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Quest for new energy supplies is becoming tougher

Jad Mouawad, International Herald Tribune
…As global demand soars and prices climb, energy companies are going to the ends of the earth to find new supplies.

In Kazakhstan, petroleum engineers are braving wild temperature swings in the shallow waters of the Caspian Sea to tap the biggest oil discovery of the past 30 years.

They are drilling wells six miles deep in the Gulf of Mexico. And on the island of Sakhalin, in eastern Russia, they have drilled horizontal wells through miles of rock to produce oil from a stretch of ocean beset by giant icebergs.

But as the industry extends its reach, the quest is becoming more arduous. The cost of producing new oil and gas is rising fast, and companies are plagued by worsening delays. Drilling rigs are scarce. Engineers, geologists, and petroleum specialists are in critically short supply. And the politics of oil and gas are getting trickier, with hydrocarbon-rich countries demanding a bigger share of the revenues and growing angry about project delays that postpone their payments.

Industry executives say their ability to keep up with global demand is badly strained.

“We’re facing bigger risks and bigger difficulties when we go into new frontier regions,” said Odd Mosbergvik, a senior manager at the Norwegian state energy company, Statoil Hydro. “But this is why the oil industry is for big boys. It’s a big gamble.”

The industry’s new reach is shifting the economics of energy extraction. According to a recent study, discovery and development costs – a leading indicator for the industry – tripled between 1999 and 2006, to nearly $15 a barrel. Last year alone, companies spent $200 billion developing new energy projects worldwide, according to the study by two consulting firms, John Herold and Harrison Lovegrove. That sum is bigger than the economies of 147 countries.

These higher costs mean the industry needs higher energy prices to finance new projects. They are also constraining its ability to expand quickly.

“As the CEO of a major oil company told me, ‘This is an industry in crisis masked by high prices,’ ” said J. Robinson West, chairman of PFC Energy, an oil industry consulting firm in Washington. “There are no easy barrels left. The only barrels are going to be the tough barrels.”

(8 October 2007)
Contributor Jeffrey J. Brown writes:
An interesting change in tone by Jad Mouawad, with the New York Times.

I’m a fan of Jad Mouawad’s energy reporting, and am eager to see what he comes up with now that he’s becoming aware of peak oil.

Talisman’s retired contrarian picks his next fight

Eric Reguly, Globe & Mail
When other Canadian oil executives were enthralled with Alberta’s oil sands, Jim Buckee was leaping into far-flung hot spots like Sudan. When the industry was talking about virtually endless oil supplies, he was saying peak production was imminent.

He retired last month as CEO of Calgary’s Talisman Energy, one of Canada’s biggest oil producers. His job went to John Manzoni, BP’s former head of refining. Mr. Buckee, 61, talked to The Globe and Mail about his contrarian strategies and views, global warming, whether mighty Suncor will fall prey to foreign buyers and why Australia is in his future.

…Q: Do you think the world has reached peak oil production?

A: I do – we’re there or close to it. Mexico, the North Sea and possibly Ghawar [in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest conventional oil field] are all in decline. The truth is the world is producing 30 billion-plus barrels of oil a year and is finding less than 10 billion. This is the worry.

Q: If we’re close to peak oil, what is your price forecast?

A: The price has to be high enough to hurt demand. It has to be rationed by price. There is no real demand destruction yet [with oil near $80 (U.S.) a barrel]. It’ll have to be at $120 a barrel, I think, before you’ll see that.
(8 October 2007)

The coming oil crunch

Marko S. Markov, The Buffalo News (New York)
As world production peaks and then declines, the energy culture must change

It seems longer ago than it really was: gasoline prices at the pumps were half what they are now, and oil prices by the barrel were a quarter of the current price. In recent years, politicians and news media have discussed these issues – and yet the prices keep rising. Each time there’s a significant jump, oil company executives give simplistic excuses for the reasons they make $20 billion to $40 billion in profits per year.

It’s a bad enough situation. But what is rarely discussed is that in less than a decade, the issue will not be the price of gasoline – it will be whether gasoline is available at the pump at all.

The world is heading toward a “peak oil” situation. What this means is that in 2012, world consumption of oil will reach the peak capacity of existing oil resources. Available resources in the Gulf of Mexico already reached that peak in 2005.

…Recently, however, high-level government and industry reports have begun to suggest that the peak-oil theorists were far closer to the grim reality of global oil availability than industry analysts were willing to admit. Industry optimism regarding long-term energy supply prospects, these official reports indicate, has now given way to a deep-seated pessimism, even in the biggest of Big Oil corporate headquarters.

