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Remember this from this week end?

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.

So we're stuck with the existing supergiant fields we already  know. But we're able to squeeze increasing proportions of their oil out, right? Well, up to a point.

The 4 biggest fields on the planet are now in decline, 3 officially.

Let's start with Cantarell, the jewel of Mexico's Pemex, and the third largest field ever found.

from the Financial Times (15 March 2005, via the Energy Bulletin)

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 Petróleos Mexicanos, the state oil company, said that the field's production would decline this year, signalling a trend towards its depletion.

Pemex now expects production to reach 1.9mb/d in the coming years, and to decline to 1.4 mb/d by 2010. With Cantarell providing close to two thirds of Mexico's production, Pemex needs to replace this ultra cheap oil by much more expensive ultra-deep offshore reserves which it does not have the competences to exploit on its own - and it is forbidden by Mexico's Constitution to invite foreign partners (even 'innocuous' ones like Petrobras, the Brazilian company which has strong offshore experience) to help it. Expect political upheavals in Mexico over this in coming years; in the meantime, prodcution will go down.

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. BP has invested heavily in the field via its purchase of 50% of TNK, but as the table below (from an official BP presentation (pdf)) shows, 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.

But let's move on to the Gulf, and to the third largest field by production levels today, Kuwait's Burgan, also in the top 5 on the planet by reserves. Well, guess what?

Kuwait's biggest field starts to run out of oil  (26 January 2006)  

KUWAIT: It was an incredible revelation last week that the second largest oil field in the world is exhausted and past its peak output.

Yet that is what the Kuwait Oil Company revealed about its Burgan field. The peak output of the Burgan oil field will now be around 1.7 million barrels per day, and not the two million barrels per day forecast for the rest of the field's 30 to 40 years of life, Chairman Farouk Al-Zanki told Bloomberg.

He said that engineers had tried to maintain 1.9 million barrels per day but that 1.7 million is the optimum rate. Kuwait will now spend some $3 million a year for the next year to boost output and exports from other fields.

However, it is surely a landmark moment when the world's second largest oil field begins to run dry. For Burgan has been pumping oil for almost 60 years and accounts for more than half of Kuwait's proven oil reserves. This is also not what forecasters are currently assuming.

Last week the International Energy Agency's report said output from the Greater Burgan area will be 1.64 million barrels a day in 2020 and 1.53 million barrels per day in 2030. Is this now a realistic scenario?

(Note that all these fields were n°2 at some point, whether in production or reserves. They are each super giant, no such large fields will ever be found again, and they are all in decline.

Which brings us, of course, to the uncontested largest field on the planet, Saudi Arabia's Ghawar. This is the only one (yet) for which there has been no official announcement of decline, but there are lots of people that are talking about it. Here are a few:

Bank says Saudi's top field in decline (Al Jazeera, 12 April 2005)

Speculation over the actual size of Saudi Arabia's oil reserves is reaching fever pitch as a major bank says the kingdom's - and the world's - biggest field, Gharwar, is in irreversible decline.

The Bank of Montreal's analyst Don Coxe, working from their Chicago office, is the first mainstream number-cruncher to say that Gharwar's days are fated.


"The combination of the news that there's no new Saudi Light coming on stream for the next seven years plus the 27% projected decline from existing fields means Hubbert's Peak has arrived in Saudi Arabia," says Coxe, referring to data compiled by the International Energy Association's (IEA) August 2004 monthly report.

"The kingdom's decline rate will be among the world's fastest as this decade wanes," predicts Coxe. "Most importantly, Hubbert's Peak must have arrived for Gharwar, the world's biggest oilfield."

Coxe dismisses Saudi claims that the country can produce extra capacity to satisfy surging demand. He notes that Saudi promises to increase production last year failed to materialise. Aramco had pledged an extra 500,000 barrels of oil immediately and an extra 5 million bpd by 2012.

He says the markets had "assumed this first flow would be a half million barrels daily of the benchmark Saudi Light, the high-end product that any oil refinery can process. Instead ... the new oil was heavy, sulphurous oil that only a few refineries had the spare capacity to use".


Coxe's figures may even be on the sympathetic side. According to Saudi Aramco's own statistics, existing Saudi fields deplete by 600,000 to 800,000bpd each year. If such levels are maintained until 2012, Saudi depletion will have reached  a minimum of 4.2mbpd.


One factor contributing to the scrutiny the Gharwar field faces is the huge amount of water injection used. Water is pumped into an ageing oilfield in order to maintain high pressure inside.

This allows the oil to be pumped out at the original constant rate. Eventually, however, the water reaches the well-head, and the field effectively dies.

Coxe goes on to ask why new Saudi fields, not just ageing ones, are also water injected.

"As if that weren't bad enough news, the Saudis claim they need at least $32 a barrel to justify new production, because ... new production ... requires water flooding. Water flooding on newborn Saudi wells? Isn't water flooding [the] Viagra of ageing wells?"

From the NYT (24 February 2004) (readable here by scrolling down):

"We don't see us as the ones making sure the oil is there for the rest of the world," one senior [Saudi] executive said in an interview. A Saudi Aramco official cautioned that even the attempt to get up to 12 million barrels a day would "wreak havoc within a decade," by causing damage to the oil fields.

In an unusual public statement, Sadad al-Husseini, Saudi Aramco's second-ranking executive and its leading geologist, warned at an oil conference in Jakarta in 2002 that global "natural declines in existing capacity are real and must be replaced."

Dr. al-Husseini, one Western oil expert said, has been "the brains of Saudi Aramco's exploration and production." But he has told associates that he plans to resign soon, and his departure, government oil experts in the United States and Saudi Arabia say, could hinder Saudi efforts to bolster production or entice foreign investment.

