Gas fields also deplete, but faster

One of the side benefits of attending the World Oil meeting in Denver last week was that I could pick up a few of the DVD's that Global Public Media had available including a long interview with Colin Campbell.  Watching the first half of that tonight, I was reminded by him, that while we are discussing the depletion rates for oil, the more critical one for immediate attention is that for natural gas.

When one taps an oil reservoir the oil requires a certain amount of differential pressure to push it towards the well, and with the passages it must pass being generally narrow, flow is relatively constricted.  Good well management means that, in order to control water and gas problems, the pressure difference between the well and the rock is carefully controlled, and this allows the oil to be effectively recovered at rates which, while worryingly increasing, are still generally considered to be less than 10%..

Natural gas, on the other hand, flows a lot more easily, and normally does not have a lot of the constraints that producing oil has.  Thus, if your pipeline can handle the flow, and there is a demand, the gas field can be drained much more rapidly, with a consequent dramatically more rapid conclusion to the flow.  As Dr Campbell pointed out fields may last just months, and then "boom" they are gone.  

(The EIA point out that in 1970 gas well depletion rates were 20%, and by 1996 had reached 49%.
the average production from natural gas wells that began producing in 1996 was 69 percent lower than it had been at its peak. In contrast, the decline in production over the 23 months after wells drilled in 1972 had reached their peak production was only 39 percent.
Alan Greenspan in his testimony in 2003 pointed out that as more tight sands were produced the rate of decline was reduced, because of slower flow and this brought the average back to 27%.  

There is a natural gas primer that, as well as quoting Charlie Brister, also points out that for the average new Texas well, the first year decline in production is 56% and that half the gas in the well is produced in the first two years. It was written in 2001.

 More recently Dominion points out that depletion rates are up to 28% with it taking between 6 and 18 months to get a new well production to market.   There is a case study from the Maui field in New Zealand

Production this year (2004) was 21.6% less than the 2003. Production in 2003 was 33.5% less than in 2002. In 2002 the Maui natural gas field produced a volume of gas higher than it ever had in its past.
.  The article notes that the gas from this field provides 25% of New Zealand electric power. The field is now apparently anticipated to be completely closed by 2007.

It is this unwelcome fact that means that the major efforts to drill for more gas production will be no longer be able to keep up with losses, as we discussed earlier.  But then if we think it is bad here, the graph that civ101 posted on UK gas production shows where this is all heading, rather rapidly I am afraid.

I suppose a real great business venture would be recycling plastics. I would also prompt all TOD readers to demand rules for the mandatory recycling of ALL plastic products and banning the use of plastic bags at grocers, retailers and all other businesses as they are no longer a need.
Reducing plastic use is certainly a good long as it doesn't vastly increase use of other fossil fuel dependant products.  For example, it turns out that in the paper versus plastic grocery bag debate, plastic wins.  But that's a silly debate because cloth bags or plastic bins are so much better than both.

But plastic use (as it pertains to peak oil) is such a small contributer compared to transportation fuel use.  It seems a waste of mental energy to worry about paper versus plastic at the grocery store, and then put everything in the trunk of your car and drive back to your natural gas heated and electrified home.

Of course, every little bit helps.

Plastic bags are made from NG, thus my comment. Certainly, the expandable cotton mesh bags that are quite strong and hold far more than thought are best; they are what I use.
I've been using the same woven-plastic bulk bags for almost twenty years! They're kind of cruddy looking, but my gosh what a fabulous use for plastic. I've saved hundreds if not thousands of paper bags and plastic bags by simply remembering to bring the old clunky woven-plastic bags to the store with me.
A big part of the N. gas depletion rates is the amount of gas needed to extrct that harder and harder to reach oil.  Do you know if worldwide gas production numbers include gas used to get oil out of the ground?  I have a feeling our gas shortage is partly caused by tar sands production in Canada.  If it takes 1 unit of energy to get 3 units, from tar sand production, I can just image how much N. Gas is being used on a daily basis.
My understanding is that the gas used to pressurize the oil-bearing sands (or any low pressure reservoir) is not lost. It can be re-injected back as part of the recovery process and is there after all liquids have been produced.  

