Monday, May 20, 2019

Karachi Family Wins AI Championship in Silicon Valley

The Mayet Family from Karachi, Pakistan has won AI Family Challenge World Championship held in Silicon Valley, California on May 20, 2019.  The family's entry called "Cavity Crusher" uses artificial intelligence algorithm to monitor a child's brush time and determine their oral health habits to notify parents accordingly. It was organized by Iridescent, a global technology education nonprofit organization that empowers underrepresented young people to become self-motivated learners, inventors, and leaders.

Winners Salman Mayet, Yasir Salman and Fareeha Mapara. Photo courtesy Intel Corp

The AI Family Challenge partners with lifelong learning advocates and leading experts in AI, including those from Google.org, NVIDIA, Intel, and the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation.

The event was hosted at Intel's Santa Clara campus. It was the culmination of Iridescent's AI Family Challenge in which 7,500 people from 13 countries participated in a 15-week program that brings together families, schools, communities and industry mentors to create AI projects that solve local problems.

The family's journey to the AI Championship began in Karachi where Pakistan Science Club, in partnership with Iridescent brought this learning opportunity to Pakistan at two different sites. More than 40 families from Karachi participated in an 18-week long program. Through the AI Family Challenge program, the Mayet family learned about AI as it guided them through the identification of a problem in their community and applied what they learned to develop a solution for it using AI.


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Friday, May 17, 2019

Growing China-Pakistan Collaboration in Science and Technology

With 6,000 Pakistanis working on their PhDs in China, the two countries are enjoying rapid growth in scientific and technological collaboration, according to Journal Nature. Pakistan's scientific output is now growing at the fastest rate in the world. With nearly 3,000 papers jointly authored and published by Chinese and Pakistani researcher, China has now emerged as Pakistan's top partner in scientific collaborations, surpassing Saudi Arabia (about 1,500 papers) and the United States (about 1,200 papers) in 2018, according to an analysis of co-authored papers from Elsevier’s Scopus database. China is co-sponsoring a range of research centers in Pakistan that are studying topics from rice agriculture to artificial intelligence and railway engineering.

Pakistan-China ties are rapidly growing well beyond the economy and the military with tens of thousands of Chinese and Pakistani citizens regularly traveling between the two countries. More Pakistanis than ever are learning the Chinese language.  China with its world class educational institutions is emerging as one of the top destinations for Pakistanis studying abroad. Currently, 6,156 Pakistani students are studying in Ph.D., 3,600 in Masters, 11,100 in Bachelors and 3,000 in Short Term Exchange Programs across China. Pakistan ranks third in the number of international students currently studying in China with 28,023 Pakistani students, according to a statement issued by China’s Ministry of Education. It is becoming a truly multi-dimensional relationship which will help Pakistan rise with China on the world stage.

Pakistan's  Co-authored Research Papers. Source: Nature

Typical of the new Sinophile generation of Pakistani scientists is Dr. Iqbal Choudhary, director of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences at the University of Karachi. Choudhary’s center is one of the oldest — it celebrated its 50th birthday just a few years ago — and largest institutes in Asia dedicated to the chemistry and biology of natural products.

China's Top Collaborators in Science and Technology Research. Source: Nature

Among the Belt Road Initiative member nations, Pakistan has emerged as the second strongest Chinese partner for science and technology collaboration in terms of Probabilistic Affinity Index (PAI), according to the Journal Nature. So far, China Academy of Sciences (CAS) has invested more than 1.8 billion yuan (almost US$268 million) in science and technology projects as part of the BRI.

CAS is supporting the Digital Belt and Road (Digital BRI), a platform for participating countries to share the data obtained as part of their collaborative projects with each other and with China. These data include satellite images as well as quantitative data on natural hazards, water resources and cultural heritage sites.

As part of Digital BRI/CPEC, an 820-kilometer long China-Pakistan fiber optic cable has already been laid between the city of Rawalpindi, Pakistan in the south and the Khunjerab Pass, China in the north  and operational since July, 2018.

By 2020, the 6,299 kilometers of underwater cables will extend to Djibouti from Gwadar and form the Digital Silk Route between Asia and Africa. At the same time, a space-based Silk Road will provide satellite navigation support to all BRI countries. The first Beidou base station of the Space Silk Road is already operational in Pakistan since 2017.  BeiDou is making rapid progress with 30 BRI countries already linked up.


