Sana'a, March 12, 2011- Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, hoping to defuse increasingly violent protests against his 32-year rule, said on March 10 he would draw up a new constitution to create a parliamentary system of government.
The pledge came after thousands of protesters marched against government rule as unrest rumbled on across the oil and gas-rich Middle East and armed conflict between rebels and government forces raged in Libya.
Below are some facts about Yemen -- the world's 32nd biggest oil exporter and 16th biggest seller of liquefied natural gas (LNG) -- which lies at the mouth of a key global shipping route.
- An estimated 3.2 million barrels of oil a day (bpd) passed through the narrow Bab al Mandab strait between Yemen and Djibouti in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
- Disruption to the narrow shipping lane could stop Gulf oil and LNG tankers from passing through the Suez Canal to the Americas or Europe.
It could also prevent oil tankers from unloading at Egypt's Ain Sukhna terminal near the southern entrance of the Suez Canal which feeds crude to Sidi Kerir on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt via the Sumed pipeline.
About half of the Sumed crude comes from Saudi Arabia and is mostly shipped to Europe, according to the pipeline operator.
- Protesters have renewed calls for southern Yemen, which produces most of the country's crude oil, to go back to its independent status before unity with the north in 1990.
- Yemen had proven oil reserves of around 2.7 billion barrels at the end of 2009, equal to just 0.2 percent of global reserves, according to the BP Statistical Review.
Daily oil production fell to 298,000 bpd in 2009, or just 0.4 percent of the global total, continuing the steady decline in output from a peak of 457,000 bpd in 2002, according to BP.
- Falling oil revenues has hindered the government's ability to provide basic public services, which has stoked anti-government sentiment.
Increased gas exports could partially offset the decline when Yemen's LNG project hits capacity in late 2011.
- Oil reserves and production lie mainly in Jannah and Iyad in the centre of the country Yemen, Marib-Jawf in the north, and Shabwa and Masila in the south. The government estimates Masila holds about 84 percent of the national total.
- Yemen has five oil export terminals. Ras Isa is the main crude terminal offshore in the Red Sea, while the coastal terminal of Hodeidah handles small tankers. The Bir Ali facility handles crude from Shabwa, while Ash Shihr, operated by Canada'a Nexen ships oil from Masila.
- Oil is transported from Masila to Ash Shahir by a 90-mile pipeline with a capacity of 300,000 bpd, while a the 130-mile Shabwa-Bir Ali pipeline carries up to 135,000 bpd from the Ayad-Shabwa block to the Bir Ali terminal on the Gulf of Aden.
The state-operated Aden Refinery Company, which also manages Yemen's strategic fuel reserves, has an old refinery with a capacity of 130,000 bpd, while the Yemen Refinery Company's newer Marib can refine 10,000 bpd of crude.
Yemeni and Chinese officials have discussed upgrading the ageing Aden refinery to process Kuwaiti and Masila crude, which may cut Yemen's fuel imports and boost exports.
- Yemen has proven gas reserves of 490 billion cubic metres of gas, or about 0.3 percent of the global total, according to BP statistics.
- Most of the gas is found in the Marib-Jawf oilfields and it is mostly reinjected to enhance oil recovery. Gas production has been in decline since 2005.
- Yemen LNG's export facility at Balhaf, which opened in 2009 and is led by French oil major Total with three South Korea companies holding stakes, is the largest-ever industrial project in Yemen.
- It exported just 0.40 bcm of gas as LNG in 2009 (compared to nearly 50 bcm by world leader Qatar) but a production line added in 2010 and another expected to open in late 2011 is expected to boost annual capacity to 6.7 million metric tonnes, or 8.28 bcm of gas a year.
- One of the pipelines feeding gas from the Marib field to the LNG plant was attacked in 2010.
Sources: U.S. Energy Information Administration, BP Statistical Review, Reuters news, European Union energy portal, company websites. (Compiled by Daniel Fineren; editing by James Jukwey)