Cover: Promoting International Energy Security

Promoting International Energy Security

Volume 4, The Gulf of Guinea

Published Nov 21, 2012

by Stuart Johnson, Caroline Baxter, James T. Bartis, Duncan Long


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Research Questions

  1. Can more be done to improve energy security in the Gulf of Guinea?
  2. Is there a productive role for the Air Force in promoting energy security?

The Gulf of Guinea is an important source of petroleum for the world market, with Nigeria being the dominant producer in this region. Nigeria's oil infrastructure has been subject to frequent attacks, causing production to be well below capacity. Moreover, investments in oil-producing infrastructure are lower than they would be in a secure environment. Oil production has been moving offshore in Nigeria. This trend is likely to continue, based on recent finds in Ghana's waters and off-shore exploratory activity in nearby nations. It is in the interests of the United States, as well as other oil importing nations, to encourage greater production and investment that would raise petroleum output in Nigeria and in the other Gulf of Guinea nations with crude oil reserves. While offshore fields have their own security issues, they are more visible from the air, yielding a potentially powerful role for aviation forces. This provides an opportunity for the U.S. Air Force to contribute to improved regional energy security through partnerships that would build local capabilities to secure offshore infrastructure. Nigeria is the most obvious partner and, despite challenges, has good reason to partner with the United States because the majority of the country's wealth lies in its hydrocarbon sector. But other alternatives are possible, such as working first with other nations in the region, such as Ghana, where governance is considerably better. The U.S. Air Force could then draw on lessons learned from such partnerships and best practices to partner with other countries in the region.

Key Findings

Monitoring the Offshore Oil Infrastructure

  • Offshore oil fields have the advantage of high visibility from the air.
  • The U.S. Air Force has talents in this area that could prove valuable in partnership with local governments.
  • These talents could include training and surveillance.

Partnering with the Nations of the Gulf of Guinea: Nigeria

  • Nigeria is the largest producer by far and would seem to be a good partnership candidate.
  • The country has good reason to consider such a partnership, because the majority of the nation's wealth relies on oil revenue, among other reasons.
  • However, there are obstacles to such a partnership, including the low level of pilot training, a reluctance to partner with other countries, and governmental corruption.

Partnering with the Nations of the Gulf of Guinea: Alternatives

  • It may be possible to work first with other nations in the region, such as Ghana.
  • Such experience could be fruitful in working with Nigeria later, should governance improve.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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