Saudi Arabia's reported proven reserves, more than 250 billion barrels, are one-fourth of the world's total. The most significant is Ghawar. Discovered in 1948, the 300-mile-long sliver near the Persian Gulf is the world's largest oil field and accounts for more than half of the kingdom's production.


The average decline rate in Saudi Aramco's mature fields - Ghawar and a few others - "is in the range of 8 percent per year," without additional remediation, according to the company's statement. This means several hundred thousand barrels of daily oil production would have to be added every year just to make up for the diminished output.


The company projects that Ghawar will continue to produce more than half its oil. One internal company estimate from 2002 puts Ghawar's production at 5.25 million barrels a day in 2011, more than half the total expected crude oil capacity of 10.15 million, according to United States government officials and oil executives.

"The big risk in Saudi Arabia is that Ghawar's rate of decline increases to an alarming point," said Ali Morteza Samsam Bakhtiari, a senior official with the National Iranian Oil Company. "That will set bells ringing all over the oil world because Ghawar underpins Saudi output and Saudi undergirds worldwide production."

The most skeptical of all is Houston banker Matt Simmons, who thinks, after painstaking examination of existing data (mostly from the 70s, before the Saudis clamped down) that Ghawar is in a really bad shape:

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.

ANWR would have perharps 10 billions of recoverable barrels - enough to replace Ghawar (5% of world production) for 5-7 years.

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.

Originally posted to Jerome a Paris on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 06:02 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar - Jan. 26 (4.00)

    In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
    Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

    by Jerome a Paris on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 06:00:15 AM PST

    •  Peak oil + Bush incompetence = ? (4.00)
      Jerome, you are right on the mark as usual with this diary, and peak oil is certainly either here or imminent.  But the question is, what has been the USA response to this fact?  So far, the Bush/Cheney policy has been to invade Iraq and grab their oil.  The price per barrel for Iraq's oil, none of which has yet made its way to the USA, is quite high when the $250 billion cost of the Iraq quagmire (so far) is considered.

      Just imagine what that $250 billion could have done for alternative energy research or just plain wind energy investment.

      How many megawatts of wind energy could we buy for $250 billion?

      •  A bit more than a grab. (4.00)
        We're not only there to grab Iraq's oil, but to set down a forward position against China and others in the future as we move past peak and competition for reserves heats up; hence the permanent military bases.

        In addition, our presence in Iraq is essentially a proxy war against Russia, France and others who were positioned to contract Iraqi oil fields as UN sanctions ran out.  This was likely a topic of Cheney's energy meetings early in the administration, and a big part of the reason they've kept them secret.

        •  Good point, Impeach Cheney also (none)
          If we are ever able to get the Bushites out of office those secret Cheney energy meetings are a good place to start digging.

          Bush's blatant lawbreaking will just strengthen his "unitary dictator" theory if he is not stopped- call your congress critter today if possible.

          There is also a theory that Iraq was going to price their oil in Euros so this added some urgency to the Bushco rush for invasion.

        •  don't forget Condoleezza Rice (4.00)
          whose academic expertise, during her Cold War apprenticeship, centered on regional and ethnic tensions within the former Soviet Union. That's the subject Rice spent a year researching as a fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations in the mid-1980s.

          Rice's knowledge, and her mercenary conservative credentials, were later applied to 'gaming' these conflicts on behalf of oil companies after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Hence her seat on the Chevron board.

          Since I always seem to forget which oil company Rice represented, I wrote the following as a mnemonic. It may be sung to the tune of 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic' (it's a work in progress, so feel free to substitute your own last line and chorus):

          There's a tanker in the ocean named the Condoleezza Rice,
          It's a legacy of days when she gave Chevron good advice,
          She sold her soul for oil, now we all must pay the price,
          In truth, she's just a pawn...

          "And I hope you'll understand if any of us come before a court and we can't remember Abramoff, you'll tend to believe us." - Senator Lindsey Graham.

          by QuickSilver on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 08:43:53 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  shortsighted (4.00)
          I wonder if $2trillion dollars could have bought enough R&D... the end result of it would have been "Screw you all we don't need oil. Now if you want to fight over what's left of oil, fine, but we've got technology X we'd love to sell you."

          Unitary Executive is just a nice way of saying Dictatorship.

          by voltayre on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 09:40:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Easily (none)
            Check this out

            Biodiesel can be made from algae. We could get all the fuel we need from the following investment:

            $300 B to build algae farms (one time cost)
            $46 B/yr to operate them

            The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limits. - Albert Einstein

            by racerx on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 12:16:15 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah it's not abour Iraq/Iran, it's about China (none)
          This is where it's going to get ugly.  There's all this talk now of doing something about Iran, but it's ignorant of a very critical problem: China.

          China is growing at a very fast pace and their thirst for oil is also growing.  China faces a very serious risk of political collapse if they can't keep the economic growth moving forward.  They are attempting a very radical shift of Chinese society in a very short period of time, and for the time being, oil is a big part of what's keeping it running.

          So if the US tries to flex it's muscles in the middle east too overtly, we're going to run head long into Chinese interests.  Speaking of interest, who holds all those US treasury bonds?

          --- If trickle down economics worked, Marie Antoinette wouldn't have lost her head

          by sterno on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 12:21:07 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Don't forget India (none)
            Both China and India are developing nations with about a billion people each.  Worldwide demand will only go up.  Now if only the biggest oil consumer in the world (The United States) would take proactive steps to conserve, we might be able to deal with the energy problem better.
          •  not only China (none)
            but India as well.

