WI: Japanese discover oil in Manchuria

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Hendryk

Banned
This is something I intended as an AH spin-off of "Superpower Empire", but let's first see how it works as a free-standing WI.

So, in OTL, the Daqing oil field, in the northern Manchurian province of Heilongjiang, was discovered in 1958. It contained 16 billion barrels of oil. The POD: one day in 1938, a Japanese officer stationed near Daqing notices during a morning walk a thick, gooey matter seeping to the ground. Upon closer inspection, he realizes it to be petroleum. He writes of the discovery to a former university buddy of his, who went into geology. A few weeks later, his friend arrives and, after making a few tests and surveys, come to the conclusion that he's standing on top of one of East Asia's largest oil fields.

The war against China is raging to the south, and while Japanese forces were able to destroy the Nationalists' elite German-trained divisions at the end of the previous year, the conflict has since then turned into a vicious war of attrition that is slowly but surely eating away at Japan's strategic resources, not least of which oil. Already contingency plans are being drawn by the top brass to deal with a possible embargo on US oil exports, and some are beginning to cast a very interested eye on the oil-rich Dutch East Indies. In this context, the discovery of such a major oil field in Manchukuo, for all intents and purposes a puppet state of Japan, is a godsend. Within months work has begun on building extraction facilities and a pipeline to the port of Dairen, where refineries start springing from the ground.

What next? How does this windfall change Japan's strategic aims? What are the consequences for East Asia?
 
This is something I intended as an AH spin-off of "Superpower Empire", but let's first see how it works as a free-standing WI.

So, in OTL, the Daqing oil field, in the northern Manchurian province of Heilongjiang, was discovered in 1958. It contained 16 billion barrels of oil. The POD: one day in 1938, a Japanese officer stationed near Daqing notices during a morning walk a thick, gooey matter seeping to the ground. Upon closer inspection, he realizes it to be petroleum. He writes of the discovery to a former university buddy of his, who went into geology. A few weeks later, his friend arrives and, after making a few tests and surveys, come to the conclusion that he's standing on top of one of East Asia's largest oil fields.

The war against China is raging to the south, and while Japanese forces were able to destroy the Nationalists' elite German-trained divisions at the end of the previous year, the conflict has since then turned into a vicious war of attrition that is slowly but surely eating away at Japan's strategic resources, not least of which oil. Already contingency plans are being drawn by the top brass to deal with a possible embargo on US oil exports, and some are beginning to cast a very interested eye on the oil-rich Dutch East Indies. In this context, the discovery of such a major oil field in Manchukuo, for all intents and purposes a puppet state of Japan, is a godsend. Within months work has begun on building extraction facilities and a pipeline to the port of Dairen, where refineries start springing from the ground.

What next? How does this windfall change Japan's strategic aims? What are the consequences for East Asia?

Greatly, Japan is more likely to concentrate on Manchukuo and not get itself in a war with the US. With around three years of oil production there it is unlikely Japan will attack Pearl Harbor or any US or British territory.
 

Thande

Donor
Ooh, very original WI, Hendryk :cool:

If there is a confrontation between Imperial Japan and the West over China, it might then be delayed into the nuclear age :eek:
 

Hendryk

Banned
Ooh, very original WI, Hendryk :cool:
Can you tell I dusted off my old copy of Daniel Yergin's The Prize recently? ;)

Seriously, I'm surprised nobody has already speculated on this. Japan was desperate to get oil to the point of starting a war against the US over it, and as it turns out, oil was there all along, waiting to be discovered, in a territory that they were occupying since 1931. There's a whole ATL waiting to be written right there.

If there is a confrontation between Imperial Japan and the West over China, it might then be delayed into the nuclear age :eek:
Indeed...
 

Thande

Donor
Seriously, I'm surprised nobody has already speculated on this. Japan was desperate to get oil to the point of starting a war against the US over it, and as it turns out, oil was there all along, waiting to be discovered, in a territory that they were occupying since 1931. There's a whole ATL waiting to be written right there.
The closest one I can think of is that someone suggested Italy could have discovered the Libyan oil in the 30s, but oil for Italy was hardly the war-maker as it was for Japan.

Of course Japan still needs scrap metal - would the US cutting off that still provoke a war, maybe even make the Japanese more confident now they have an assured oil supply?
 

MrP

Banned
The closest one I can think of is that someone suggested Italy could have discovered the Libyan oil in the 30s, but oil for Italy was hardly the war-maker as it was for Japan.

Of course Japan still needs scrap metal - would the US cutting off that still provoke a war, maybe even make the Japanese more confident now they have an assured oil supply?

What's Japan need the metal for?

With available oil, she might only decide to build 2 Yamatos, instead of the planned 3. One can get a lot of useful metal out of a 70,000 ton hull.
 

Thande

Donor
What's Japan need the metal for?
Planes and tanks for use in China IIRC.
MrP said:
With available oil, she might only decide to build 2 Yamatos, instead of the planned 3. One can get a lot of useful metal out of a 70,000 ton hull.
"Battleships - is there anything they can't do?"
 

Borys

Banned
Ahoj!
Scrap metal - you need it to make high quality steel.
Do you want me to direct you to articles on the production process of armoured plates and naval guns? Unless you are "in" the topic, damn boring ...
Borys
 
What about rubber and ball bearings, two of the most important parts of any mechanical machine?

