We're In Deep Water

This is a guest post from Dave - enjoy.

It is timely now to consider deepwater oil exploration and production (E&P). ASPO has just revised its depletion model based on a re-evaluation of deepwater reserves

A detailed revision of the deepwater evaluation has been made on the basis of new information covering the world's fields, which have been modeled individually. The new evaluation suggests an ultimate recovery of about 52 Gb with a peak of 12 Mb/d in 2011...
Deepwater oil has been seen as a crucial shorter term source of conventional oil by many people, including Matt Simmons in The Urgency of Delivering Deepwater Oil.
Commenting on an Oil & Gas Journal article by Ivan Sandrea and Osama Al Buraiki (July 26, 2004) [not available online], Glenn Morton writes
Anyway there were a couple of very interesting articles in the oil rags this week. First an article by Ivan Sandrea, "Deepwater Oil Discovery Rate may have Peaked; Production peak may follow in 10 years," Oil and Gas Journal, July 26, 2004. This article pops the myth that the deepwaters of the world will save us. The article notes that 1800 deepwater exploration wells were drilled in 70 countries with about 50 billion barrels of oil discovered. But only four areas of the world's deep waters account for nearly all of this. These areas are The Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria and Angola. Angola and Nigeria have only 9.5 billion barrels of reserves (18 week's world supply), and 9.3 billion barrels (16 week's world supply) respectively. The entire 47 billion represents only about a year and nine month's world supply. We pump just shy of 30 billion barrels per year.

The article notes that discoveries (measured in the number of barrels found) peaked in the 1990s for the Big Four countries. Peak deepwater production will occur 2010 to 2011. Now, given the lack of exploration success for the past few years, the number of wells drilled in the deep water in the Gulf of Mexico has fallen from 109 in 2001 to 56 in 2003! The author notes that the technology to drill in these water depths has been around for a decade and with high profits for the oil companies, it is not technology or cash that has constrained exploration.

Note that the OGJ figure cited is 47 Gb where ASPO's revision now estimates 54 Gb. As Morton notes, the "big four" deepwater sites are the GOM, Brazil, Angola and Nigeria. A figure of 24 Gb of oil has been mentioned for offshore West Africa (the Gulf of Guinea) and given Morton's number of 18.8 for Nigeria and Angola combined, that may be a reasonable estimate considering that other areas, principally Equatorial Guinea, are not included. However, the most important point is the "[the myth that] deepwaters of the world will save us". If you're interested in details about West Africa, see Deepwater Africa reaches turning point from OGJ February 14, 2005 (warning, big pdf file).

For more information about Brazil, see Morton's Brazil, the Brightspot Dims from the Energy Bulletin. If you're interested in the Gulf of Mexico, review past bulletins from the the National Hurricane Center and the current MMS numbers ;)

A big question is, if deepwater drilling is a temporary bridge to something else, as Matt Simmons suggests, what is that going to be? Deepwater drilling for oil is a technologically challenging and cost-intensive way of extracting conventional oil. But its supply is obviously limited. People like Michael Lynch and others have put forward the slippery slope argument that because oil supply is getting tight -- or scarce? -- with respect to demand, new supplies will become plentiful soon due to high prices and technology. In the case of deepwater oil, that argument is certainly questionable.

As the lemmings continue to migrate further out along the continental shelf, with ever more costly rigs strapped to their backs, it should become apparent that the edge of the ledge is drawing near. Why do they "stay the course" and continue towards the ledge? When will they plummet over the edge? Is there no end to this madness? Are there no "alternatives"?
Why do they do this?  Simple: We still need the oil, they believe that they can make a profit from getting it (and I agree), even from these locations, so they will.

By "alternatives" do mean other places to drill for oil, or non-oil energy sources?  If you mean the first, then I'd say there no CHEAPER alternatives; we always exploit the cheapest resource first.  

If you mean the second, then of course there are alternatives, and there's a huge amount of R&D and infrastructure build-out going on right now that will support our move from oil to non-oil/non-NG generated electricity.  But we all know what a huge task that is, and we need oil in the short run.

There is indeed an end to this madness.  But this deep water madness is, in effect, helping to fuel our cure.

I don't like the environmental and political implications of the world's continued dependence on oil any more than others here.  But it's a fact we have to accept, at least in the short term, while the world figures out how to make the transition to a post-oil existence.

The bigger point is that we humans continue to invest our scarce and limited economic resources into building short term solutions that have no future. This si the madness of the Adam Smith religion. There is a short term "profit" for those who build the Mad Max machinery. The cost of this suicidal march toward the cliff is dumped on the larger herd (i.e. global warming, bypassed long term solutions).
In reply to step back's comment...