            Republican politicians are not elephants. They're filthy, greedy pigs.

            by sadair on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 12:40:20 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  A good friend of my wife and I, (none)
            we're Godparents to their child, is a PhD geologist who has worked in oil exploration his entire life.  He's out on his own now, but until relatively recently, he was a VP at a fairly large and internationally known oil company more or less in charge of exploratory drilling.  He first told me about peak oil in Spring 2004.

            The way he likes to explain what he does is that he travels the world poking straws in the ground looking for oil.  I've known him for over a decade, and in the time that I've known him he's been on extended travel to set up wells in Russia, Argentina, Paupau New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Africa (can't remember the country), and (just before I met him) China.

            He is worried about China, because his experience is that everywhere he goes the Chinese are there too.  To him, the new "cold war" is over control of new sources of oil, and China is playing the role of the former USSR.  That being said, I concur that China CANNOT and WILL NOT let the USA control an inordinate amount of their raw oil supply.

            IMHO, if present policies continue, we're going to have a big "problem" with China by 2008.  Also, given the location of the Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, it just might be a major topic of discussion in 2008.  My fear is that the Administration will use the growing scarcity of oil, and the competition with China to acquire oil reserves, as a way to sabre-rattle and fear-monger to another republican president in 2008.

            Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. - T. Roosevelt

            by ranger31 on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 12:56:00 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  $250 Billion in Wind Projects (4.00)
        Would have resulted in roughly:

      • 250 Gigawatts of Installed Capacity

      • 550 Billion KWH of annual output

      • 13% of Electrical Demand Met with Wind

      • 2.7 Billion Tons of CO2 saved a year

      • 1.5 Million Jobs Created
      • Instead we get quagmire.

  •  You hit it on the head... (none)
    I don't think we could have had a worse group of people in power at a worse point in history. Just when we need to radically ween ourselves off of the stuff, we've got oil whores in office.

    I actually think this is another example of a 'high crime' against our nation, the total lack of regard for the reality of peak oil and the nonexistant plan for the future. Reprehensible...

    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

    by ilona on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 09:01:46 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

  •  Living in the past (3.66)
    A journalist friend told me the following:
    In 1973 the State Dept. held a conference for the media.  At this time Rumsfeld and Cheney were working with Nixon.

    The State Dept. wanted to tell the press that it was in America's best interests to control oil-producing countries, and in particular to establish a major presence in the Middle East.

    My friend and some other journalists questioned whether the US had a right to occupy nonthreatening countries. Around that time the CIA was busy overthrowing Allende in Chile. The suave reply of the State Dept. official was "This is in our best interests.  Don't you want gas in your cars?"

    So this line of thinking is an old one, and back then there was a suspicion in DC that oil might be finite.

    We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. -Albert Einstein

    by Plan9 on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 10:29:23 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

  •  European Tribune (4.00)
    This is crossposted as a diary over at eurotrib, where we have lots of good stories today:

    Live thread on the Palestinian election results
    Commentary on the Canadian election by DeAnander
    Chew on this by Alex in Toulouse - an horrifying view of the meat industry
    Wal Mart as a monopsony by rdf
    Budgetary shenanigans in France
    Immigration issues in Ireland

    In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
    Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

    by Jerome a Paris on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 06:22:19 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

  •  On the same theme Jerome (none)
    of energy, I'm putting new windows in my house.  I'm tired of my money going out the window, literally and our Governor, Democrat Kathleen Sebelius is encouraging all Kansans to find ways to make their homes more energy efficient.  There are some tax credits (not a lot, but better than nothing) to do these things this year and next.  Anyway, the window companies to publish in their literature statements like:

       Currently 40% of a homes total energy bill comes from heating and cooling, replacing windows will save the homeowner 40% on those bills.
       If all residential windows were replaced with Energy Star rated windows, we could save $7 billion in energy costs over the next 15 years.
       We could preserve 142,000,000 trees and the reduction in carbon emissions would be like taking 336,000 cars off the road.

    from the Traco brochure (I've seen other similar statements from other companies)

    That's just windows. There's so much more that can be done as well.  People need to take this energy thing into their own hands, pushing their state and local governments for help in implementing these solutions.  Sebelius is making sure there's money for low income people to get state loans to do the improvements and such.  

    I've been driving a Prius since 2001 and wish everyone did.  They are such quiet clean cars.

    Winning without Delay.

    by ljm on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 09:57:50 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

  •  This may require a separate diary.... (none)
    And I may not understand the science anyway, but why the discrepancy?

    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.

    So we can only expect to "recover" 30% of any oil field????

  •  Like you need tips! (none)
    Thanks again Jerome, an awesome diary as always. Are you front page this year? I can't remember.

    I don't like Bizarro World... I want to go home to America.

    by willers on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 01:21:03 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

  •  And I forgot (4.00)

    Repsol slashes proven oil reserves by 25%

    Shares in Repsol YPF were suspended on Thursday as the Spanish oil and gas group revealed it would have to revise down proven reserves equivalent to 25 per cent of its total.

    More than half of the revisions relate to Bolivia, where the company said it would make a downward adjustment of 658m barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) of gas and oil. It mainly blamed reforms to the country's hydrocarbons law under new socialist president Evo Morales, which it said would affect investment and production.

    However, rumours that Repsol had overstated its Bolivian reserves, constantly denied, have been swirling around the Spanish stock market for more than a year.


    The downgrade by Spain's largest oil and gas group prompted speculation that other group with operations in South America including BG, Group, BP and Total of France.

    The revelation from Repsol comes 2 years after Shell was forced to downgrade its proven reserves by 20 per cent. Other oil group have also been forced to downgrade their reserves.

    I need to do another diary about this but BigOil has only replaced its booked reserves in recent years by "drilling Wall Street" (i.e. buying other oil companies) - the technical replacement rates are all below 100%.

