Bringing Accountability to the Oil Industry

Oil drilling operations in West Texas|Getty Images

Getty Images

To most of us, crude oil all looks the same. Indeed, its qualities are nearly identical when observed with the human eye. Even when using more modern technologies that have been developed for closer scrutiny, it is very difficult to recognize the key indicators which individualize each oil sample.

Oil theft has consequently always been prevalent because thieves have been able to blend oil from one source with oil from a legitimate source, thereby making it very difficult to identify which sample was obtained illegally. This also pertains to another issue: the difficulty with identifying which groups or companies are buying oil from ISIS. There is simply no way to identify the culprits who have been buying oil from black market sellers such as ISIS. However, that may soon change, and groups or companies who participate in black market activities could finally be held accountable.

Houston-based Hanby PetroAnalysis has created a quick and easy way to identify the unique qualities of an oil sample. Their advances have enabled them to develop a certain type of test that can identify the particular aromatic makeup of an oil source. Each oil source has a distinct aromatic component to it, and they make up about 3-30% of any given oil sample. By using a technique known as Chemical Reaction Spectrometry (CRS), Hanby PetroAnalysis can identify the source of an oil sample by matching the individual aromatic components of the sample to its source. This can be accomplished even if many types of oil are blended.

If this technology takes off, which it seems apt to do, a system known as a “hydrocarbon smart grid” could develop, which would be a system in which each oil well has a unique identifier number based on its aromatic makeup. The oil can therefore, be monitored to ensure fair practices, which would effectively eliminate black market selling of oil.

Essentially, each oil well would have a sort of “fingerprint” which would enable easy tracking and regulating of assets. Oil theft would become a thing of the past because a reputable business could not buy oil from a black market source if it could be traced back to its legitimate owner. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, oil wells that are being controlled by sinister groups, such as ISIS, could be identified and tracked to stop oil from funding terror.

Article written by HEI contributor Timothy McNally.

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