Morgan Stanley's Global Economic Forum has an interesting summary of "optimists vs. pessimists" by Robert Alan Feldman in the Oct. 7 issue (http://www.morganstanley.com/GEFdata/digests/latest-digest.html) (if you view this after the next issue is posted, you'll have to click on Archive and click on Oct. 7).

This is a good example of Peak Oil reality starting to filter into the invisible-hand-challenged economist community. Only a trickle, not yet a reliable stream, but hey, it's a start.

And further down, you can find a piece by Stephen Jen on Asian central banks and gold. Peak Oil and gold mentioned on the same day? I think that's a first for Morgan Stanley...

Great link BalticMan.

That is a great assessment of pessimistic and optimistic viewpoints and their outcomes.  I noticed two things from the article.  1) the pessimistic view point is more likely correct for more of the concern areas.  2) there should be coordinated investment into alternatives because the only downside (if the peak doesn't arrive soon) is some loss of efficiency that could be absorbed in a growing economy.  The article tends to summarize the many discussions here on TOD, with a conclusion that we should be encouraging heavily investment into alternatives (not just fossil fuels) at a national level.

Wasn't Morgan Stanley the one who predicted $105/bbl?

For readers who link into the above article, the Feldman story is about halfway down, below the long taled story about how Greenspan swept his dung under the carpet. Feldman states at one of his headings that "Energy is energy is energy".

I'm sure I won't be the first to point our how wrong-headed that econo-babble is. Trouble is that too many economists never studied chemistry and physics and other hard sciences. Economics is mostly a fantasy math game that selectively ignores real world observations.


Goldman Sachs actually.
I agree, step back, much of what passes as academic economics sounds like babble to me. But the Morgan Stanley piece (and other pieces like it that have only recently begun to appear) suggest to me that maybe, just maybe, the "mainstream" financial community is starting to acknowledge just how difficult our energy position is. As Dave's original post shows (yes, I wanted to tie back into the thread somehow!), deepwater is going to be less productive than many now expect. If the "mainstream" financial community is now taking a baby step toward investing in the energy complex (and not just speculating on an oil price spike), that might become important.

55 more baby steps, and maybe we'll be on our way to some of the solutions that are being discussed on this thread and others. Waking up Joe Sixpack to peak oil is important, but getting the finance people to see the oil industry as something other than just another severely-cyclical commodity industry is also a big part of the solution, too.

Econo-talk is not just "babble" (refering to Biblical origin of word from the Towers of Babble), it is psycho-babble; meaning that the words used by the high priests of economics are mesmerizing and pull one into a hypnotic state where one loses all sense of what might be fair or out of balance.

Take the word "commodity" (please).

Oil is considered a "commodity".

What does that mean?

from Webster online: http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=commodity
Definition number "c": a mass-produced unspecialized product <commodity chemicals> <commodity memory chips>

That does not give the full picture though. Pork bellies are commodities. There is an unlimited amount of "pork" that can be created in this country. To equate "oil" with "pork" and with "commodities" in general creates a false hypnotic perception.

Readers of TOD know that "pork" does not make the world go round in the same way that "oil" makes it spin. Airplanes do not fly on pork power. A generic commodity trader would not know that. One commodity is basically like the next. That is what "commodity" means. It's fungible. It's interchangeable. One is like the next. Makes no difference which slice of the lot the buyer gets. It's all indistinguishable.

That's how the financial community "thinks".

So, for us to convince "them" that crude oil is a special case, would take a lot of hard hard work.

The main problem with economics is the time value of money. It emphasizes current consumption over long term survival. Long term survival of the human species and in fact, the survival of the planet gets discounted away. the higher the interest rate, the more short term the planning horizon. Thus no thought is given as to what results current actions will have in the long term. The assumption, no, I should say the core of economic modeling is that status quo will continue for the term of the planning horizon) thus for the long term, we are always doing "too little, a little bit too late."
A fundamental principle of the Adam Smith religion is that each person behaves according to his/her own selfish interests. For simplicity, let us assume each person starts working at age 25 (post college) and lives to age 75.

Death is, of course, the personal event horizon. So as the individual makes financial decisions throughout his/her work life, the time left for selfishly reaping the rewards (profits) of investment is 50 years minus years_worked-already.

Therfore, as one gets older, and presumably wiser and more productive, and also more senior in society's decison making hierarchy; the "vision" of future time gets shorter and shorter.

Is it any wonder that Alan Greenspan does not give too many wise owl hoots about what will happen to America because of the huge debt acquired. It's not going to be "his" problem.

The problem (if indeed it is a problem) is not with economics but with how people behave and how easy it is to model.  As you say, the higher the interest rate, the shorter the planning horizon. The fact that people living in an economy with hyper-inflation find it difficult to plan for their retirement is not because they are short-sighted but because it's hard figure out what is going to happen in the next year, let alone 20 years out.