    In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
    Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

    by Jerome a Paris on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 06:14:21 AM PST

  •  Titan (none)
    It's full of hydrocarbons, just waiting to be exploited.

    Sure, there is that little problem about being a billion miles away, and in the gravitational field of a gas giant, but...

  •  My congressman... (none)
    Roscoe Bartlett gave a presentation to Congress on peak oil the day before that FT article. Well he actually gave it to CSpan. It was a special order speech given at night and the only other congressman there was Congressman Gilchrest who is also from MD.

    There are many things that I don't like about Bartlett, but he is a scientist, and he knows what he's talking about on this subject. The problem is  that the leadership won't let him talk about it. He gave two more speeches on the subject, one in April 04 and one in May 04. They were also late at night and were canceled several times before he was allowed to deliver them.

    He also gave this interview around that same time. It's worth reading. He gives some ideas on what we should be doing about.

    "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended." George W. Bush, May 1, 2003

    by Jim Riggs on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 06:26:21 AM PST

  •  Canadian Oil Sands? (none)
    what's the scoop?

    corporate ethics: VERY organized crime

    by the basque on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 06:32:27 AM PST

  •  What scares me is we're 4+ years from seriously (4.00)
    and strategically addressing this issue, assuming a highly competent Dem wins in Nov. '08 AND the Dems take back Congress.

    I have absolutely no faith whatsoever that a GOP-dominated Congress or Executive branch can keep Americans' strategic energy interests ahead of the lobbyists'.  Bush would have my vote today had he come out on 9/12 and announced a strategic energy plan to wean us from fossil fuels in general and imported oil in particular.  But he can't, and the GOP won't.

    Therefore, the best chance this ocuntry has that I've seen is a policy along the lines of Energize America, which Kossacks continue to push for very hard.  While an excellent and comprehensive approach, the true test will come in Q2/Q3 when Kossacks will be needed to apply full-court pressure on all politicians to make Energy Security one of the top national priorities.  This issue is SO waiting for strong Dem leadership....

    Energize America: Demand Energy Security by 2020!

    by Doolittle Sothere on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 06:47:55 AM PST

  •  Oil field between Norway and Russia (none)
    I had someone tell me the other day that there is a new field recently discovered between Norway and Russia and that it was going to supply 30% of the oil over the coming years once they negotiate who gets the use of it.

    Since I haven't heard this any place else and would think that a discovery like that would be trumpeted, do you know what he was referring to?

    GWB: best argument I know of to refute "Intelligent Design"

    by Pandora on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 07:00:59 AM PST

  •  OK, but (none)
    This all makes a lot of sense, but I don't understand why the markets are not reacting to these developments.  Certainly the oil traders watch this info closer than anyone.  You'd expect a lot of buying to lock in lower current prices.  We've only seen mild pressure, usually attributed to the Iranian situation.  How do you explain this?
  •  ..10 to 20 years.. (none)
    for any alternative to significantly displace the current world oil economy.  The only immediate impact would be conservation and that wont come through leadership but rather through shocks and spikes.  Its going to be a very rocky transition at best.
  •  Thank you, as always Jerome! (none)
    For those interested in Peak Oil in Southcentral Indiana:



  •  Recommended Reading (none)
    this is important stuff. As the oil companies keep telling the public that it's ok. The OPEC wont give out true reserve findings. Good job!

    I don't hate my counry, just what they did to it.

    by ABA on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 07:10:39 AM PST

  •  Jerome (4.00)
    When is the book coming out?  Seriously.  Each one of your posts over the past year would make a great chapter outline.  I'm up on this stuff as a part of my job, but I still find something new everytime I click on one of your Peak Oil Posts.

    No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

    by CrazyHorse on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 07:34:31 AM PST

  •  I am just not comfortable (none)
    that the Bush administration has made this country so dependent on foreign oil.  I feel that this dependency is a real serious threat to our national security.  I think if the Dems can hammer this home to the American people, we might start seeing some changes.

    If the people lead, the leaders will follow.

    by Mz Kleen on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 07:52:04 AM PST

  •  To anyone able (none)
    I need this background.

    I found the above text while researching Self Organizing Critical -SOC- Systems (EX-Electric Grids, forest fires, sand piles).

    I'm looking to discover when oil production/use and the human pop (both SOCs IMHO), having reached this point, should bifurcate and form a new steady state.

    Best info I've found so far.

    Self-induced stochastic resonance in excitable systems

    and Game Theory-Tragedy of the Commons

    I'm trying to tie these 2 together. To make this graph:

    %age change on prior year on the y axis and time dates from 1860 on the x.

    Here is the data from Attanasi & Root, converted from OCR software.

    Like I said, I'm tryin'.  I think I'm looking for a "noise" graph with the "noise" approaching base line zero.

    It seems to me that the long tail (sign of Zipf Pareto Mandelbrot Power Laws) of the U.S. Hubbert curve is related to this reserve growth phenomena.


  •  It still amazes me (none)
    that there is _so much_ oil in the ground.  I mean, 500 million barrels of oil would, at a volume of 6.29 barrels per cubic meter (from, fill 79million cubic meters, which would fill a 100-foot-deep swimming pool one mile on each side.  

    Meanwhile, we are somehow gobbling this up at a rapid rate.  The world consumes something like 75 million barrels of oil per day (,!  As I quote that, it somehow doesn't seem right.  That's 15 feet sucked off the top of that huge swimming pool every day.

    How the hell is that sustainable?

    What is going to happen to all the countries sustaining themselves on oil revenues once the reserves dry up?  What is going to happen to all the countries driving up thier populations sustained on the back of a oil based green revolution and worldwide transportation system?

