Natural resources, energy and environment
Oil is Yemen's most important source of
income, but the country is a small producer compared to
neighboring states and the war has hit hard on
production. Larger oil deposits were found in the 1980s,
but the extraction did not start in earnest until after
the association of North and South Yemen in 1990. The
oil industry is dominated by smaller foreign companies.
The most important oil fields are in the eastern parts
of former South Yemen.
With limited refinery capacity, Yemen has been forced
to export crude oil and buy back fuel. The gasoline has
since been sold domestically at sharply subsidized
prices, thus costing the state even more money.
Major exports by Yemen with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
Sabotage against oil pipelines has been occurring
from the beginning, often carried out by local clans who
wanted to put pressure on the government. This and the
risk of kidnappings and assaults and a corrupt judicial
system have deterred foreign companies, especially the
largest ones, from investing in Yemen.
The problems have increased as the government loses
control of the country. The unrest that erupted in 2011
led to a sharp fall in production. In 2012, oil exports
stood still for a long time due to attacks on pipelines
and oil installations. The escalated war situation from
2015 caused both oil and gas recovery - gas exports
began in 2009 - to almost collapse. The energy companies
stopped their operations for safety reasons. In 2016,
oil production was about one-eighth of what it was in
2014 and gas production had declined even more,
according to the international trade organization IEA.
In 2018, the recovery resumed on a field in Shabwa
southern Yemen, operated by Austrian and Chinese
stakeholders. The first cargo went to China.
The refineries have not avoided the war either. In
early 2019, a major explosion with subsequent fire
damaged the refinery capacity in the city of Aden.
Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, YE stands for Yemen.
Even if the war ends, assets on oil are limited. If
no new finds are made, they will only last a few years
with full production.
Salt, gypsum and limestone are extracted from the
country's other natural resources. Investments have been
made on gold and zinc mines. There are also deposits of
silver, lead, nickel, copper and uranium that have not
According to World Bank statistics, six out of ten
households in Yemen lacked electricity in 2010, although
many had their own generators. Electricity was produced
in thermal power plants, but less than half of
households had access to the national electricity grid,
which was also often hit by interruptions. In 2012 and
2013, a series of agreements were concluded with Turkey
and China to build coal and gas-powered electric power
plants. But the infrastructure has been severely taxed
by both war and terrorism, and today's electricity
shortage is a much worse problem than before. The UN and
the World Bank are working on a project aimed at
equipping primarily hospitals, schools and water
utilities with solar energy.
Water scarcity is one of the country's biggest
problems. Yemen has no "real" rivers - the waterways are
filled only when it rains. The situation therefore
becomes serious as the groundwater level falls, due to
increasing outlets and unregulated well drilling. This
is both because of the increase in population and
because of corrupt authorities not addressing the
problem. The great need for irrigation in agriculture,
where much of the water goes into producing the narcotic
plant qat (see Agriculture and fishing), contributes
greatly to the problems. The worst is the situation
around the fast-growing capital, where acute water
shortages threaten in the not too distant future. This
has also led to cholera and other epidemic diseases
spreading in areas where it is difficult to obtain clean
drinking water, and to a growing number of local
conflicts between villages and clans fighting for the
right to water resources and irrigation canals in their
FACTS - ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
324 kilos of oil equivalent (2013)
Electricity consumption per person
217 kilowatt hours, kWh (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
22 699 thousand tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
0.9 tonnes (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
2.3 percent (2015)