I agree that economic models do not do a good job of modeling the non-linearities and discontinuities that can happen over the long term.  But that is because it is hard to do.  It's like blaming physics and engineering for us not having fusion power; it's just hard.

I both agree and disagree. Modeling human behavior can be hard yes. It requires making huge set of assumptions which may or may not be valid for a certain economic structure.

But I strongly disagree with the approach taken by economists. The mainstream of this pseudoscience is making their assumptions, building their models and is trying to fit the reality to their models. Worse of all - if their models fit some particular situation or event they take this as a proof that the model works. But if it does not fit - then they do not challenge their assumptions but attribute it to the profoundly meaningless word "externalities". When everything goes OK those externalities can easily be ignored... but if something really begins to mess up the real world slowly begins to abandon the economist fantasy world. Eventually if we experience an economic implosion, everything will become an externality.

Fisher-Tropsch and thermal depolymerisation processes can convert pigs and their manure into aviation fuel. It would be more efficient to convert corn stover to fuel but any carbohydrate source can be used.
Step Back,
I wouldn't be so hard on economics and economists.  Most economists are doing the best they can and I believe they have some good models and concepts about how scarce resources get allocated.  The key thing to realise is that their models are necessarily incomplete and in many cases even wrong.  Unfortunately, we do not have anything better until the selfsame economists improve them.  Many who believe they have better models have paid the price by following disastrous policies (e.g. resulting in hyper-inflation).

BTW, Amos Web seems to be a great site.

Economists are too quick to jump to conclusions. Their judgments are therefore highly suspect.

Let's take the Amos-Web site as an example.
More specifically, this article:

The author writes:

To perpetuate our lives, we must (let me reiterate MUST) make use of our planet's natural resources. We MUST cut down trees, bust the sod with tractors, suck oil from the ground, bull-doze an occasional mountain, slaughter some cows, and yes, use quagliminium. Our natural environment can not remain in it's pristine, natural state as long as we're on the planet.

"Must" means there is no alternative. How does this economist justify using the word "must"? He doesn't. He assumes it to be a self-evident truth.

Economists are hypnotized by their own self-aggrandizement. They claim they have a science. Far from it.

I would agree that some economists sometimes say things or make assumptions that may not withstand scrutiny.  I must say though, that I do agree with the author you quote. The statement does not exclude the sustainable use of resources.  We MUST make use of natural resources because I do not like the alternatives; a much lower standard of living imposed by force or a die-off.   Even if one can devise an economy that can sustain 6-10 billion people using renewable resources only, I do not believe we can get there from here without continuing to consume non-renewable resources.

Yes, economics is not as hard a science as physics for example.  However, if we convince ourselves that economics is all wrong, we open the door for creationist-type faith-based theories which, I can assure you, are out there in the fringes.

thanks for the interesting link, BalticMan.

some scary/dismal quotes:

"Few candidates in US elections dare to propose higher gasoline taxes. The unfortunate conclusion is that changes in energy policy will require a crisis large enough to give politicians cover. Even 9/11 in the US did not have this result. Advantage pessimists."

it seems they feel a immense crisis will be necessary to have significant energy policy changes.  similar to what most PO'ers believe.

"First, either the optimists are right or wrong. Second, either the world invests in technology/exploration, or it does not. So there are four combinations. (1) Optimists right/Few investments:  Civilization is safe, with little waste. (2) Optimists right/Big investments:  Civilization is safe, but has wasted some resources. (3) Optimists wrong/Few investments:  Civilization is NOT safe. (4) Optimists wrong/Big investments:  Civilization safe, but not as rich as if oil were unlimited. For a policymaker, it is better to spur the investments, because the worst possible outcome is a bit of waste. This waste can likely be absorbed by economic growth."

it's rather disturbing for Morgan Stanley to entertain the notion that Civilization might NOT be safe.  and what does that mean anyway?  even a depression doesn't imply civilization will self-destruct.  maybe what they mean is there will be great turmoil and destruction, as has always happened in history.  welcome to reality.

p.s. the post on gold was quite informative.  i didn't realize that gold would have to be $930/ounce to cancel inflation from 1983-present.  but that makes sense, since it didn't appreciate much during those years.  so it's more of a currency risk neutralizer than an inflation hedge.  

Unfortunately the responses are systemic rather than individual.  The accountants conclude that the rig is worth the money in terms of ROI therefor the rig gets financed and built.  No committee of powerful wise men intervenes because that committee doesn't exist.  Human systems are rarely adaptive by design.

Railing against these systems is about as effective as railing against the weather, more's the pity.

There are many aspects to the current predicament.  I went to grade school in the fifties and I remember the teachers telling us that within thirty years nuclear energy would be so cheap there would be no need for meters.  I believe a whole generation was basically brainwashed into believing science and technology would produce a timely substitute for hydrocarbons.