    R for Reverse, D for Drive

    by leftwords on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 08:04:52 AM PST

  •  Great post again, Jerome (none)
    Living in Texas, the Cantarell oilfield decline has additional concern, which you touched on -- the potential destablization of Mexico's economy.

    To the degree that happens is the degree we have more illegal immigrants crossing the border.

    And, ironically, being chased by Border Patrol units in (necessary use, in this case) gas-guzzling SUVs.

    "There is no god, and I am his prophet." SocraticGadfly

    by steverino on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 08:05:27 AM PST

  •  What if Democrats ran on (none)
    a no-nonsense national platform. Where we only talk about 4-5 things.

    1. Energy security
    2. Health care
    3. WMD non-proliferation
    4. (Grab bag here: education, environment, whatever).

    We REFUSE to talk about nonsense and trivia and phony controversies. Period. We can't win at that stuff anyway.

    Could we actually do that?

    The right is killing America

    by grushka on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 08:13:43 AM PST

  •  Medicines and Materials (none)
    What most people do not know is that oil is not just used for gasoline and heating fuel. Our medicines and many materials (plastics, including most of your clothing) comes from oil. The computer you are using is largely made up of a dead dinosaur. Much of your car is too. Most of your furniture is. And so on.

    Running out of oil doesn't mean we just jump over to hybrid cars and the like, it means increasing prices in nearly everything we buy.

    Using oil as though it'll last forever is just so distasteful. It's so lazy too, like walking past the light switch when leaving the house because you're just too lazy to reach up and flip it off.

  •  Stop It Jermome! (4.00)
    The only thing that is important to humanity in the long run is not how much oil is left but how much of it ends up as combustion byproducts in our atmosphere. (Not to say that I haven't found all your posts very useful ;) ) By having this endless debate about the price of oil were ignoring the most important fact that price DOESN'T MATTER. Nor does how much is left. IF we had an infinite supply and it cost 2 cents a barrel, we'd STILL need to stop using it all TODAY. Even then, it may be too late. (See Lovelock in the UK Guardian last week.)
  •  thanks for (none)
    another excellent diary jerome

    If you don't visit my website, you are aiding the terrorists. Why do you hate America?

    by OrangeClouds115 on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 08:36:56 AM PST

  •  Dumb question, but something I've been (none)
    curious about for a long time. Given the massive quantities of oil that have been pumped from the earth, what is the physical impact on the planet? Is all of the oil replaced by water underground, or what? Does the change in pressure have any effect? Like I said, a dumb question (or several dumb questions), but the taking of such large quantities of oil from underneath the earth's surface seems like it would have some sort of impact.
  •  Last year (none)
    someone did a very nice diary on how the world markets reacted to the shortages of whale oil. It was very informative, and showed that the price went up by a factor of ten to twenty. Evidently, this is one of the few historical examples of the depletion of a widely used natural resource. Does anyone have a link to that?

    I like to think of the Republican Party as an Iceberg--large, white, cold-hearted, not too swift, and can't change direction.

    by DyspepTex on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 08:53:13 AM PST

  •  i STILL want to see cheney's notes (none)
    from his energy mtgs...i think EVERYTHING (iraq, osama, no korea, iran, gay marriage, abortion, alito) they have done in these five yrs is just to DISTRACT us from what was in these mtgs.  and it definitely had something to do with LUCRATIVE DEALS WITH CHINA.  (tin foil moment:  marianna islands are VERY close to china.)
  •  That is why... (none)
    Great info.  But it just demonstrates why the government should continue to provide tax breaks to car buyers who purchase 6000 pound SUVs and trucks.  How better to entice people to purchase better fuel economy vehicles when they get a break by buying vehicles that get 5 gallons to the mile?  Plus US car makers continue to be out front on this.  Ford and Chevy are hiring like crazy.
  •  What about non-traditional oil? (none)
    Are the heavy oils in Venezuela, the tar sands in Alberta or the oil shale in Colorado and Wyoming of any use?

    At what price per barrel do they become economical?

    I read that Venezuela has from 300 billion barrels of heavy oils  and tar sands above and beyonf their 90 billion barrels of traditional oil.; an oasis of truth. -1.75 -7.23

    by Shockwave on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 09:04:09 AM PST

  •  I don't see these same countries (none)
    doing much by way of alternative fuels, which could lead one to suspect that at some point they will have to cut off sales to preserve supplies for their own countries. That would be a shock.

    The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. -Coco Chanel

    by Overseas on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 09:06:10 AM PST

  •  We have known (none)
    this has been coming for years, peak oil.  Too bad we didn't listen to Jimmy Carter in the late 1970's.  He hit the nail right on the head, 30 years in advance.  Imagine if we would have switched to ethanol by now?
  •  Three Points (4.00)
    The debate should not be about `Energy' per se in the broadest sense, but the debate must be about how energy is used and energy density.

    The industrialized world uses all sorts of energy at a prodigious rate.  It matters a great deal that ~60% of energy usage comes directly from hydrocarbon based sources.

    Of that ~60%, a very large percentage goes into food production and transportation of foodstuffs to a consumer - doesn't matter whether it's in Australia, India, Ukraine, France Spain, Canada or the USA.

    High crop yields absolutely depend on pouring tons and tons of hydrocarbon based fuels and fertilizers on all aspects of food production.

    We consume 100 calories of foodstuff - it costs several hundred calories of energy to produce and transport that 100 consumable calories.  We are literally eating calories of hydrocarbons.

