Friday, January 9, 2009

How do we make up for Mexico's declining exports?

The current turmoil over the supply of gas from Russia, highlights the increasing dependence that the world has to place on energy supplies from a shrinking pool of suppliers. This past week the Energy Information Agency (EIA) shows that the United States imported some 14.5 million barrels of oil a day (mbd). Domestically we produced 4.9 mbd, having fallen below 5 mbd just as the calendar kicked over into December, 2008. The October import figures the most recent available, (pdf) show 6 mbd came from OPEC countries and 7.4 mbd from non-OPEC nations.

This supply came from a total of 49 countries, ten of whom are in OPEC and 39 of whom aren’t. However if we count only countries that contributed more than 250,000 bd to this supply we end up with Canada (2,567 kbd); Saudi Arabia (1,487 kbd); Mexico (1,483 kbd); Venezuela (1,162 kbd); Nigeria (979 kbd); Iraq (577 kbd); Algeria (555 kbd); Angola (539 kbd); Russia (394 kbd); Brazil (354 kbd); the United Kingdom (386 kbd): and the U.S. Virgin Islands (267 kbd).

One of the reasons for putting the list up here and now is that we can come back, next year and see how things have changed, and note how and where the dependence has moved to. But, as I noted in Pick Points, Mexican production has fallen to around 3 mbd, of which half is exported to the U.S., and if their production continues to fall at 500,000 bd per year, then within this next year there is going to be some greater crunch between domestic use and exports. So where will the United States make up the difference?

Now the volume each supplies varies by month, two months ago Norway supplied (for that month) 2.175 mbd so that drawing conclusions from a single month is of no great value, but if one goes back and looks at figures for 2007 (pdf), one ends up with almost the same list, only Brazil having since joined (by 154 kbd). In 2005 the top 14 countries importing to the US would have dropped off Russia, Brazil and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but Colombia, Ecuador, Kuwait and Equatorial Guinea were still on it.

The largest proportion of the U.S. imports come from Canada, yet outside of the Oil Sands of Alberta and the possibilities of production from the Bakken shale, their production has been declining, with the Newfoundland fields perhaps peaking at 369 kbd in 2007. The oil sand production, currently at 1.4 mbd is scheduled to increase, with an initial target of 3.5 mbd, once planned for 2015, but now slipped back to 2020. Unfortunately for US consumers, there are two snags to relying on this source to offset Mexican declines. The first is the slowing of the expansion plans of those working the oil sands as prices fall; the second is:
The 2007 federal energy bill says U.S. government fleets can't buy fuel from the oil sands and other sources whose production emits more greenhouse gases than conventional oil.
And if someone gets serious about enforcing that . . . . .
So if Canada cannot expand their production enough, and Mexico is going to cut their exports, for the sake of discussion by 0.5 mbd, where do we look to next?

That would be Saudi Arabia, from which we get about 1.5 mbd. But Saudi Arabia is a strong advocate of OPEC production cuts and has already dropped their production from a peak of 9.7 mbd to 8.5 mbd in November. While it may go lower, probably not below 8 mbd, they have just warned Asian customers that cuts, of up to 15% will continue. So no luck there.

Moving down the list of suppliers, in terms of import size, that takes us to Venezuela. This is an interesting case, since there is a fairly large difference between how much oil the country says it is producing (3 mbd) and the amount others have estimated (2.4 mbd). In accord with OPEC wishes to cut production, so that prices will move back up, Venezuela is cutting some 189 kbd or production, 166 kbd of which was going to the United States. So I guess we’d better not look there.

Next on the list, moving down, is Nigeria, where we get just under 1 mbd. Well they are currently exporting, in total, around 1.66 mbd, but this is a cut of 12% (from 1.88 mbd) to accord with OPEC requests.. Although the country has a potential to produce perhaps 2.5 mbd, the problems that have been created by widespread conflict has pulled it down to perhaps the current level, although, with perhaps as much as 200,000 being siphoned off to illicit sales, it is going to be difficult to estimate true production – but I wouldn’t gamble on getting more out either.

And so we come to Iraq, which has now, with 0.577 mbd, made it to sixth on the list. A year ago I would have thought that increasing that number would have been almost impossible, but the nation is moving ahead with plans to double oil production (from around 2.5 mbd today, of which 1.85 mbd is exported), within three or four years. If this can be achieved, and one of the fields planned for expansion lies beneath Baghdad, then this could solve the US shortage , if not . .

The next candidate on the list is Algeria. But while their production is continuing to rise, together with exports, they also hosted the latest OPEC meeting with its call for 3.3 mbd of oil cuts. Thus while the US may get up to about a third of their exports, of about 2 mbd total production, their share is not going to go up in the short term, even though they hope, when markets grow, to increase production to 2.6 mbd by 2018..

Angola is eighth, but as a member of OPEC they are falling in line to drop production, from the 1.9 mbd that they produced in 2008, even though new fields are coming into production, and the production cut is anticipated to lower this to 1.5 mbd.

At ninth in line, there is Russia. But while Russia now vies with Saudi Arabia to be the worlds largest producer of oil, it has announced that it will go along with the OPEC cuts and, in collaboration with Azerbaijan, reduce their output by 600,000 bd. There is also a question as to whether overall Russian production has not peaked, since production last year fell year-on-year (Y-o-Y) by 815 kbd, to 9.74 mbd, with exports falling 16% to 3.53 mbd. Guess we had better not look there.

And so we come to the tenth candidate – which is Brazil. Brazil reached energy in 2006, but though a lot of credit was given to sugar cane ethanol the reality is that it was achieved with increased production of oil, particularly from offshore. However the costs for developing those fields is above the current price of selling the oil from those fields. So maybe we should not send out tankers down there yet.

