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It's no news that the Saudis are running out of oil, and fast..

"East Africa is experiencing one of the highest levels of investment in the world right now — but we're only seeing the beginning."
— New York Times

Earlier this year, I bought my way into a covert meeting of some of the most powerful oil execs in the world.

It cost me about $10,000 out of pocket to get there and to make it past security, but I flew commercial.

God only knows how many millions the rest of the attendees, many of whom arrived on their private Gulf Streams and Learjets, spent on this week-long meeting.
It happened at the only four-star hotel in Nairobi, Kenya... behind closed doors and away from the prying eyes of the press.

And for good reason: This meeting was never supposed to be public information.

However, unbeknownst to the CEOs, COOs, and big-dollar corporate geological consultants who were in attendance, there was one financial journalist present when the doors of the conference room were shut and latched...
Yours truly.

They had intended for that number to be zero, because in the next couple years, the land development deal they were there to finalize will shift the balance of power of the global energy market.

But they didn't want anyone to know that just yet.
You see, Africa's got a reputation for being a backward, unindustrialized backwater — on a continental scale.

What many don't know, however, is that Western Africa supplies 12% of the world's global annual crude oil demand.

With four OPEC nations inside its borders (Algeria, Angola, Nigeria and Libya), Africa is second only to the Middle East in terms of membership in this nearly omnipotent cartel.
But while North and West Africa crank out almost 6 million barrels of crude per day, East Africa is hardly on the map at all.
All this is about to change forever...
Because not only have major production operations sprung up in the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the last five years, effectively moving the oil frontier east...
But major natural gas deposits were confirmed off the coasts of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania just last year.

And as anybody who's studied fossil fuel geology knows, where there is natural gas, there are also crude oil deposits close by.

The most compelling evidence that East Africa is holding some of the world's richest fossil fuel resources goes back loooong before the natural gas strike and the recent expansions in West African production.

You see, scientists have known for years that much of East Africa shares the same basic geology as the region on the opposite side of the Gulf of Aden...
saudi arabia geology
Land which is today occupied by Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and the biggest oil empire of them all, Saudi Arabia.

If you look at the diagram below, paying special attention to the fossil fuel deposits highlighted in red, you'll see the basic concept behind what happened here millions of years ago:
fossil fuel deposits africa
Up until 18 million years ago, East Africa and the Arab Middle East were joined.
fossil fuel deposits yemen
When the rift formed, the continents drifted apart, taking the oil with them...
Discoveries in North and Western Africa began to confirm these suspicions 30 years ago, but it wasn't until last year that Tullow Oil's natural gas strike off the coast of Tanzania finally made it clear to the execs what geologists had known for decades...

East African geology isn't just similar to the geology which gave the Saudi Royal families the legendary Marib-Shabwa and Sayun-Masila Basins.
It's the same geology.
east africa emerging quote
Now, to the bigwigs at this Nairobi conference, all this news was a mixed blessing.
Representing companies that have made some of the biggest discoveries the industry's ever seen over the last thirty years, it's their job to find new oil...

And with East Africa, they're about to chalk up another victory — a major one.
However, it will also most likely be the last cheap oil any of them ever find. Because as the world's mainstay oil deposits gradually dry up, the industry has no choice but to start seeking out harder-to-reach pockets of crude.

Evidence of this comes from the vast number of off-shore oil drilling platforms that have popped up in recent years...

In fact, while the rest of U.S. production has fallen by 50% since the 1980s, offshore oil production has risen to account for 1/3 of the total national output — double what it was relative to 20 years ago.
usoffshoreoilThis is especially alarming when you consider the cost of operating these offshore platforms has gone up 530% since 2001.
offshore chart
On top of that, at an average cost of $100 million, each of these rigs is about 1,000 times the cost of a typical conventional well... and that's before you even factor in the $1 million/day operating overhead.

But progress cannot be stopped.

And each year, more and more of these platforms are built and positioned.
Leading the charge is the United States, whose own conventional land-based deposits peaked in the 70s. The rest of the oil-producing world isn't far behind.
As the easy-to-reach resources are used up, there is simply no alternative but to go farther out to sea, drill deeper, and take more risks.

The results of this you and I know personally: rising prices at the pump... rising prices of any goods requiring transportation... rising prices to heat and cool your house.

So a massive, shallow-lying, land-based crude deposit couldn't have come soon enough.
And not just for the oil exploration firms — but for all of us who rely on cheap oil.
There is, however, another reason we should consider ourselves all lucky. And it's got nothing to do with geology  and everything to do with the nation hosting our secretive little meeting...


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