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Monday, May 13, 2019

Pakistan Among World's Top 3 Countries For New Hydroelectric Power

Pakistan ranked third in the world by adding nearly 2,500 MW of hydropower in 2018, according to Hydropower Status Report 2019.  China added the most capacity with the installation of 8,540 megawatts, followed by Brazil (3,866 MW), Pakistan (2,487 MW), Turkey (1,085 MW), Angola (668 MW), Tajikistan (605 MW), Ecuador (556 MW), India (535 MW), Norway (419 MW) and Canada (401 MW).

New Installed Hydroelectric Power Capacity in 2018. Source: Hydroworld.com

Pakistan's Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) says commissioning of the 108-MW Golen Gol 2, 1,410-MW Tarbela 4th Extension and 969-MW Neelum Jhelum hydropower projects in 2018 boosted its hydroelectric generating capacity of 9,389 MW, an increase of 36% in just one year, according to Hydro Review. Hydropower now makes up about 28% of the total installed capacity of 33,836 MW as of February, 2019.   WAPDA reports contributing 25.63 billion units of hydroelectricity to the national grid during the year, “despite the fact that water flows in 2018 remained historically low.” This contribution “greatly helped the country in meeting electricity needs and lowering the electricity tariff for the consumers.”

Top 20 Countries by Newly Installed Hydropower Capacity. Source: IHA

Pakistan has the potential to generate 59,000 MW of hydropower, according to studies conducted by the nation's Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). Currently, it's generating only 9,389 MW of hydroelectric power, about 16% of the estimated potential. Media reports indicate that China is prepared to finance and build another 40,000MW capacity as part of the development of the Northern Indus Cascade region which begins in Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan and runs through to Tarbela, the site of Pakistan’s biggest dam, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan has made only a small contribution to climate change through carbon emissions.  And yet, it counts among the dozen or so nations considered most vulnerable to its damaging effects. These include rising temperatures, recurring cycles of floods and droughts and resulting disruption in food production.

One of the ways Pakistan can help reduce carbon emissions is by realizing its full hydroelectric potential by building more dams. The development of the Northern Indus Cascade region to generate 40,000MW of hydropower is a significant part of this effort.

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Recurring Cycles of Drought and Floods in Pakistan

Pakistan's Response to Climate Change

Massive Oil and Gas Discovery in Pakistan: Hype vs Reality

Renewable Energy for Pakistan

Digital BRI: China and Pakistan Building Fiber, 5G Networks

LNG Imports in Pakistan

Growing Water Scarcity in Pakistan

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Ownership of Appliances and Vehicles in Pakistan

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Pakistan's $20 Billion Tourism Industry Boom

Riaz Haq's YouTube Channel

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

PTI's New Economic Team Line-Up in Pakistan

Who are the members of Pakistan's top new economic leadership team? Who's Reza Baqir? Who's Shabbar Zaidi? Why were the changes necessary? Were the latest changes made to remove previous PMLN government's loyalists considered to be responsible for the current economic crisis? Did their policies and actions contribute to large twin deficits? Did the International Monetary Fund (IMF) force these changes as a condition for the country's bailout?

Pakistan's External Debt. Source: Wall Street Journal

Pakistan Current Account Deficit. Source: State Bank of Pakistan

As Pakistan awaits the news of the discovery of large offshore oil reserves, what lessons should Pakistan learn from the governance failures in Venezuela? Is Venezuela suffering because of its government's hostility toward the United States? Will large oil reserves be a panacea for Pakistan's economic problems?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with Sabahat Ashraf (ifaqeer) and Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)

https://youtu.be/1UucUo_eU90




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Pakistan ISPR On Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM)

Who is Manzoor Pashteen? What is Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM)?  What is Pashtun Nationalism?  Why did Pakistan ISPR spokesman Gen Asif Ghafoor warn them in a recent press conference? What are PTM demands? Did the Pakistani military action in FATA help or hurt the vast majority of FATA residents? Who are the "missing person"? Why are they missing? What must be done to resolve this issue? Is PTM insincere in using this issue as cover to attack the military? How has RK Yadav, retired officer of Indian RAW,  documented India's support of Pashtun Nationalists and other secessionist movements in Pakistan? Is PTM supported by foreign intelligence agencies to re-ignite insurgency in FATA?

Terror Death in FATA. Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal


Terror Deaths Across Pakistan. Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal

Why was Masood Azhar declared a "terrorist" by the UNSC sanctions committee? Is this a win for India's Modi? Did China abandon Pakistan by letting it happen as UNSC Permanent Member? Or did China coordinate its action with Pakistan to have references to Kashmir and Pulwama removed from the declaration?