    The bottom line is that we (humanity) can only sustain our current population while hydrocarbon based fuels are plentiful - and I'm not talking about costs in dollars, yen or Euro's.  Monetary costs are irrelevant.  Costs in how much energy is available based on how much it costs (in energy) to extract/produce.  As someone pointed out, Tar Sands are expensive in that the net energy return is low for the energy input required to extract 1 unit of usable energy.  Recent reading suggests a ratio of 1:.7 is not out of line.  To be clear, 1 unit of energy is required to extract 7/10ths of 1 unit of usable energy in the form of refined hydrocarbon product.  A net energy loss.

    This brings us to energy density.  Hydrocarbon based energy is `dense' in that it takes little cubic space to pack X amount of energy into a given volume.  All other energy transport mechanisms, coal, hydrogen, LNG, propane etc., all require a larger volume of storage space for an equal amount of stored energy density.

    Why is this important?  Simply because the volume of energy that is used cannot be substituted for.  There is not enough coal to replace oil.  There isn't enough land to produce biomass for hydrogen replacement, there is not enough land to cover with solar cells to produce the equivalent amount of electricity, ad infinitum.

    Nuclear power.  As attractive or not as this power source is, it too has issues.  Obviously waste, but that (IMO) is more of a political issue that an engineering one.  But raw material - i.e., Uranium - is an issue.  Nukes only (currently) work with enriched uranium.  Gotta have that raw fuel material... And it too has been exploited.  Easily mined deposits are no more.  We come back to the energy in versus energy out equation.  When will it become more expensive in terms of net energy? Finally, fertilize that corn field with the electricity of that nuke plant.  Not gonna happen.

    Finally, reality.  The reality is that the vast majority of oil producing countries in this world are (or can be) under the control of radical religious factions.  It takes almost no stretch of the imagination to realize that an individual crazy "radical cleric" can literally hold the well being of no only the US but much of the first world in their hands should they choose to cutoff oil exports.

    If there is no oil available - at any price - for planting, fertilizing, harvesting, processing or transporting food, how long will our cities survive?  Rioting of recent memory will be but a pimple on a giants butt.  When people have no gas for their SUV's - that will be one thing.  Another will be when the food trucks do not show up at the grocery store.  

    For further reading:

    Anything by this diarist - Jerome a Paris
    And in the by Jerome on oil, peak oil and the consequences thereof.

    Peak oil isn't really about anything but extinction of the human race.  Couch in any terms you wish, but if we choose to not solve the problem, then The Olduvai Theory:
    Sliding Towards a Post-Industrial Stone Age will come to pass - and sooner rather than later.

  •  Anyone know anything about deep oil? (none)
    I've read from some sources that there are large deposits of oil that aren't tapped because they lie much deeper than the oil we use now.  Deep oil would be more expensive to tap into but some believe that advances in technology will allow us to get at this more cheaply.  I'm trying to do a bit of research on this.  I'm not sure if deep oil has been proven or not.  And if it is there if it can be extracted cheaply enough.  If anyone has any links or info on this I'd like to see it.
  •  Not good news (none)
    Listening to Air America this morning there have already been a handful of wingnuts calling in to say that the U.S. presence in the middle east has nothing to do with oil but everything to do with freedom.


    What I really wish these people would realise is that both the pre 9/11 worldview and the post 9/11 worldview (whatever that really means) assume that cheap oil and abundant energy are unlimited.  People assume that we can continue building suburb on top of suburb, that companies can continue expanding their reach and profits, and that there is nothing to stop the financial markets from growing towards the heavens.

    But few know that the global energy market functions almost entirely on a "just in time" system of delivery.  An outage in the Gulf of Mexico will hit the midwest stations in a few days, a cold snap in Russia will cut natural gas to Europe almost instantaneously, and the list goes on and on.  So long as consumption continues to rise and supplies continue to fall short, we are going to see those "just in time" figures become increasingly stretched or go over.

    We can build all the windmills we want but it is still going to fall short once the oil levels drop off and leave us with a gap and its that gap that we should all be very concerned about.

    When people can't watch cable TV because of rolling brownouts, blackouts, or scheduled cutoffs, there is going to be a major freekout among the U.S. population in particular.  Think back to the hurricane Katrina coverage and all the comparisons to being in a war zone or a third world nation, the people are not prepared for anything like this.  People assume that electricity, cars, air conditioning, and all the other luxuries are some kind of god given right.  Take that away and there is going to be hell to pay.

    The U.S. government is fully aware of this and I would go so far as to put my tinfoil hat on and call New Orleans a test of what can happen when you pull all of the services out from under a population and then let them sit for a couple days.  The answer is anarchy.

    A U.S. presence in the middle east is not only vital for economic reasons, but to keep the vail firmly strapped over the collective eyes of America.

    (if by "criminalization of politics" you mean politics being taken over by criminals, you are absolutely correct)

    by Drezden on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 09:13:28 AM PST

    When oil co's are selling at twice and three times the $$ they forecasted, their taste for exploration goes way down.  When they pick up exploring again with a real hunger, you will see more finds.  

    Any of you scared by 'peak oil' should go to wikipedia and look up shale oil- you will find that its about $30 bbl to produce and the known reserves of shale at least equal if not exceed the known reserves of light crude worldwide.

    Yes, the $3 bbl extraction days may be past, but global depression or even displacement aint gonna happen, because even today we are paying more than the real costs plus margins needed to keep in the black gold for another 100 years.

    Not only is that a fact (sure....go ahead and doubt it, whine about it, try to discredit it, but whatever...I actually have money working in the oil biz- do you ?) but changes in materials and design are making vehicles much more efficiant for fewer $$$, and the oil balance may change as more hybrid and electric engines are used- powered by wind, cleaner coal, graphite ball nuclear, and other better answers.

    The sky is not falling, 'peak oil' mewing and crying used to be manifested in global population bomb worries and any number of doomsday scenarios.   Of course, the wealth creating effects of technical change are well known, but always denied by this crowd.