Hmm, well lets see where that leaves us, Can it be that we are left hoping for production increases from Iraq as our likely savior, should demand start to resurrect?



  1. Hey Dave,

    By coincidence, the major newspaper today reveals what many experts knew: Mexico does not have the capital nor technology to extract oil from the deep water Gulf of Mexico.

    And it would appear from what Matthew Simmons has been saying, that no one has the equipment to drill there.

    The down side of the Peak looks steeper!

    The top story of the year is that global crude oil production peaked in 2008.

    The media, governments, world leaders, and public should focus on this issue.

    Global crude oil production had been rising briskly until 2004, then plateaued for four years. Because oil producers were extracting at maximum effort to profit from high oil prices, this plateau is a clear indication of Peak Oil.

    Then in August and September of 2008 while oil prices were still very high, global crude oil production fell nearly one million barrels per day, clear evidence of Peak Oil (See Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of "Oil Watch Monthly," December 2008, page 1)

    Peak Oil is now.

    Credit for accurate Peak Oil predictions (within a few years) goes to the following (projected year for peak given in parentheses):

    * Association for the Study of Peak Oil (2007)

    * Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly” (2008)

    * Tony Eriksen, Oil stock analyst; Samuel Foucher, oil analyst; and Stuart Staniford, Physicist [Wikipedia Oil Megaprojects] (2008)

    * Matthew Simmons, Energy investment banker, (2007)

    * T. Boone Pickens, Oil and gas investor (2007)

    * U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2005)

    * Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Princeton professor and retired shell geologist (2005)

    * Sam Sam Bakhtiari, Retired Iranian National Oil Company geologist (2005)

    * Chris Skrebowski, Editor of “Petroleum Review” (2010)

    * Sadad Al Husseini, former head of production and exploration, Saudi Aramco (2008)

    * Energy Watch Group in Germany (2006)

    * Fredrik Robelius, Oil analyst and author of "Giant Oil Fields" (2008 to 2018)

    Oil production will now begin to decline terminally.

    Within a year or two, it is likely that oil prices will skyrocket as supply falls below demand. OPEC cuts could exacerbate the gap between supply and demand and drive prices even higher.

    Independent studies indicate that global crude oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time, demand will increase. Oil supplies will be even tighter for the U.S. As oil producing nations consume more and more oil domestically they will export less and less. Because demand is high in China, India, the Middle East, and other oil producing nations, once global oil production begins to decline, demand will always be higher than supply. And since the U.S. represents one fourth of global oil demand, whatever oil we conserve will be consumed elsewhere. Thus, conservation in the U.S. will not slow oil depletion rates significantly.

    Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. There is no plan nor capital for a so-called electric economy. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment. The independent scientists of the Energy Watch Group conclude in a 2007 report titled: “Peak Oil Could Trigger Meltdown of Society:”

    "By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame."

    With increasing costs for gasoline and diesel, along with declining taxes and declining gasoline tax revenues, states and local governments will eventually have to cut staff and curtail highway maintenance. Eventually, gasoline stations will close, and state and local highway workers won’t be able to get to work. We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel and gasoline powered trucks for bridge maintenance, culvert cleaning to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, and roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, large transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables from great distances. With the highways out, there will be no food coming from far away, and without the power grid virtually nothing modern works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated building systems.


    Cliff Wirth

  2. Thanks Clifford;
    There is some debate as to whether in fact we have yet reached a peak, or if there are other factors yet to be included. Aramco is laying a pipeline to increase production from Safaniyah this year, for example. Whether that will offset the decline in other fields is one of the big questions. How much longer will Ghawar survive at their current level of production?

    And in regard to production from deep water Mexican fields, the Brazilians are starting to get oil from very deep water, and so the technology is evolving, whether the rigs will be available is another question.

  3. Hi Dave,

    Brazil may be delaying oil extraction:

    And there is that shortage of drilling equipment:

    And when the price of oil hits $500 per barrel, will the capital be there? Chris Shaw once noted me that capital is oil.

    He had some other pertinent stuff to say in other articles there.

    I wonder, when is the real EROEI reached? I estimate a lot sooner with the deepwater drilling. When the amount of oil used to produce a barrel of oil equals the amount of oil produced, it is pointless to continue oil production. In addition to the oil used on site to produce and refine oil, energy is used in all of the processes for the machinery, equipment, and personnel used in the extraction, transport, and refining processes. For deepwater oil production, this would include all of the ships, platforms, steel piping (many kilometers of pipes on-site and to onshore locations), and their employees, including the energy used in making the hundreds of thousands of parts, the energy used in the factories that make the parts, the energy used in transportation of all of the parts and employees, as well as the energy that is consumed when employees and stockholders spend their salaries or dividends on goods and services (food, automobiles, yachts, airplanes, recreation vehicles, vacations, consumer purchases, etc.). Because there are a number of confounded energy input variables, it is difficult to measure all of this consumption of energy, but it is an economic reality that is shown in corporate decisions about the profitability of deepwater oil projects. For deepwater, heavy oil, tar sands, and extraction where special techniques are used, the point at which energy consumed in production equals the energy produced will be reached rapidly. For this reason, some oil that is classified as recoverable (for example deepwater oil, heavy oil, and the Bakken formation) may never be recovered.

    There are always "other factors" at any time that can slow oil extraction.

    Do you think that global production will ever be higher than in the past?

  4. The financial collapse may have carried us through the time that an obvious peak happened, it is a little hard to tell since the true state of Saudi Arabian production is one of those unknowns. Yet even if they are able to increase production 1 mbd or more the fall in production from other fields and countries will overwhelm that before too long, and the increments that most other countries will bring to to the table will not be that much.

    The unknown in the mix is Iraq, there are too many questions as to how much more can be brought on line, and in what time frame, to be able to make an accurate forecast at the moment.