Azad Labon Kay Sath (ALKS) host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with Sabahat Ashraf (ifaqeer) and Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)

https://youtu.be/rA68tYE4rV0




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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Digital BRI: China and Pakistan Building CPEC Info Expressway With Fiber, 5G

‘Digital Silk Road’ project is one of 12 sub-themes agreed to at the recently concluded Belt Road Forum 2019 (BRF19) in Beijing. This state-of-the-art information superhighway will involve laying fiber optic cables in Pakistan which will connect with China in the north and link with Africa and the Arab World via undersea cable to be laid from Gwadar Deep Sea Port built as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The global project will include 5G wireless networks deployment in BRI (Belt Road Initiative) member nations.

China-Pakistan Fiber Optic Cable Route

Fiber Optic Cables:

A 820-kilometer long China-Pakistan fiber optic cable has already been laid between the city of Rawalpindi, Pakistan in the south and the Khunjerab Pass, China in the north  and operational since July, 2018.

By 2020, the 6,299 kilometers of underwater cables will extend to Djibouti from Gwadar and form the Digital Silk Route between Asia and Africa. At the same time, a space-based Silk Road will provide satellite navigation support to all BRI countries. The first Beidou base station of the Space Silk Road is already operational in Pakistan since 2017.  BeiDou is making rapid progress with 30 BRI countries already linked up.

When completed, the ambitious global initiative would use an exclusive satellite navigation system, BeiDou, fiber networks and 5G on land and submarine cables to create a multi-dimensional digital mega-project across land, sea and space.

5G Deployment:

Huawei is already pushing for 5G deployment in Pakistan where it has already established a strong market presence. Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) has already identified spectrum in 2.6 GHz, 3.5 GHz and millimeter wave band it plans to allocate for auction to 5G vendors. This will include both fixed and mobile 5G deployment.

PTA has set up its 5G Working Group with members from telecom operators, vendors, manufacturers, Academia, R and D organizations, regulator (Pakistan Telecom Authority - PTA), Pakistan Government ministries and Frequency Allocation Board (FAB).

Over 65 million Pakistanis now subscribe to 3G and 4G services launched 5 years ago. 5G uptake rate in Pakistan is expected to be rapid. "Attractive tariffs for 5G users will be the key to encouraging a large number of customers" Mohammad Suhail, head of the Karachi based Topline Securities Investors' Advisory told Nikkei.

US vs China:

The Trump Administration sees China's aggressive 5G lead as a threat to the West's technology dominance. US government has been warning its allies against use Huawei's 5G equipment in their networks based on its fears of Chinese government espionage operations.

Chinese 5G suppliers currently hold 36% of all 5G patents worldwide. In spite of US efforts, Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE are beating their western rivals to acquire access to huge markets around the world in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East.

Summary:

China is aggressively pursuing its plans to build a global digital superhighway that runs through Pakistan. This "Digital Silk Road" involves laying fiber optic cables in Pakistan which connect with China to the north and link with Africa and the Arab World via undersea cable to be laid from Gwadar Deep Sea Port built as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). An 820 kilometer long China-Pakistan fiber optic cable has already been laid between Rawalpindi, Pakistan and the Khunjerab Pass, China.  The global project will include 5G wireless networks deployment in BRI (Belt Road Initiative) member nations. Meanwhile, the United States is continuing its campaign to have its allies boycott 5G equipment built by China's Huawei.

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Friday, May 3, 2019

Pew Research: Fewer Pray in Islamic Republic of Pakistan Than in India, Iran

Pew Religious Landscape Study has revealed that 67% of the people in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan pray daily. This figure of 67% in Pakistan is lower than neighboring India's 75%, Iran's 87% and Afghanistan's 97%. Other Muslim majority nations surveyed include Nigeria (95%), Indonesia (84%), Egypt (72%) and Turkey (60%). Oil-rich Arabian Gulf nations were not included in the survey. The Pew study found an inverse relationship between daily prayer levels and incomes. Countries such as the United States and Vietnam are outliers.

Daily Prayer Map: Source: Pew Research

The Pew survey shows that the level of daily prayer is the lowest in rich countries and highest in the poor nations. United States is an outlier rich nation with 55% of Americans saying they pray daily. The survey did not include wealthy Muslim nations in the Arabian Peninsula, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which might be expected to have high levels of prayer.


