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Twelve people died and 29 others were injured from an oil pipeline fire in the Bajel district of Yemen two days ago, according to a security official who confirmed reports of the incident on Monday.
After being hit with a “sabotage act,” the pipeline began leaking oil. Citizens from the area began gathering the crude, with one Yemeni attaching a generator near the leak to speed up the rate of the leakage. The electric current from the device caused a spark, setting the oil on fire.
In addition to the loss of human lives, ten cars, eight motorcycles, and five generators have also been burned in the flames. Local authorities are investigating those thought to be involved in the arson incident.
The scavenging of Yemen’s oil resources by the country’s citizens is a small part of the country’s current troubles. To the victor of the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran—aka the Yemeni Civil War—will go the spoils of control of Yemen’s prized Bab al-Mandab strait.
The Red Sea port, near the Bab al-Mandab strait, is currently controlled by Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthis, and whoever maintains control of it has a strategic advantage. This port is a pathway connection to the Middle East (where the world’s largest proven oil reserves are) and Sub-Saharan Africa (a region expected to see a four-fold increase in energy demand by 2040), making it a coveted geopolitical prize for regional powers, but a livelihood-destroying burden for Yemen’s residents.
Related: Why Breakeven Prices Are Plunging Across The Oil Industry
Roughly one year before the civil war began, Yemen’s oil production topped 127,000 barrels per day, but hostilities have forced the exit of virtually all international producers due to security concerns. Existing fields are close to maturity, and in the absence of new oil discoveries, the country’s crude reserves would be exhausted in less than a decade.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…