Of course that didn't happen.  The problem is that nuclear energy and then fusion were our plans B and C.  We didn't think it necessary to have a plan D.

So, long ago we bet on the future of two energy technologies that haven't panned out.  Nuclear could still be a viable option if the pebble bed reactors are as safe as I've read.  I'm no expert on that so consider it hearsay.

At this point I think we should pour more money into nuclear vs: oil if that choice can be made.  I believe the chances of developing a long-lived, high capacity, quickly charged battery in the next few years are good.  Whether those batteries can be manufactured economically is a big unknown.  If we can win that bet then nuclear becomes immensely attractive.

A nasty energy shock will focus the country's attention on the need for a reliable supplies.  The destruction of Gulf production may be a blessing in disguise if we assume that the wells themselves are still intact.  But only if the system can respond appropriately.  That's a big if.

I for one, do not propose we should "rail" to the existing private sector. I totally agree with you that such tactics are like yelling at the wind. The private sector moves only in response to the promise of short-term, astronomical Returns on Investment (High-ROI in the next 5 years or less).

No. What we need is for our political institutions (aka Congress) to wake up and smell the edge of the ledge.

So far, only Republican Congressman Bartlett is "getting it". Kudos to him. The rest of the politicians (i.e. ex-Pres Clinton included) do not want to risk their behinds on a non-voting issue. The public does not yet see the energy crisis as a "voting issue". We need to make it a "voting issue".

Link to Clinton / Ted Turner discussion:

Discussion of "voting issues":

The real nature is this, there is an extremely viable alternative to Fossil Fuels, and it's Natural and Organic and can be produced in any needed quantity.

As for timeframe, this alternative could be implemented and actually bring product to market in less than 2 years. Even less if the existing refineries can be modified to use this new feedstock. And all the while reducing pollution by over 80% and its 100% Domestically Produced. And one more thing, with proper usage this resource could last forever, can ANY other natural energy resource besides Solar and Wind say that?

Thing is, none of this matters until the public and the greedy corporations understand the true nature of this problem and work together to implement a TRUE solution. Until then, I hope everyone enjoys breathing toxic pollution.

" ... and can be produced in any needed quantity."

This cannot be right. Our planet Earth is a sphere of finite volume and finite surface area (V= 4/3 * pi * R^3 ). It is not rational to assert that something can be produced in "any" quantity. On Energy Bulletin today, Saudi's are admitting oil will peak. They are saying year 2015 and 95 mbd per day globally.

Lou-I agree with your key points. Saudi is a clear example, moving from cheap, one-stop-shopping Ghawar crude to expensive drilling in distant deserts and offshore. It's rational economic behaviour.

I know you believe that pricing will kick us into the future. I'm thinking it will be a pretty hard kicking.

Investment in renewables and nuclear may be huge, but it's a fraction of what is really needed. I can't see it offsetting decline rates except in a few nuclear-heavy places like France or Japan. And more electricity (or, more accurately, less decline in electricity output) doesn't solve current transportation issues anywhere.

I agree we have to accept oil dependence for quite a long time to come. My worry is that the world is not figuring out how to make the transition. Since you like literary allusions, we can look back to Aesop's Fables. We need to be behaving like the ant, wisely preparing for the winter. Instead, we're acting like the grasshopper, and imbibing as long as there's a glass of crude left to drink.

Great post, Dave.

Think about the GoM. THere is tremendous infrastructure already in place (pipelines, hubs, etc. The march to deeper water has been going on sice the first offshore well was drilled.

The main reasons this is occuring in the GoM and not other parts of the world (until recently) are:

Proximity to world class infrastructure
Access to world class equipment
Access to world class capital
Access to world class human resources
Proximity to the center of the drilling R&D efforts in the world.

The GoM has always been the test case for new technologies. Once technology is proven in the GoM, it is then used around the world. Deepwater Africa is a perfect example of this.

Brazil has also been a leader in this field.

I'd like to wade in from the shallow water.

Two words that I think should be in the forefront of our minds contemplating the peak oil dilemma, and our responses to it. RENEWABLE and SUSTAINABLE. Oil is in the lifetime of our civilisation, non renewable. The fact that we have picked the easy fruit (cheap), and now are out there floundering around in 2km of water (expensive) looking for a fix has got to say something. We are chewing through our capital, not living from the interest. Deep water is the equivelent of opening a safety deposit box. How many more to go ? Who was it that said earlier this year,  "We used up the one dollar oil first" If we come to rely on deep water for most of our conventional oil, then the end really is not too far away.  How long before we have to start using up the 200 dollar oil or perhaps the 1000 dollar oil ?

As the percentage of deep water, arctic, unconventional oil increases in our mix, we should be moving faster and faster towards a sustainable way of life. Right now not even our most basic foodstuffs are not produced in a sustainable manner, we rely on nonrenewable resources to produce them.

