Saturday, April 17, 2010

Drill Baby Drill!!! -- oops!

Over at The Oil Drum is a very interesting comment thread, started by Jeffrey Brown (aka westexas). The issue is the apparent peaking of three Deep Water GOM (Gulf of Mexico) fields; Neptune, Chincontepec, and Thunder Horse. It would seem that none of them are living up to the hype now that they are in actual production. The rest of the thread has some very interesting comments ranging from whether or not it is meaningful information to details of the actual production rates. Rockman weighs in with some real-life input on the costs of repairing wells that are not producing as expected. Petrographer explains the geological issues that can impact the original production estimates.

The point of putting this particular thread in front of you is to remind the reader that oil company hype about new, large fields is just that: hype. As Petrographer notes, there is a lot to consider in terms of what can be produced at a given location, yet even the best production estimates can be overrun by natural events that are unseen by the site developers (Rockman's point). The Deep Water fields, whether in the GOM or the Atlantic, are going to be costly to produce for those reasons. This is something conveniently left out of the mantra to Drill, Baby, Drill! (DBD!).

The Inconvenient Truth for the DBD! crowd is the fact that reserves themselves do not tell the whole story. When you only trumpet the number of barrels believed to be in place, without acknowledging the challenges to produce those barrels along with the related timeline, the listener is lulled into a false sense of security. It is the flow rate, the number of barrels per day, that matters. The context of that production, in terms of overall national production vs consumption, matters as well, but few want to hear it. Keep this in mind when you hear the next breathless announcement that XYZ Oil Company has found YYY millions (or billions) barrels of oil. It sounds good, but it is no panacea and there are no guarantees that what is estimated as doable is what will be produced. Keep your bike and walking shoes handy, you will need them.

1 comment:

The North Coast said...

The new fields sound good until you consider how relatively small they are, and, most of all, how expensive it will be to drill.

Chevron's discovery is about 85B barrels, which sounds massive to the uninformed and it is certainly impressive compared to the tiny 3B barrel finds of the coast of Brazil and other places. But 85B barrels would last this country 11 years at the most IF it can all be recovered, which is doubtful.

Most of all, the cost of drilling is about $120 a barrel, which is an optimistic estimate. That assumes all the oil is recovered and that nothing goes wrong with the drill. That's pretty optimistic. And it will take another 5 years to get this field into full production, at least.

If this is what's left to us, then $200/barrel oil isn't far away.