HOUSTON, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- An estimated 6.2 million barrels per day (b/d) of crude oil, condensate, and refined petroleum products flowed through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait toward Europe, the United States, and Asia in 2018, an increase from 5.1 million b/d in 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Tuesday.
Total petroleum flows through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait accounted for about 9 percent of total seaborne-traded crude oil and refined petroleum products in 2017. About 3.6 million b/d moved north toward Europe; another 2.6 million b/d flowed in the opposite direction mainly to Asian markets such as Singapore, China, and India.
The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is a sea route chokepoint between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea. Most exports of petroleum and natural gas from the Persian Gulf that transit the Suez Canal or the SUMED Pipeline pass through both the Bab el-Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz.
Chokepoints are narrow channels along widely used global sea routes that are critical to global energy security. The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is 18 miles wide at its narrowest point, limiting tanker traffic to two 2-mile-wide channels for inbound and outbound shipments.
Closure of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait could keep tankers originating in the Persian Gulf from transiting the Suez Canal or reaching the SUMED Pipeline, forcing them to divert around the southern tip of Africa, which would increase transit time and shipping costs.
The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is also an important passage for natural gas products. Although total northbound flows of LNG via the Bab el-Mandeb have decreased since 2016 when new natural gas fields in Egypt came online, the northbound flows to other destinations have remained fairly constant.