It is entirely possible that a lot of oil will come from deep water but at great cost, and some fearsome risks, all of which we will pay for firstly at the petrol pump and eventually with our lifestyles.

Great post Dave.

Matching numbers with expectations is highlighting a disconnect.  Clearly value in offshore reserves, but not enough to save us from decline on land.

I keep hearing that we haven't explored many coastal regions due to political reasons. I wonder how much truth there is to that assertion. I think it's plausible that there is still some low hanging fruit available, though we aren't like to find anything on the scale of Saudi Arabia at this point. So far as we know Russia and Saudi Arabia haven't peaked, nor do we know when they will. I don't think they are as far from peak as the optimists would suggest, yet every new find delays us just a bit.

Strictly speaking I don't believe global production will follow a logistic curve. There are too many variables in world politics and economics. Though I do believe the basic theory of depletion is sound, I think world peak will play out in a different way. I think we'll have more of a bumpy plateau for a few years. We will peak, but I've been thinking for a while now that a lot of people won't realize what happened until we're more clearly on the down slope.

The big problem is reliable numbers and the uncertainty when dealing with large projects. We've been told that the geologists know where all the oil is, but I really don't believe that they know where ALL of it is. I imagine there's a lot of coastline which we don't have a complete picture of yet. It may not be a lot compared to SA, but it could make a difference in the projections. I think there is enough of an unknown percentage, that we may find ourselves "strung along" for a while. Just when we think we're hitting peak, we'll find a bit more or there will be some supply disruptions that cloud the picture.

I'd like to hear EVIDENCE about how well the coastlines have really been explored worldwide. If I'm wrong, I can accept that.

You are correct. Florida is currently off limits (as is the Eastern GoM). California is off limits (except for some grandfathered platforms and artificial islands in Long Beach Harbor). Majority of the east coast is off limits. Virginia is currently fighting this as they want to decide their own fate. And drill.

They are directional driling from land to offshore targets California right now. And directional drilling has extended the life of the grandfathered platforms, which otherwise would have been dismantled by now given their original reserves are for the most part depleted.

I think J posted on this at the old TOD site this year. Basically they (oil Companies) have been everywhere except Antarctica using aerial gravity surveys, then subsurface topography, following with towed seismic. Every coast, every ocean. These guys have to know where it is in order to grab the right lease when it is offered. Every country with a coastline wants them to find oil due to the economic windfall it brings, so most countries promote their offshore actively. I am sure there are smaller fields there which can be drilled up, but the possibility of another "elephant" suddenly appearing is all but gone.
At the risk of setting off the conspiracy theorists, may I point out that we have a large number of nuclear powered submarines with very, very, very good sonar rigs?

I'm not saying we built all those attack subs for any other reason than first strike capability (they are ostensibly designed to follow Russian boomers around to sink them before they launch nuclear missiles at America), but they can be used now to search for geological structures (pressure waves only, so no direct hydrocarbon indicators like using bright spot technology) if they haven't already been used for that.

I wonder how the USGS got those numbers for the oil reserve they were asserting for the Arctic continental shelves.

Of course, the ice has to melt first! Pray for global warming that doesn't involve the conveyer belt shutting down the Gulf Stream pumping heat up into the Arctic?

This is a great idea, nice lateral thinking. Swords into ploughshares. Can it really work, technically?
I think you have to use different sonar arrays. Most oil people use a set of parallel towed lines of acoustic receivers. I don't know what subs use. Subs can tow stuff under water and specifically under ice, but their tow connectors may not be able to handle the weight of conventional sonar arrays.
It's sort of like towing something behind your car. You need to install a tow hitch. Installing a bigger tow hitch on a nuclear sub would have been, or will be, expensive.
Won't they have to revise the deep water peak date because of rig replacement demand due to hurricanes and production is already backed up several(?) years?
That's an important point. Rig makers were booked out to 2008 or beyond, before repairing Katrina damage, and before working on refurbishment or replacement of the many old rigs now due for replacement. We may have the oil, but not the infrastructure to get it out.
So in a previous thread, you were angry at the van Mourik statement about deepwater drilling. I presume you were most annoyed at his assessment that there's only 5 billion barrels, since ASPO says that there are are actually 52Gb? OK, I can see why that's annoying, but ultimately, aren't van Mourik and Morton really saying the same thing? Your own conclusion here is that deepwater oil doesn't seem to be the supply that will swoop in and save us.  
Ianqui -- there is a big difference between 5 and 54 Gb. The larger issue for me is that peak oilers should not exaggerate the numbers to make their case. There's no need to do that, things are bad enough.
Hi Stuart how are you doing?

