Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Russian and Mexican Peaks

Further evidence of peak oil phenomena is demonstrated in recent Russian oil production figures. According to Leonid Fedun, head of Lukoil, it will take a 1 trillion dollar investment just to maintain current Russian output. As per the BBC:

"Lukoil's Leonid Fedun said $1 trillion would have to be spent on developing new reserves if current output levels were to be maintained.

Recent figures show Russian output fell 1% in the first quarter of 2008.

The possibility of less oil from one of the world's key suppliers will add more pressure to prices now at record highs.

Russian peak?

The surprise fall in Russian oil output in the first part of the year has raised fears about the ability of global supply to keep pace with demand over the next decade.

Russian production averaged 10 million barrels a day in the first three months of 2008, according to the International Energy Agency, down 1% on the same period last year."

In the meantime Mexican oil output has declined to the point that the third largest supplier of oil to the U.S. is now number four with Venezuala moving to number three. Peak Opportunities
gives the details:

"Most folks are surprised to learn that the world’s second largest oil field is not located in Saudi Arabia. Nor even in the Middle East. In fact, it is located offshore Mexico, in the Bay of Campeche, Gulf of Mexico. This “giant” field, with an ultimate recovery which may reach 20 billion barrels, was discovered in 1976 by Rudesindo Cantarell. Sr. Cantarell was not a geologist, nor a geophysicist, but rather ... a fisherman. It seems that the natural oil seeps were playing havoc with his nets! PEMEX, the national oil company of Mexico, finally investigated it and the rest, as they say, is history.

Cantarell Field, as it turns out, is a real freak of geology. The porosity - or holes in the rock where the oil is located - is believed to be the result of a rubble pile from an asteroid strike which took place some 65 million years ago! And not just any asteroid strike: The asteroid which caused what has become known as the Chicxulub Crater, on the Yucatan Peninsula, is thought to have been 6 miles in diameter, and many scientists attribute this particular asteroid strike as being the “extinction event” that took out the dinosaurs! The impact energy from that strike is believed to have been some 2 million times that of the largest man-made explosion, that of the Tsar Bomba, a 50 megaton hydrogen device set off by Russia in 1961. Interesting stuff!

Cantarell was put on production in 1979. Production was 1.16 million barrels per day (1.16 MMBO/D) in 1981, and in 1995 production was still 1 MMBO/D. In 2000, PEMEX installed the world’s largest nitrogen injection project on Cantarell. In this process, nitrogen is stripped from air and injected into the upper parts of the reservoir in order to maintain reservoir pressure, and thus to increase or maintain production. Production increased to 1.6 MMBO/D in 2001, then to 1.9 MMBO/D in 2002, and then to 2.1 MMBO/D in 2003. By the end of 2005, however, production had returned to 1.9 MMBO/D. In January, 2006, a PEMEX press release unveiled their conclusion that Cantarell had peaked, and would decline down to a rate between 1.5 MMBO/D and 0.5 MMBO/D by the end of 2008. The attentive folks at the Wall Street Journal must have sensed the significance of this event, as they first ran this story on 2/9/06, and they published an update in August of 2006. Since this time it appears they have been revisiting the story about every February, with stories on 1/27/07, and most recently on 2/15/08.

As of the end of 2007, Cantarell was said to be producing 1.4 MMBO/D, or down some 600,000 BO/D (or 29 %) from its peak rate in 2004!

Why is this important? Well, Mexico is the 3rd largest exporter of oil to the United States. Out of about 20 MMBO/D of total consumption (maybe closer to 21 MMBO/D now), we import some 60 %, or around 12 MMBO/D. Mexico makes up some 1.4 MMBO/D of that 12 MMBO/D, or about 10 % of our total imports.

So, if Mexico can’t supply that oil - just get it somewhere else, right? Well it appears that there is little or no “spare” capacity in oil production RATE, worldwide. So, if we need 1.4 MMBO/D from Mexico but they can’t supply it, we either have to get that oil instead of someone else, or do without. The oil pricing or geopolitical implications of this scenario should speak for themselves.

To put the ultimate loss of 1.5 MMBO/D out of Cantarell into perspective, consider the massive tar sands in Canada. Even though these tar sand RESERVES are huge, their production RATE is limited by the QUALITY of these deposits. Namely, one has to shovel, melt or dissolve this tar out of the ground. Today’s total production RATE from these tar sands, after huge efforts and investments of billions of dollars, only totals about 1.1 MMBO/D. And, with billions more invested, by 2015 they believe the rate can be increased by an additional 1.9 MMBO/D. So, if there weren’t any other RATE declines going on around the world, and if demand was not increasing, then the Canadian tar sands might be able to compensate for the loss of Cantarell.

Put another way, if other declines ARE present around the world, and if there are not many provinces where the RATE is significantly increasing (such as with the Canadian tar sands), and if the increases from the tar sands can barely make up for Cantarell declines, then what significant capacity increases are available to make up for the other declines?

So, Cantarell Field is a "poster child" for Peak Oil concerns.
Most recently we wondered, “If Cantarell is down significantly, and other Mexican production is up some, but not enough to compensate, what must be making up the balance?” Namely, if production is down and Mexican domestic consumption is flat or up (as is normal in a developing country), then imports must go up, or exports must go down, in order to compensate. In other words, something’s got to give."

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