Level of Daily Prayer Inversely Proportional to Income. Source: Pew Research

Here's what the report says about daily prayer rich nations:

"This May 2 is the National Day of Prayer in the United States, a day Congress set aside in 1952 for Americans to turn “to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups and as individuals.” But many Americans pray every day – not just on the Day of Prayer. Indeed, out of 102 countries examined for frequency of prayer by Pew Research Center, the U.S. is unique in that it has both a high level of wealth ($56,000 per-capita gross domestic product in 2015) and a high level of daily prayer among its population (55% according to the 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study). In every other wealthy country surveyed – that is, those with a per-capita GDP over $30,000 – fewer than 40% of adults say they pray every day. For example, in Japan, where per-capita GDP is about $38,000, roughly a third (33%) pray daily. In Norway, where per-capita GDP is about $68,000, fewer than one-in-five adults (18%) do. (It’s worth noting that the surveys did not include wealthy countries in the Arabian Peninsula, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which might be expected to have high levels of prayer.)"

Here's an excerpt of the report on poor nations:

"At the other end of the economic spectrum, countries with less wealth tend to have higher rates of prayer. In fact, every country where at least 70% of adults say that they pray each day has a per-capita GDP under $20,000. For example, in Egypt, where 72% say they pray every day, per-capita GDP is about $11,000. And in Afghanistan, where 96% of adults say they pray every day, the per-capita GDP is about $2,000."

There as exceptions to the norm about higher daily prayer in poor countries, according to the report: "That said, not every country with low wealth has a high level of daily prayer. In Vietnam and Bulgaria – where per-capita GDPs are $6,000 and $19,000, respectively – the shares of adults who say they pray daily are 14% and 15%. (Among all 102 countries examined, the national average share of people who say they pray daily is 49%.)"


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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Massive Oil Discovery in Pakistan: Hype vs Reality

Prime Minister Imran Khan has recently raised Pakistanis' hopes of ExxonMobil and ENI being on the verge of a massive discovery of offshore oil and gas reserves in Pakistan. Is this real? Or mostly hype? What is the size of these reserves? Will it be more than sufficient to meet Pakistan's current needs of over 200 million barrels of oil per year? Will Pakistan become a net exporter of oil and gas like major OPEC nations?

Top 3 Offshore Drilling Sites in Asia-Pacific. Source: Bloomberg


Why is it taking so long to get confirmation from the companies involved? What are the technical issues in getting confirmation of these huge reserves? Why is there such a big concern about blow-out? Is it because the 1.5 billion barrels pre-drill estimate of Kekra-1 well in block G of the Indus basin off the Karachi coast? Could such a large reserve cause a major blow-out accident like the one British Petroleum had in Gulf of Mexico near Louisiana in the United States? How long will it take to fix the blow-out preventer (BOP) and complete drilling of the remaining 600-800 meters of the total depth of over 5,500 meters deep in the Arabian Sea?


Offshore Blowout Preventer Stack. Courtesy: British Petroleum

Azad Labon Kay Sath host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)

https://youtu.be/02oKLNPmUdk





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Easter Bombings in Sri Lanka; Belt Road Forum 2019 in Beijing

Who carried out the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka? Why? Is it a domestic group with outside help? What is India's role in it? Why did the attackers use India as their training base? Did ISIS inspire the attackers? With Muslims facing revenge attacks, what will happen to inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations in the island nation at the Southern tip of India? Will there be a renewed civil war? How will it affect South India and the South Asia region?

Tamil Population in India and Sri Lanka


What was the agenda of the Belt and Road Forum 2019 attended by 37 world leaders including Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing? What did President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Imran Khan and other world leaders say at this summit? How will this affect the next phase of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of BRI (Belt Road Initiative)? How will concerns ranging from debt sustainability and inclusive growth to environmental impact be addressed?

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at BRF 2019 in Beijing

Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)


https://youtu.be/O6pTJXIf7g0





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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Blowout Concerns Delay Confirmation of Pakistan Offshore Oil Discovery

Blowout concerns have stopped offshore drilling in Pakistan yet again. It was underway to confirm discovery of oil and gas in at Kekra-1 well in G-bloc with pre-drill estimate of over 1.5 billion barrels of oil. It was scheduled to restart on April 20, 2019 after pause of 12 days, according to Pakistani media reports. Now it is delayed until the blowout preventer equipment is fixed and ready to use again.

Offshore Blowout Preventer Stack. Courtesy: British Petroleum

Blowout Preventer Problem: 

The drilling was stopped on April 8 at the depth of 4,810 meters for cementing and casing process which took almost 12 days to complete. Now there are concerns about the proper functioning of the blowout preventer (BOP). Once the BOP repair is completed, Mobile Exxon and ENI as joint operators at Kekra-1 well will resume drilling of the remaining 650-800 meters.

Time required to drill the remaining 650-800 meters will depend on the rate of penetration (RoP).  Pakistan petroleum ministry officials were quoted by The News as saying that they "don’t yet have precedents to form a reliable estimate for the RoP for offshore Indus-G, where Kekra-01 is being drilled. An RoP of 10 meters per hour (generally considered low) would mean that it would take 80 hours or a little more than three days to reach the target depth.’’

