Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mexico Cantarell Oil Field Dead by End of 2010.

The giant Cantarell oil field, the world's eighth largest will be dead by the end of next year. Output peaked in 2004/2005 at around 2.2 million barrels a day (mbd) but will be well below the 0.5 mpd predicted by the end of 2009 - and extrapolating its apparently linear decline, it will be around zero by the end of 2010. Cantarell was a late field, since it was discovered in 1976, by which time there was a host of new technology available to make sure it kept pumping out oil, and by pressurizing the field, oil was pumped out at around 2 mbd for several years, when without this help a field would normally be expected to fall into decline.

However, a well only has so much oil to begin with and the faster this is recovered the quicker it becomes exhausted. It is likely therefore that the depletion side of Hubbert's peak will be a far steeper decline than the incline that rose to it, for many fields around the world, and it is debatable just how much recoverable oil there is all told. It has been suggested that the use of enhanced recovery techniques - i.e. pumping millions of barrels of seawater per day into e.g. the Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia has damaged the geological structure, meaning that less of its oil will ultimately be recovered.

Added to that it is debatable how much oil there was in Ghawar or in that region in general since the figures have been described as a "state secret". I have talked before [1] [2] on the subject of oil reserves and there may well be more than is typically accounted for. However, the limiting factor in avoiding an oil gap is how much can be recovered of a required quality (heavy or light; sour or sweet) in competition with the prevailing demand for it. The recession has put on hold many new oil recovery projects and the consequences of this will be brought forth as the world economy begins to smile once more. It will be a short-lived expression, however, as without enough oil there is no economic growth possible, but rathermore a terminal decline of all of the economy that is underpinned by oil, and that includes pretty much everything, even producing food.

The world's biggest, the Ghawar field is estimated [3] as having 66 - 100 billion barrels [Gb = Giga barrels] left which is around 2 - 3 years worth for the entire world. I doubt it will be evenly distributed though in the final analysis nor will any of the world's remaining oil for that matter, and even the putative 2250 Gb [3] world total is highly misleading since there is a tendency to simply divide it by 30 billion barrels a year or some projection of up to 40 billion barrels a year based on economic growth models and say, "we have decades worth of oil left so don't worry." We do have decades worth of oil left but we won't be able to pull it out fast enough to match such colossal demands and the oil peak is just that "a peak" beyond which decline in oil on the world markets is a matter of simple definition.

Even in its heyday of 2.2 mbd or 800 million barrels a year the Cantarell complex amounted to under 3% of present world oil consumption. Put thus it doesn't seem a big deal, except to the poor Mexican economy which depends considerably on its oil revenue from Cantarell. The Mexican people will undoubtedly suffer, as will we all since the decline of Cantarell is just what is happening elsewhere, and almost all of the giant fields which together account for 65% of the world's remaining oil have already encountered their production peak. In effect, world oil production has peaked or is so close to doing so that it is a matter of mere semantics to talk otherwise.

Meanwhile I am researching Forest Gardens and Permaculture, since without oil and such alternative means to grow food, especially in a country like Britain which imports 40% its food as carried-in by oil-based transport - and relies on oil to farm the rest of it, we are going to starve.

Related reading.
[1] http://ergobalance.blogspot.com/2008/12/oil-reserves.html
[2] http://ergobalance.blogspot.com/2008/12/peak-oil-postponed-dr-richard-pike.html
[3] http://seekingalpha.com/article/157824-mexico-s-declining-oil-production-clarion-call-for-cantarell


Mark said...


You paint a pretty bleak picture for our collective energy future. Here in the United States the talking heads on radio, usually right of Attila the Hun and many of our political leaders say if we just open our restricted lands to drilling that would help alleviate our energy problems. Do they have a valid point or is this political gamesmanship? When it comes to difficult subjects, like energy, our media usually has a difficult time separating the wheat from the chaff and the truth often can be hard to find.

Professor Chris Rhodes said...

Hi Mark,

it's a difficult point, but for example I am aware of suggestions to drill in the Alaskan wilderness/wildlife park to get at the oil there. Now this as I understand it is heavy crude, which is more difficult to refine into petrol (gasoline).

In the UK there are plans to drill for oil in the beautiful Surrey countryside (there is some drilling going on there anyway),so it's a similar prospect. Certainly there is money to be made, but we must reach a point within only a few years when total oil production can ni longer meet demand.

Thus, no matter how much drilling is done or where, that tipping point is inevitable. So, mostly it is posturing and oiling the greasy palm rather than a realistic solution to the oil-crunch.

The only real solution is to learn how to live without oil which means a totally different way of life. I don't mean "back to the stone-age" but a focus on local economies and food production and less dependence on cheap transport.

There are other ways of making energy than from fossil fuels but replacing liquid fuels is the real tough-nut to crack since almost 40% of the entire world's energy is used in the form of oil and most of that for transport. Oil will also be the first energy source to fail demand for it.



Yorkshireminer said...

Fair Bit of Ballyhoo from BP at the moment with their discovery of oil in the Mexican Gulf, in extremely deep water and at great depth. Six Billion Barrels I think, maybe put back the day of reckoning for a couple of extra months. I am too bloody idle at the moment to do the maths but I don't think I will be far out. The only good thing I can say about it is that it might save the Mexican economy so that when Cantrel finally drops off the cliff the Mexican economy suffers a very severe headache instead of a Migraine, but even that is not sure as there has to be a lead in time of about 5 years even if the money is there, which wont be certain. Found a bolt hole to go to yet Chris?

Professor Chris Rhodes said...

Hi Dave,

yes, I agree completely. 6 billion /30 billion/year is about 2-3 months worth isn't it?

I'm still looking!!



tumor cells said...

I am researching Forest Gardens and Permaculture, since without oil and such alternative means to grow food, especially in a country like Britain

trimspa diet said...

a big oil company is going to be destroyed, this is unbelievable, but it was also expected, the daily consumption is too countries like mexico!