    Rather than freaking out about something thats not really a problem, start to worry about a national and global totalitarian overclass thats being enabled by IT, lack of education, and the ruthless core of human nature.  Now that could be a real dark age and it could be upon us soon.  

    peak oil my ass- peak human bondage and control is the problem.  


    Out of my cold dead hands

    by bluelaser2 on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 09:50:04 AM PST

  •  Question..Please someone help! (none)
    Ok, help me understand if my calculations are correct.

    I am assuming that the proven reserve numbers we are getting are not for recoverable reserves, but rather TOTAL reserves.  I asume this, because total recovery won't be truly known until no more can be recovered.  New technologies are being looked at that could concievably help recover oil from dead fields.

    The liklihood of that is not what I want to discuss.

    We are told that proven reserves are 1 trillion barrells.  This may very well be high, but let's use that number here.

    Optimisticlly, 50% of that oil (at the most)will ever be recovered.  35% to 40% is more likely, but using 50%, that means that 500 billion barrels wil be from proven reserves.  Recovery at 80 million barrels per days (which is not sustainable for all the reasons that we know from reading these diaries) would deplete all known reserves in 17.2 years!

    That's assuming demand doesn't rise worldwide, and production remains at current levels.

    In order to fuel that rate of recovery, and average of about 60 billion per year in reserves needs to be discovered! (60 billion * 50% recovery = 30 billion per year.

    Obviously that isn't going to happen.  So call the optimists at thier word, that production can maintain these levels and demand will rise only slightly, and you have a world without oil in 17 years plus whatever is discoverd in the hear furute.

    Are these calcs correct?  If so, it is a no-brainer that something will have to give especially as production begins to lag behind demand (which may happen even without peak oil being achieved):  
    -forced rationing
    -supply allocation
    -real containment of the growth in demand
    -introduction of new recovery technologies
    -Innovation in energy sources

    Until and as one or more of these things give, i can see serious military action at all levels...govermental, terroristic, imperialistic, etc.

    So, are the proven reserves the recoverable amounts giving us potentially 30 years, or is my 1st assuption correct?

    It looks like peak oil is earth changing, but the alternative, steady production, etc. isn't much better.  Either way we are screwed and running out of time.

  •  Canadian Tar Sands (none)
    are just beginning. Former Prime Minister was dallying with China as major customer. New Prime Minister will favour Bush/Cheney.

    This above all: to thine own self be true,... Thou canst not then be false to any man.-WS

    by Agathena on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 11:10:23 AM PST

  •  Going back (none)
    If you wanted to go back to previous "elephants" you could include Prudhoe Bay, East Texas, and the North Sea as oil "giants" in decline.

    "In her mercy, history anesthetizes those whom she intends to destroy." -Leon Trotsky

    by gjohnsit on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 11:29:45 AM PST

  •  Let market forces work (4.00)
    Supposing that the price of oil goes shooting up as reserves are depleted.

    And supposing that it is true, as Jerome has pointed out, that electricity produced from wind is already cheaper to the consumer than electricity produced from oil.

    Then it seems virtually certain that once the price of oil does go up, there will be a huge and rapid investment in windmills, and that as they come onstream they will push down the demand for oil.

    People also will abandon SUVs, invest in solar energy, insulate their houses better, etc, etc. The oil no longer used for generating electricity will be freed for use in things such as airplanes, fertilizers and plastics that do need oil.

    Thus the problem seems only to be how to make the transition as smooth as possible, no?

  •  Tar sands are not the answer (none)
    Some folks have been asking about this.

    From what I've heard, they are not economically feasible unless oil reaches above $70-80 range, and stays there.  (Admittedly this is the direction we are heading.)

    The production figure does not take into account reclamation, remediation and water treatment.  Tar sand production is nasty.  Millions of gallons of (nasty) wastewater and contaminated soil/solid product is produced.  The fact that the oil must be extracted from the media ex-situ means the extraction process is essentially done by strip-mining large acreages of deposits.  

    We are better off investing our resources in wind, wave turbine, solar, etc...  Or just doing with less.

  •  Regular folks need to care (none)
    When do us regular folks too busy working and rasing families to care much about things like Ghawar and Global Warming have to start paying the higher prices associated with the higher cost of oil?

    'Cause it seems the only thing that will get us to reduce our consumption of oil is it's cost.  And it seems, especially with these new revised production numbers and the rising demand we are at the point where demand will exceed supply and then only money and power will determine who gets the oil...and it's cost will sky rocket and that ought to be the thing that will reduce demand - but when does that start?  

    I know gas is up, but when do transportation costs start effecting retail?  When do the costs of plastic get so high that digging up our dumps will bne profitable?  We need something BIG to wake us up, when's that coming?

    " you smell something" -ghostbusters

    by David in Burbank on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 11:54:49 AM PST

  •  Thank You (none)
    I'm 53 yrs. old.  When I was a kid I used to hang around with my grandfather all the time.  He was born in 1898.  He had a farm implement store and drove a truck that brought milk from farms to the dairy.  I remember asking him what the biggest change in his life was, he instantly answered that the gas engine had changed everything.  It has been a hell of a ride, I drove Corvettes and GTO's and all the muscle cars, it was-is-a blast.

    How will we ever feed the world?  This is a foundation shaking period.

    "I felt as if I alone of all my townsmen had paid my tax." Thoreau

    by NearlyNormal on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 12:03:26 PM PST

  •  There is an ocean of oil in the Near East (none)
    The new southern oilfield in Hawtah went in the ground in 1993. Its about 600 km south of Riyahd and extends that far north and south along the Layla road
  •  For the uninitiated.. (none)
    I posted this elsewhere in a discussion thread about offshoring andthe demand for labor. I counter that peak oil is a much biger issue, and gave a short summary on why.

