitical theory, I conclude that there is an identifiable and logical correlation between geopolitical phenomena, petroleum reserves, and the means to produce and distribute oil and gas between source and market.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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