And even with the oil there, how long until it can be tapped and exploited, and how long until the infrastructure is built to cover the US embargo?
 

Philip

Donor
China is a major producer of iron ore today. I don't know how much is in Manchuria, but perhaps this could be exploited too. They were also extracting iron ore from Mengjiang. If they are able to avoid war with the West for a few years, production could be increased.

For rubber, they still need the Indies or a synthetic.
 
Malayan Rubber

Japan can still buy rubber off the brits in malaya. I'm sure we would refuse the trade with a European War Waging.

Also, with a friendly Japan trading in the East. How would the war in north africa go on without having to withdraw the AIF to defend Austrialia.
 

Hendryk

Banned
And even with the oil there, how long until it can be tapped and exploited, and how long until the infrastructure is built to cover the US embargo?
In OTL, it took China a little under two years to begin exploiting the Daqing oil field. Assuming a similar timeframe for Japan, that means the oil will start flowing in 1940, early enough to make a big difference. (Besides, putting the date of discovery in 1938 was arbitrary; as stated earlier, the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931, and could plausibly have got lucky at any time after that). AFAIK, there was no specific technological complexity to the exploitation of Daqing that would make it noticeably more difficult in the 1930s than in the 1950s.

About metals: according to this map, there are iron ore deposits in Manchuria. I'm not sure whether the Japanese exploited them before 1945, but I do know they had iron ore extraction operations in Mengjiang and Suiyuan, two regions they invaded in 1937.

Minerals in China.jpg
 

MrP

Banned
Ahoj!
Scrap metal - you need it to make high quality steel.
Do you want me to direct you to articles on the production process of armoured plates and naval guns? Unless you are "in" the topic, damn boring ...
Borys

Cheers, old boy. :)

I'll skip the links. I'm dull enough to like big guns, but not so into 'em that I want to make 'em in the back garden. ;)
 

Oddball

Monthly Donor
About metals: according to this map, there are iron ore deposits in Manchuria. I'm not sure whether the Japanese exploited them before 1945, but I do know they had iron ore extraction operations in Mengjiang and Suiyuan, two regions they invaded in 1937.

Do you have a bigger version of this map? Or a link to one?

I would like to look at some details.
 

Hendryk

Banned
Do you have a bigger version of this map? Or a link to one?
Unfortunately, no. I have a bunch of maps of China showing natural resources, population density, etc., but this specific one doesn't come in any greater detail.
 
In OTL, it took China a little under two years to begin exploiting the Daqing oil field. Assuming a similar timeframe for Japan, that means the oil will start flowing in 1940, early enough to make a big difference. (Besides, putting the date of discovery in 1938 was arbitrary; as stated earlier, the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931, and could plausibly have got lucky at any time after that). AFAIK, there was no specific technological complexity to the exploitation of Daqing that would make it noticeably more difficult in the 1930s than in the 1950s.

About metals: according to this map, there are iron ore deposits in Manchuria. I'm not sure whether the Japanese exploited them before 1945, but I do know they had iron ore extraction operations in Mengjiang and Suiyuan, two regions they invaded in 1937.

Well, as Borys mentioned the difference between iron ore and the American scrap metal was that the Japanese had trouble manufacturing straight out high-quality steel, but American scrap metal made the process much more economical.

Also, there's the potential problem that Japan will grow to rely on the Manchurian oil too much. The oil may have covered the Japanese economy of OTL, but would it be able to entirely cover the economy of a Japan that has had years to adapt (and expand) from a new source of oil? The US would still be selling oil, Japan would be needing more oil, and while Manchurian oil could lessen the blow would it necessarily make Japan's social economy independent of foreign oil?
 

Oddball

Monthly Donor
Unfortunately, no. I have a bunch of maps of China showing natural resources, population density, etc., but this specific one doesn't come in any greater detail.

Do you have another one with natural resources, that shows a bit more details? Please?
 
Is that oil exploitable with the technology of 1938? And if so, is there time to develop it and the infrastructure necessary to transport and refine it?

This is something I intended as an AH spin-off of "Superpower Empire", but let's first see how it works as a free-standing WI.

So, in OTL, the Daqing oil field, in the northern Manchurian province of Heilongjiang, was discovered in 1958. It contained 16 billion barrels of oil. The POD: one day in 1938, a Japanese officer stationed near Daqing notices during a morning walk a thick, gooey matter seeping to the ground. Upon closer inspection, he realizes it to be petroleum. He writes of the discovery to a former university buddy of his, who went into geology. A few weeks later, his friend arrives and, after making a few tests and surveys, come to the conclusion that he's standing on top of one of East Asia's largest oil fields.

The war against China is raging to the south, and while Japanese forces were able to destroy the Nationalists' elite German-trained divisions at the end of the previous year, the conflict has since then turned into a vicious war of attrition that is slowly but surely eating away at Japan's strategic resources, not least of which oil. Already contingency plans are being drawn by the top brass to deal with a possible embargo on US oil exports, and some are beginning to cast a very interested eye on the oil-rich Dutch East Indies. In this context, the discovery of such a major oil field in Manchukuo, for all intents and purposes a puppet state of Japan, is a godsend. Within months work has begun on building extraction facilities and a pipeline to the port of Dairen, where refineries start springing from the ground.

What next? How does this windfall change Japan's strategic aims? What are the consequences for East Asia?
 
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