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HOT SPOTS: SIX EMERGING FRONTIERS

Algeria

The country has become one of the world’s major oil and gas producers since the discovery of the Hassi Messaoud field in 1956. There are now 30 major producing fields, producing some of the highest grade oil in the world. But political unrest has kept production well below its potential for years. The country unwound its control of all production in 1991 and is gradually allowing foreign investment in the industry. Algeria has estimated reserves of 9.2 billion barrels of oil and 127 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Bangladesh

Politics, weak domestic demand and lack of investment has so far thwarted the country’s emergence as a major natural gas producer. Bangladesh can’t use all of that gas, and selling it to neighbour India remains highly controversial. The country has proven reserves of roughly 15 trillion cubic feet plus as much as twice that in undiscovered reserves. Total annual production is just 385 billion cubic feet, used mainly to make power and fertilizer. Government officials want to exploit the gas domestically before approving exports.

Ecuador

Economic woes, bickering with producers over royalties and opposition from native groups have stunted the country’s oil industry. Ecuador is the fifth-largest oil producer in South America (534,800 barrels a day), but ranks third in proven reserves (4.6 billion barrels), behind Venezuela and Brazil. Its oil fields are mostly in the northeast, and it has started selling new blocks of its Amazon region, which may have as much as 1.3 billion barrels of oil. But the oil is heavy and sour, so must be blended before it’s put in pipelines.

Equatorial Guinea

Investment began pouring into the country after the 1995 discovery of the Zafiro oil field in the hydrocarbon-rich Gulf of Guinea. The country’s proven reserves total 1.1 billion barrels, and estimated probable reserves may account for a tenth of the world’s total. Offshore boundary disputes with neighbouring countries, now resolved, and allegations of corruption and human rights abuses slowed development in the late 1990s. Current oil production stands at 237 million barrels a day. The country also has significant natural gas reserves.

Sudan

The December, 2004, peace deal ending a 21-year civil war has sparked new interest among foreign investors in the country’s undeveloped oil fields. Sudan has proven oil reserves of 56 million barrels plus total reserves of as much as five billion barrels, including unexplored areas in northwest Sudan, the Blue Nile Basin and along the Red Sea coast. Oil output is forecast to reach 500,000 barrels a day this year, up from 343,000 in 2004. Under pressure from human rights groups, Calgary’s Talisman sold its stake in key oil fields.

Turkmenistan

Arid and landlocked, this central Asian country is at the mercy of others to export its proven reserves, including more than 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and 546 million barrels of oil. Squabbling with Gazprom, for example, denied the country a way to get its stranded gas to Russia in the 1990s through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Other outlets, such as Iran and Afghanistan, remain too unstable to attract pipeline investors. The legal status of the Caspian Sea has also stunted foreign investment in its offshore reserves.