It seems to me that deep-water petroleum must be expenseive to pump. Either a crude oil-powered pump resides on the ocean floor cutting into total production or a electricity is sent down at great expense. In either case the net energy loss must be significant. The fantastic and off-quoted EROEIs of 100:1 from early Texas gushers are probably a function of oil-resevoir pressure and proximity to surface. Subsequent declines to current 10:1 or even 3:1 are probably (at least in part) a function of increased depth.

It's apparent that such costs are often hidden by current cheap-petroleum infrastructure. This is evinced in other non-conventional liquid fuel schemes like tar sands, shale oil, biofuels, etc. In another words tar-sands mining equipment is fueled and built with today's cheap gasoline. It is doubtful that the scheme would be cost-effective without these and government subsidies.

In a similar vein only Pimentel measures the kcal cost to generate steam, build stainless steel fermenters, pump water, etc. to make ethanol from corn. Even if the agriculture energy return is marginally positive, the net return is not.

It would be an interesting exercise to derive the pumping costs for deep-water petroleum.


Yes, but we humans are prepared to pay a lot for portable energy, even for sources with negative EROEI. Evidence #1: disposable batteries. Is this sustainable? Hell no. But it is economic.
You are talking about an energy storage device like hydrogen in a fuel cell. Only original energies solar (photons, weather, ocean currents, and fossil fuels) and uranium would reasonably be measured this way.
It is only very recent that subsea pumps have become practical. Brazil is ahead of the game in this repsect.

For most wells, formation pressure provides sufficient motive force to get the oil and gas through a pipe and to a platform where oil/sand/water/gas separation takes place. It is here where the gas and oil are boosted for transportation onshore.

THe pumps and compresors (or in many cases the platform generators) run off the well stream itself.

Hi Peter :-)
Your thoughtful analysis is incorrect. Wrong. The majority of offshore wells are produced at wellhead pressure. Which is sufficient to get the oil and gas to the platform/processing facility. We know the reservoir pressures and temperatures from our exploratory drilling which discovered this field. We plan our facilities and equipment around these parameters.

A crude oil powered subsea pump? Really? Sorry pstarr, not in your or my lifetime. That is an absurdity of thought. And it shows me your understanding of offshore realities. Little.

Norway has experimented with subsea pumps for a while but they are for the most part expensive exercises in technology. Brazil has only very recently succeeded in testing and applying a subsea pump. A multiphase one at that. $20m per. But it is working.

You can consider this application secondary recovery. By putting a pump (electrically driven by cable from the platform) on the well, you lower the back pressure on the well. You induce flow. Which extends well life and productivity.


Unfortunately, when you have to work for a living, blogging becomes a "when you can get around to it" hobby.  Consequently my blog is about a week out of date.  However, I wrote about this here a few weeks ago.  

Trust me on this.  Deep water is over.  Just waiting for the fat lady.

Over? Really! Given the projects I've delivered over the past five years, and continued successful exploration, I have to disagree. The number of deepwater projects in the GoM in the pipeline is significant.
First of all, tell me about the continued successful exploration because that is not what I see.  Secondly, you didn't read my post which states that lots of deepwater projects, already in the pipeline, will be coming on between now and 2010 (Angola, Nigeria, GOM, Brazil, Malaysia, etc.)  However, I have not seen a "yet to find" analysis yet that suggests that a there is a significant remaining volume that has not already been found.  In terms of peak oil, the deep water production wedge, as it is currently forecast and understood, may delay peak oil for 2-3 years but not much more.
Bubba, my apologies. I didn't see your excellent blog "Deep Water Basins Will Save Us" (linked in above) and would have referenced it had I seen it. Everybody should take a look. best,
If oil is moving more and more offshore, then one of the lessons of Hurricane Katrina and Rita may be that we need a much larger strategic petroleum reserve to cover the greater risk of weather events disrupting supply.

And even terrorists now get the picture more clearly than ever that America's oil supply is vulnerable.

Currently, the strategic oil reserve, as of August, seems to be 700 million barrels. (Curiously, I see numbers as low as 600 million barrels, as high as 800 million barrels, with 750 million being the most common number.) Bush has talked about raising the reserves to 1000 million barrels of oil. Senator Durbin, by the way, has talked about creating a separate gasoline reserve (which probably would be a great deal smaller).

To really protect ourselves against energy disruptions, perhaps we need to raise the reserve to 1500 million barrels? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of substantially increasing the reserves over the next one to five years? (I suppose the advantages and disadvantages might vary depending on when Peak Oil actual hits.) And is the current system adequate or does it need to be changed to be more free from political manipulation?

Politicians will lead in the only way possible, from the rear; those that get too far in front of the herd cease to be politicians - does anybody remember Al Gore?  A recent survey shows the public is still against nuclear power. The republican congress was bold enough to vote to take licensing of LNG terminals away from locals, but is certainly not ready to mandate nukes, even though many writers suggest this is the only (global warming correct) way to replace at least some oil for at least some time.