Top 3 Offshore Drilling Sites in Asia-Pacific. Source: Bloomberg

Exxon-Mobil's Entry in Pakistan:

American energy giant Exxon-Mobil has joined the offshore oil and gas exploration efforts started by Oil and Gas Development Corporation (OGDC), Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) and Italian energy giant ENI, according to media reports.

Each company will have 25% stake in the joint venture under an agreement signed at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat in May among ExxonMobil, Government Holdings Private Limited (GHPL), PPL, ENI and OGDC.

Exxon-Mobile's entry in Pakistan brings deep offshore drilling technology, its long experience and financial resources to the country. It is expected to accelerate exploration and more discoveries.

Pakistan Oil Basins:

A Pakistan Basin Study conducted in 2009 found that the country has six onshore and two offshore basins; offshore basins being the Indus basin and the Makran basin in the Arabian Sea.

The Indus offshore basin is a rift basin that geologists say developed after the separation of the Indian Plate from Africa in the late Jurassic period. It is believed to be the second largest submarine fan system in the world after the Bay of Bengal with high probability of hydrocarbon discoveries.

The Makran Offshore basin is separated from the Indus Offshore basin by Murray ridge, according to Syed Mustafa Amjad's report in Dawn. It is an oceanic and continental crust subduction zone with deepwater trenches and volcanic activity. The basin consists of oceanic crust and periodic emergence of temporary mud islands along the coast suggesting strong evidence of large hydrocarbon deposits.

Pakistan Hydrocarbon Potential:

The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that Pakistan has 586 TCF (trillion cubic feet) of gas in Pakistan of which 105 TCF is technically recoverable.

In addition to gas deposits, US EIA estimates there are 227 billion barrels of oil in Pakistan with 9.1 billion barrels being technically recoverable.

Pakistan also has 185 billion tons of coal deposits in Thar desert which are just beginning to be extracted by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Corporation.

Oil and Gas exploration and production companies are currently planning to drill 90 wells in different parts of  the country. Under the plan, as many as 50 exploratory and 40 development wells would be drilled in a bid to make the country self-sufficient in the energy sector, according to media reports.

During the last five years, the sources said the exploration and production companies drilled 445 new wells, out of which 221 were exploratory, adding that the increased exploration activities resulted in 116 new oil and gas discoveries.

Current Account Deficits:

Energy imports make up a big chunk of Pakistan's total imports. Bulk of the annual 200 million barrels of oil demand has to be imported. Rising oil prices worsen the current account deficit and put pressure on Pakistan's reserves, forcing the country to seek periodic IMF bailouts.

Pakistan's trade deficit is nearly $40 billion a year and debt service costs are about $11 billion a year. How can Pakistan fund this balance of payments deficit of about $50 billion? Remittances of $21 billion in current FY2019 from Pakistani diaspora are expected to reduce it to $30 billion. PTI government has taken on billions of dollars in loans from Gulf Arabs and China. Given the low rates of foreign investments in the country, a big chunk of the remaining deficit will have to be met by borrowing even more funds which will further increase future debt service costs.

Pakistan's Current Account Deficit. Source: Trading Economics

As a result, Pakistan is now battling massive twin deficits, deteriorating foreign currency reserves, low exports, diminishing tax revenues, a weak currency, onerous external debt payments, and soaring sovereign debt. This crises has forced the country to seek IMF (International Monetary Fund) bailout, the 13th such request in Pakistan's 72 year history.

Summary:

Blowout concerns have stopped offshore drilling in Pakistan yet again. It was underway to confirm discovery of oil and gas in at Kekra-1 well in G-bloc with pre-drill estimate of over 1.5 billion barrels. Pakistan made 2 key oil and gas discoveries in 3rd quarter and another 3 discoveries in the 4th quarter of 2017. These discoveries appear to have prompted US-based Exxon-Mobil to join off-shore drilling efforts in Pakistan.  American energy giant's entry in Pakistan brings advanced ultra deep sea drilling technology, its long experience in offshore exploration and financial resources to the country. It is expected to accelerate exploration and lead to more discoveries.  US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that Pakistan has technically recoverable deposits of 105 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas and 9.1 billion barrels of oil. Reducing energy imports by increasing domestic production will likely ease Pakistan's current account deficits and reduce its need to seek repeated IMF bailouts.

Here's a discussion on the subject:

https://youtu.be/7o2MbUs2U38



Here's a video explaining offshore drilling for oil and gas:

https://youtu.be/anM9hZDA_cE





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