The paper offers a systematic analysis of the impact of international or civil wars and violent non-state groups on global oil and gas supplies. Statistical evidence points to the fact that international wars are becoming increasingly rare, while civil wars remain frequent. The paper discusses the cases of the Iraq-Iran war and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, showing the limits to the damage that belligerents were able to inflict on oil installations and illustrating how the world was able to compensate for this damage. The Iraqi insurgency following international intervention to replace the Saddam Hussein regime is discussed together with other cases of civil wars in Nigeria, Angola and Sudan. The analysis supports the conclusion that oil and gas installations appear to be much more resilient to armed conflict than is normally acknowledged. History shows that civil wars have caused limited damage to existing installations, but they have hindered the desired investment in new development and attainment of target production levels. However, it is very obvious that government’s inability to overcome or reabsorb violent opposition discourages international oil company investment even if the violence does not affect the areas around oil and gas installations.
Giacomo Luciani is Director of Gulf Research Centre Foundation.