The public mind is quite changeable, and without any tv advertising. However, and as opposed to citizens of hydrocarbon-deficient France and Japan, US citizens still feel they have the luxury of ignoring global warming and staying the course with (still) cheap oil.

The definition of cheap is, I can afford it and still more or less maintain my life style. When this is no longer so, oil will be expensive and the public will clamor for alternatives. On the plus side, we might be close to expensive oil, maybe 100 is the threshold. Whatever the number, when it comes politicians will come alive and begin to throw money at solutions.

I was reading the article on deep water drilling. What kind of price per barrel can we expect from a deep water rig? Is it fair to say that if the cost between shallow and deep is 10 times as much, then a comparitive ratio would show oil price per barrel $60 to go to $600?
Bear in mind of costs overruns, and the price may be $1.5b easily, then there will be hurricane evacuations  for the workers several times throughout the hurricane season.  

this was taken from the article:

{For all these reasons, the cost of developing
a single deep water field can
exceed $1 billion, with costs likely to
increase as operations are conducted in
even deeper waters. Compare this to
the cost of a typical shallow Gulf
development (100 feet of water, 10,000
foot wells) at $100 million, and you
can appreciate the cost of addressing
the challenges of deep water.}


It seems to me we are at ramming speed, headed for a brickwall. Damn the torpedo's. Full steam ahead!

It's all about economies of scale.  Big oil companies have had to move into the deep water to find the big volumes they need to keep their companies viable.  The costs are what they are, but lets keep things in perspective. Shell and the other major oil companies started developements in the deepwater in the late '80s and early '90s whent the price of oil was below $20/bbl.  They would not have made those investments if they did not expect a substantial profit.

Think of it this way.  A typical deepwater project will contain 250 million to over a billion barrels of oil.  The cost of one of these project (up front capital) is 2-5 billion dollars, so the cost per barrel runs from 2 to over $10/bbl but not much more or the economics don't work.

Oh I see. thanks

what i did find is a map of the deepwater discoveries by year, from 1975 to 2005. A few maps included, showing how deep and how much.



Very good find.

Figure 15a seems to show that shallow water production is in a slow decline. Is that true?

I know zero about subsea geology. Is there a limit on how far out (and how deep) we can go in search of hydrocarbon traps? In other words, is the whole ocean floor fair game, or are there funadamental limits to where next significant finds may be found?


Campbell does not give high hopes to deepwater:

Transocean operations map:

If you go out to the spreading centers in the middle of each ocean there is no sediment (or a very thin veneer).  Also, the further away from the continental edge you go the more fine grained the sediment is.  Mostly in the deep water ocean basins there is a dearth of reservoir quality sediment (permeable sand and sandstones). The only places where geologists expect to find deep water accumulations of oil are outboard of the mouths of major coarse clastic sediment delivery systems - i.e. major river system deltas.  That is why most of the big deepwater basins are outboard of the Mississippi, the Niger, the Congo, the Nile (to a lesser degree).  The Amazon has been a major disappointment.  Brazil's Campos Basin's sediment delivery system is a little different.

For there to be an oil you need charge also.  Charge requires the existence of a source rock (unless you are a believer in the abiotic theory of oil generation- which I am not)which has significant organic carbon content to source a significant quantity of oil.  Also you need to get the source sediment matured through the application of heat.  This usually requires significant burial.  Out on the abyssal plain the sediment veneer is thin, and it sits on oceanic crust that is cooler than continental crust.  Usually the combination of these conditions prevent the maturation of any kerogen in the system.

The final thing you need for an accumulation of hydrocarbons (in addition to reservoir and charge) is a trap.  This usually is created by deforming the reservoir quality (and seal) sediments into folded configurations and faulted blocks through many different types of subsurface processes (with a combination of gravity movements, diapirism, and plate tectonics causing most of this deformation).  To a large degree, most of the deep ocean basins are covered by flat-lying, un-deformed sediment. No obvious traps exist in these sediments.

So that is three strikes against the expectation of hydrocarbon accumulations throughout much of the deep water ocean basins - no traps, no reservoirs, and no charge.  For most explorationists, who are by nature optimistic people, those kind of facts arrayed against you just cause you to hang your head and walk away.

Is there a simple graphic web site that a lay person can refer to for understanding these factors you mention: (1) pre-historic existence of a hydrocarbon "charge"; (2) presence of right temperature-pressure profile over history for converting the "charge" into crude; (3) presence of a geological "trap" and (4) presence of sediment of the right porosity for collecting the converted and trapped charge?


This was very enlightening.

It takes the credibility out from under those who argue we can "explore" all over the globe and we have yet begun to explore.

here is one basic graphic site I found

I don't have time to look for a website right this minute, but if you want to invest in a book, Charles Conaway's "The Petroleum Industy: A non-technical guide" is pretty readable.
This is pretty basic, but you can check out the various links about reservoirs, traps, etc.



