« Friday Gumpagraph | Main | Summer Vacation »

January 27, 2006

World's Four Largest Oilfields Now In Decline Peak Oil

Via Jerome-a-Paris, an update on where we stand: the kind of thing that ought to be front-page news all over the world, but isn't.

You can't pump oil you haven't discovered. If discoveries have dried up and already-discovered oilfields have peaked, the handwriting's on the wall. So where do we stand?

Jeremy Leggett reminds us that so-called "super giant" oilfields are rare, and almost all were discovered decades ago:

Only around 50 super-giant oilfields have ever been found, and the most recent, in 2000, was the first in 25 years: the problematically acidic 9-12 billion barrel Kashagan field in Kazakhstan. [...]

In 2000 there were 16 discoveries of 500 million barrels of oil equivalent or bigger. In 2001 there were nine. In 2002 there were just two. In 2003 there were none. [Emphasis added]

So we stopped finding super-giant fields long ago. What about the super-giants currently in production?

Mexico — Mexico's Cantarrell, the third largest oilfield ever discovered, is now in decline. FT:

The Cantarell oil field, in the shallow waters of Campeche Bay, is regarded by Mexicans as their crown jewel. It is the second largest oil field in the world by production, behind Saudi Arabia's mammoth Ghawar oil field, pumping 2.2m barrels a day, the same amount as all the Kuwaiti fields together.

For that reason, Mexicans were recently dismayed when PetrĂ³leos Mexicanos, the state oil company, said that the field's production would decline this year, signalling a trend towards its depletion. [Emphasis added]

Russia — Russia's Samotlor, Russia's largest and the world's second largest, is also in decline. Jerome:

Next, we can talk about Samotlor, the largest Russia oil field, and the second largest ever found. From a peak of close to 2mb/d, its production is now down to less than 0.5mb/d. [According to BP's own data,] more than two thirds of the oil to be recovered, in the most optimistic scenarios, already has. [...]

In case you've never heard it, as most news in recent years talk about rapidly growing oil production in Russia, Russia's oil production peaked in the first half of the 1980s — what we witnessed in recent years was simply some catching up after the collapse of the early 90s which was not due to technical reasons but to the chaos in the early post-Sovier years. Russia is about to know a second, lower peak as its production is now stagnating again. [Emphasis added]

Kuwait — Kuwait's Burgan, one of the five largest oilfields in the world and until recently the world's number two in production, is in decline as well. See this post from a couple of months ago.

Saudi Arabia — Which leaves Saudi Arabia's Ghawar, the world's heavyweight champ. The Saudis haven't admitted it yet, but Ghawar, too, is almost certainly in decline. Here, for example, is Matthew Simmons, the oil industry's foremost investment banker, who has studied the Saudi situation in great detail:

Saudi's "king" of oil fields, Ghawar, is the world's largest oil field. Wildcat discoveries there from 1948 to 1952 proved reserves estimated at 170 billion barrels of oil in place and 60 billion barrels recoverable. Those numbers remained unchanged in Aramco's 1975 reserve estimates. Ghawar has accounted for 55 percent to 60 percent of all Saudi oil produced. If these numbers are correct, Ghawar's oil is 90 percent gone. [Emphasis added]

As Jerome concludes:

No super giant fields have been found in the past 25 years, and all the rock structures on the planet where such fields could be found are known.

We will not find more oil. We will squeeze more out of the existing fields, thus generating new "reserves" (in their economic definition), but we are already running out of the cheap and easy to produce stuff.

Peak oil is very real.

Nobody in authority wants to be the bearer of bad news. Nobody wants to get out ahead of the herd. But most people won't believe something until they hear it from authority figures. So, hand in hand, we're sleep-walking over a cliff.

Posted by Jonathan at January 27, 2006 07:59 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb


US Congressman Roscoe Bartlett from Maryland has been preaching the peak oil word to the governing body, the president and the world for some time. He uses plain language, great charts and a sense of urgency. The point is, powerful people can speak up without getting their message through.

Posted by: Clay at January 30, 2006 08:49 AM