    So did I capsulize well for the uninitiated?


    The issue of peak oil is not so much how long oil supplies will last, but how much oil can be extracted (produced) in a given time frame (day/year, etc.)

    For numerous reasons, once an oil well has extracted more than half of the oil it ever will, the production becomes more difficult, and daily production begins to decline.  Production follows a bell curve. A good producing well will yield somewhere around half of the oil in it.  Average would be around 40%.

    Four of the 5 largest oil fields in the world are currently in decline. 3 were recognized as such in the past year. The US has seen declining domestic production since 1971.

    Although the tar sands in Canada potentially hold enough oil to provide for decades, the rate it can be recovered is roughly 1.9 million barrels per day.  The current world demand is about 80 mbpd.  Current world production is about 83mbpd.

    Discovered, but as yet non-producing oil will not provide any significant new capability for at least 7 years (based on time to market for new discoveries).

    So the major oil fields are in decline and will produce less per year, while world demand is growing rapidly as China and India emerge as economic powers.

    Peak oil is not about how much oil is out there, but rather the imbalance of demand exceeding the absolute limit (in decline) of how much oil can be produced.  Remember your economics and supply and demand.  In this case, there is a ceiling on supply per unit of time (day).  So demand will exceed supply.  Period. When that happens (in no more than the next five years, and perhaps in 2006) growth in many countries will come to a screeching halt.  The impact will be felt worldwide as pricing will shoot upwards, and new investment will decline.

    The addition of new capacity in all areas of the economy in third world nations will slow to a crawl, and even retreat, as the superpowers will have the access to oil.  Demand will again begin to grow for domestic talent which may or may not keep pace with the slowing economy as markets for our products dwindle.

    Until, and when alternative replacement sources of energy ramp up (coal, wind, solar, nuclear), the issue of offshoring will seem a quaint turn of the century phenomenon.

  •  Party ON ! (none)
    Ptah the Great posted a couple of comments above that bring this to mind - please excuse me that I'm not a cartoonist and can only describe the scene.

    The desert southwest.  A car (ala Thelma and Louise) is speeding along a dusty road with a whole raft of partiers inside.  Who exactly is driving doesn't matter, but let's say for this story it is the cartoon character we know as "Uncle Sam"  The rest of the industrialized world is there having a heck of a grand time.

    One nerdy looking fellow is crowded into the back seat and he squeeks, "There is a cliff coming."  No body pays attention as the party rages on.

    The nerdy guy speaks up, "HEY!  There's a cliff coming!"  A big burly guy with his arm around a babe looks over his should and says, "Hey, shuddap, you'll spoil the party."

    Next panel, The car is careening along and there is a line across the horizon, the nerdy guy stands up in the back seat and screams, "Slam on the brakes or you're going to go over the cliff!"  The driver yells back - "What cliff?  I don't see no cliff."

    The nerdy guy is beside himself now, pointing and yelling, "That one.  That one.  Slow down before it's too late."

    The driver says to no one in particular, "Hey, somebody get a road map out and see if there is a cliff nearby."

    "We'll all be killed if we don't stop NOW!" the nerdy guy screams as the car goes over the cliff edge.

    The big lummox says, "Don't worry, we'll figure out something before we hit - and if we don't?  Well, it was a helluva party while it lasted!"


    Several posters above want to know where we're at - still approaching the cliff or over?

    It's my opinion that for us as an (mostly) industrialized humanity, we're over the cliff edge and falling fast.

    When the inevitable crash actually will happen, it's difficult to predict.  It could be this year with the election of the majority of seats to Hamas.  It could be Iran developing Nuclear weapons and Israel doing a pre-emtive strike.  It could be a coup in Saudi that causes the final oil crash.  The final crash could be delayed for several years or even if we are extremely fortunate, maybe a decade.  But being the raving pessimist that I've been for 50+ years, I'm betting sooner rather than later.

    Regardless of the exact timing, all I can say to Ptah the Great and others, "Party On Dude"

    Please see The Olduvai Theory for an overview.

    Then please see and specifically here for specific suggestions that an individual can do.

    For the nay-sayers that will poo-poo even the idea of a crash, I say to you, can it be a bad thing to  prepare for a disaster that never happens?  I think that I'd rather have a burried storm shelter than be cowering in a hallway as the tornado comes.  But, like all things in life, your choice.

  •  Peak production isn't the primary problem (none)
    The real problem is demand overtopping supply.

    In a world run by sane, rational people, we would have a declining demand as we moved to more sustainable energy sources. As long as demand fell at least as fast as supply, we would be OK.

    Instead, we have a world run by the likes of GW Bush-league and pissed-off mullahs. At a time when oil production is starting to plateau (see the IEA graph Jerome and other blogger posted a day or two ago), demand is climbing big-time. If I'm reading the charts right, we're already in a situation where demand is outstripping supply... which leads me to wonder if consumer nations are quietly tapping their reserves to make up the difference, or perhaps buying extra to build up their reserves.

    Even if Peak Oil doesn't happen until 2010, I suspect we'll be seeing more-or-less permanent shortages starting later this year. The big question is, how are we going to run our farms, heat our houses, and so on when there's not enough to go around?

    Hatred is murder (1 John 3:15)
    You can take a break from politics, but life just keeps a-comin’.

    by dirtroad on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 02:54:12 PM PST

  •  Pre-fearmongering Energy Survey, pre-Bush 2001 (none)
    for comparison:


    What a difference 5 years with Bush and his Big Oil and Neocon crazies can make.

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