Thank you !!! Not only from me but also from all other readers of TOD who are not in the oil business.

A picture is worth 1000's of words.
For those who go to site #2, at the top there is a place where you can click and download the giant power point presentation (25 Mbytes --it's going to take some waiting time even with a high speed connection)

Slide #16 brings to life much of what HO had been describing.

Slide #6 shows the steps of generation, accumulation, trapping and tapping. --a good one

Slide #2 shows offshore exploration

Thanks again

I am no expert, not even in the oil & gas industry, but from a laymans point of view, i'd say slow decline. And by looking at the deepwater production, i'd say it's also going down too. But what does that mean? Maybe if they had more deepwater rigs, production would be better? perhaps, move to another field and explore? No guarantees. I am sure the company engineers and scientist know where to look.
Maybe someone here knows more.
The closest I get to exploring for oil, is looking on the garage floor for engine leaks!
Just thought I'd post this excerpt from the washington post 04Aug2005. I can't remember how i found it , but here it is!

Aurora, Ill.: There are some people who say deep well drilling will provide the oil we need and cite several wells in Russia that are designed for deep drilling. I don't think the flow rate or the quality from those wells is really going to help us, but I'm curious as to what you tell people when they talk about deep drilling?

Matthew Simmons: There are two elements of deep drilling that get bandied about-first is deep water oil, and second is deep formation oil (lower depths in the earth), and then there's the combination. What's interesting is from what we know of these virgin areas is that they are very expensive to drill, the expiration risk is very high (about 1 in 5 to 1 in 8 seem to work) and then most of the production, once it comes into stream, rapidly goes into decline. For example in the Gulf of Mexico where you have deep water oil being produced also from deep formations, once they come onstream they tend to peak within 18 months and they tend to decline by as much as 70-80% in a 5-7 year period of time, so it's hard to envision that we could ever find enough of these to sustain an offset when Saudi Arabia's production goes into decline.



Some one earlier in a post said basically, if we get this far out ......the fat lady has sung.

As I commented above, there are limits in the ocean to where accumulations of oil can be found.  This is the "deep water oil" that Simmons is discussing.  Moreover, there are also limits to what he calls "deep formation oil".  

There are three things that limit the possibility how deep in the earth one can drill to find oil (actually 4 but one is economics which changes with the price of oil).  These three are 1) thelack of reservoir quality rock, 2) the ground being too hot for liquid hydrocarbons, and 3) the source rock being completed "cooked out".

Let me explain.  The problems all have to do with the combination of heat and pressure inside the earth.  Depending on where one is on the earth and what the local heat gradient is, somewhere between 2 and 5 miles below the surface of the earth one will not find free-flowing accumulations of oil.  This is because 1) all of the holes in the sediment which holds the oil (pores) have been squeezed into oblivion.  Even if porosity still exists (think holes in a sponge), the pore throats have been constricted (connections between holes) and the oil can't flow anywhere.  This process is both a function of pressure and temperature, and it involves both physical and chemical changes with the reservoir sediment itself.  

At great enough depths the pores and pore throats become too constricted for even gas to flow through it.  In South Texas, a major gas producing area, this occurs between 17,000 ft and 21,000 ft below the surface of the earth.

  1. At a certain depth it gets too hot for liquid hydrocarbons to exist.  Chemical bonds are broken and hydrocarbons break down into smaller molecules leaving creating natural gas and leaving behind coke (assuming a dearth of hydrogen).  At even greater depths and higher temperatures the gas itself will be coked.

  2. Unless an acculation was formed fairly shallow then buried to great depth it won't be found at depth period.  This is because the kerogen-rich sediment, which is, by necessity, the mother of the oil, will have liberated all of its hydrocarbons at shallower depths as it too is buried.  The source gets "cooked out" and all the hydrocarbons start to migrate to shallower and shallower depths until they are trapped.

So those are the reasons why drilling deeper won't get it done either.
I think the exact year of PO is very close to irrelevant. If you redefine PO as peak oil per capita, we peaked back in 1978.

Ever since then the world economy has lived on restructuring itself away from oil to efficiency plus other energy sources. The real critical point will be when the rate of restructuring (which has its own logistic curve) becomes lower then the rate of oil decline -> oil scarcity and economic contraction. This is already happening but we'll have several years provided by the "soft demand" dropping before we feel it.

In this course of thoughts I'm astonished by the "anti-peak" oil hilarious joy when some people say "Well you moved PO from 2007 to 2010, then you'll move it to 2015 and then 2020 etc." Why is a single year so important? The projected PO in 2010 is at 32 GB per year. This is almost flat out with the current 31 GB per year. How good does it do in "saving the world"?