The current high price of oil has given new life to “peak oil” and it’s tempting to just ignore it and let people believe it because we do need to get off of oil and I’m not sure anything else will get people to even look at alternatives. But it’s a lie and people are getting hurt so I’m going to say as much.
We keep hearing about there being no new super-giant oil fields discovered since 1969. Why the media keeps repeating this lie when the information which contradicts it is publicly available to anyone willing to do a little digging, well I guess because there are so few people willing to do a little digging and it seems that if you tell a lie often enough people will take it for the truth.
So here is a list of super-giant oil field discoveries since 1969 (a super-giant field being defined as any field with recoverable oil of 5 billion barrels or more).
- 2008 Santos Basin, Off the coast of Brazil, estimated 40 billion barrels.
- 2008 Carioca, Off the coast of Brazil, estimated 10-33 billion barrels.
- 2008 Tupi, Off the coast of Brazil, estimated 5-8 billion barrels.
- 2007 Bohai bay, Off the northeast coast of China, estimated 7.5 billion barrels.
- 2006 Gulf of Mexico, 175 miles off coast of Louisiana, estimated 3-15 billion barrels.
- 2006 Gulf of Mexico, Noxal Field, off of Veracruz Mexico, estimated 20 billion barrels.
- 2003 Ferdows, Iran, Estimated 8 billion barrels.
- 2001 Azadegan, Iran, Estimated 26 billion barrels.
- 2000 Kashagan, under the Caspian Sea, 13 billion barrels.
- 1999 Kra al-Marow,Kuwait, up to 70 billion barrels.
- 1996 White Tiger (basement rock oil), Viet Nam, 5 billion barrels.
So media, please quit telling this lie. There are eleven super giant fields discovered after 1969 and there are probably more that I am unaware of.
In addition there are other reservoirs that have been known about but previously were either uneconomical to tap or technology was not up to the task but economics and improvements in technology now make them practical to place into production.
A good example of this is the Bakken Play, the largest contiguous geological oil pool known under North Dakota and Saskatchewan, estimated to have around 100 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Successful recovery of oil from this structure requires deep and sometimes slant or sideways drilling to tap. Much of the necessary technology did not exist until recently so even though geologists knew about this formation, getting to it was problematic.
A problem that we face right now is that it takes 5-10 years for production of new fields to ramp up to significant levels while the economies of India and China have been growing very rapidly. Add to that the fact that we’ve taken about a million barrels a day of production off the world market by invading Iraq, while consuming a huge amount of oil doing so, and at the same time many existing fields are aging and we’ve got a situation where demand hasn’t been able to keep up with supply. This is not the same thing as peak oil, it is oil production lag.
In addition to that, we’ve got between 2.3 and 3.5 trillion (yes with a ‘T’) barrels of oil in US oil shale structures but we have a federal moratorium on federal oil shale leases so that it can not be extracted.
We’ve got as estimated 15-90 billion barrels of oil along the continental shelves yet to be discovered but that’s presently off-limits. Given the recent discoveries elsewhere, I am of the belief that there is probably more than even the high estimate. Just one field 150 miles off of New Orleans has 35 billion barrels.
If we want to be able to continue to breath and eat we need to get off of this stuff, but I’d much rather see us make a good decision fully informed and move to new energy sources in an efficient smooth way than to see people lose their homes or starve to death based upon a lie.