…What can we do today and tomorrow? There are a number of important things the United States should have done yesterday in order to avoid oil addiction. First, transfer energy production to nonfossil-fuel sources. Second, dramatically increase car efficiency. Third, make sure that every family and every business understands the necessity of saving energy. Fourth, forget the idea that ethanol and liquefied coal are reliable substitutes for oil. Fifth, government at each level – federal, state, county and city – must immediately start revitalizing downtown areas.
(7 October 2007)

Contributor Greg writes: Nice opinion piece on Peak Oil.

BA: Good summary. Even though this article appears in the Opinion section, there is no author named. I wonder who wrote it?

UPDATE (Oct 9). Contributor jzbarton points out that the Buffalo News had updated its page with the author’s name.

The UK Energy White Paper: An Academic Critique

Mike Pepler, The Oil Drum:Europe
On 25th September 2007, the BIEE, the UKERC and the Energy Institute held a seminar in London where they invited academics to critique the 2007 Energy White Paper.


In 2003 the UK government released the Energy White Paper 2003: Our Energy Future – Creating a Low Carbon Economy. As we all know, events in the energy world have moved fast since 2003, and faced by falling gas supplies from the North Sea and ageing nuclear power stations, the government launched another energy consultation in 2006, details of which are available online here. The result was another Energy White Paper, published in May 2007, this time with the subtitle Meeting the Energy Challenge. It seems to me that the change in the energy world over the intervening years can be seen from the change in the tone of the titles from 2003 to 2007!

The purpose of the seminar was to bring together a range of academics to give a critique of the Energy White Paper – and they certainly were critical! So, without further ado, here are the key points form the speakers, with comments from me in italics where appropriate.

The slides are available on the BIEE website here:

Mike Pepler lives in Rye, UK, and works from home for the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy ( He is also one of the founding members of PowerSwitch (, and together with his wife Tracy manages eight acres of coppice woodland near Rye.
(X October 2007)

China’s net oil imports up 18 percent

AFP via Turkish Press
China’s net imports of crude oil rose 18.1 percent in the first eight months of the year as the booming country’s voracious energy demands continued to grow, state media reported Sunday.

Net imports reached 108.2 million tonnes from January to August, Xinhua news agency said, quoting figures from the General Administration of Customs (GAC).

The world’s second-largest oil importer, China has seen its demand for energy rocket as a result of its explosive economic growth, which has been in double digits for four consecutive years.
(7 October 2007)
Contributor Bill Tamblyn writes:
We know that worldwide oil production is on a plateau, and we are told that oil consumption in oil-exporting countries is increasing. This has led some of us to conclude that net oil exports have already peaked.

If China is importing a lot more oil, who is now importing a lot less?

ODAC News – Monday 08 Oct

Douglas Low, Oil Depletion Analysis Centre
Electricity Research in the UK
1/ Low utility bills blamed for cuts in energy research (Telegraph, Sat 06 Oct)

Economy – UK and the US Dollar
2a/ Cost of loans rises as credit crunch bites (The Independent, Thu 04 Oct)
2b/ Jump off the deranged bull now (The Telegraph, Tue 02 Oct)
2c/ Dollar’s double blow from Vietnam and Qatar (The Telegraph, Thu 04 Oct)
2d/ Sub-prime borrowers face repossession (BBC News, Sat 06 Oct)

Shortage of Oil and Gas Workers
3a/ Shortage of skilled staff hits oil projects (Financial Times, Thu 04 Oct)
3b/ Shortage of engineers likely to hit projects by 2010, says study (Financial Times, Thu 04 Oct)

Fourth Quarter 2007 Oil Supplies
4/ Demand Growth Picks Up, Non-Opec Supply Set To Fly (Energy Intelligence [Energy Intelligence Briefing], Wed 03 Oct)

LNG Supplies
5/ Delays Hit Qatar’s New Gas Projects (Energy Intelligence [International Oil Daily], Thu 04 Oct)

Gas Supplies: Turkmenistan – Russia – Ukraine
6a/ The Turkmenistan – Russia – Ukraine Natural Gas Saga Comes Back To Life (Energy Intelligence, Thu 04 Oct)
6b/ Gazprom says it has deal on gas with Kiev ((Financial Times, Thu 04 Oct)

Saudi Arabia – Aluminium Smelter Development / Natural Gas Supplies
7/ Plans for Saudi’s $3bn smelter underway (Arabian Business, Thu 04 Oct)

US – Corn to Ethanol
8/ US energy policy (Financial Times, Thu 04 Oct)

Octobers issue of ‘Energy’ from Press And Journal, Scotland
9a/ Stellar Performance With Astrophysicist At The Helm (Press and Journal ‘Energy’ supplement, Mon 01 Oct)
9b/ Peak Oil 10-20 Years Away, Claims World Energy Council (Press and Journal ‘Energy’ supplement, Mon 01 Oct)
(8 October 2007)