So using natural gas this way is not a bad idea since it is used twice: once for extracting liquid hydrocarbons and finally as a fuel after all liquids are gone.  

Is this correct?

why use NG for this? it would be more economical to use any other gas.
no you are incorrect.

To get oil from tar sands requires steam and heat to melt the tar and loosen it fron the source rock. The natural gas is used to create this steam.

You are thinking of other types of oil fields where gas (usually CO2 if i'm not mistaken) is injected in much the same way water is to push the flowing oil toward a recovery well. But this doesn't work for oil sand because the oil trapped in the sand is too thick to flow at all.

The report I read is that it takes 2 boe of gas to produce 3 boe of oil from the tar sands. Because they are running out of the stranded gas, and because Canada is in violation of their Kyoto agreement, there is serious talk of building nukes to provide the heat and electric power to extract oil.
It seems like a lot of people are in violation of their Kyoto treaties, UK included. Perhaps sustainable/ecologically conscious growth will prove to be the oxymoron many have long professed it to be.
Quite a lot of potential NG was forcefully shut-in by the Alberta gov't, which I learned about as it greatly affected a CanRoy, Paramount Energy, I own. The discussion of this is long and is best viewed at the company's website, q=11&year=2003, or by googling "EUB shut-in" without the quotations
karloff1, the web address you give for paramount energy does not work
Just remove the comma from the end. Stupid auto format.
At present the Canadians have enough gas for their own use and are exporting it to us.  We use around 22 TCF, and import around 4 TCf, 80% of which comes from Canada. (Source EIA) Gas provides just under a quarter of our primary energy supply.
Ok, but the question still remains

Say Canada used x amount of Nat gas.  Does this take into account the gas that is extracted out of the ground with oil, separated, and then used to power the equipment to get the next batch of gas/oil?

Or is this only the amount that is bought and sold on the market?

This might be a huge problem in countries that have both large amounts of gas and oil.  They must decide how much gas they need to extract oil.  And it would be a big problem if a country underestimated how much gas they need for their population and their oil production.  For this I see many countries holding out their Nat gas reserves just is case.

It seems the only countries that can be relied on for large amount of LNG exports, are countries that have smaller amounts of oil, Qatar, Algeria, Austrailia....

These basic numbers are very helpful for those, such as myself, who are well acquainted with the basic numbers for oil, but not for natural gas; thanks.  Here are some other basic-numbers questions, with a view to getting up to speed on the overall US and world situation in regard to gas:

  1. What is world-annual usage of natural gas?
  2. What is world proven-reserves of natural gas?
  3. How many cf of gas in a barrel of oil, in terms of energy equivalent?
  4. What are reasonable expectations regarding gas yet to be discovered, both in the US and the world?
The BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2005 is a great starting point for statistics on any energy source. Free downloads available at:

The NG situation doesn't lend itself to quick analysis. There is lots of gas, but much of it is "stranded," located far away from major consumers. According to BP, the Reserve/Production ratio (R/P) in 2004 was 66.7 years for NG, versus 40.5 years. There may be, in theory, 66 years' supply, but there is also a possibility of cold homes in North America and UK this winter due to localized shortages.

Consumption trends are not encouraging. Per BP:

"World natural gas consumption grew by 3.3% in 2004, compared with a 10-year average of 2.3%. Consumption in the USA, the world's largest market, stagnated in the face of high prices and industrial restructuring Outside the USA, gas consumption rose by 4%, with the largest gains in Russia, China and the Middle East.

Gas production rose in every region except North America, where US output continued to decline. In Europe, growth in the Netherlands, Russia and Norway more than offset the ongoing decline of UK output."


Has anybody seen a chart of future (SWAG) natural gas supply, for the US only?

Something similar to the ASPO Oil and Gas Production Profiles...but only for Natural Gas and only for the US.

Rick DeZeeuw

PS - SWAG stands for Scientific Wild Ass Guess

The US has proven natural gas reserves of around 187 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). It uses 22 TCF so it has less than 9 years left. However there is considerable exploration which finds new resources at almost the depletion rate, so far.  Peter Dea had a plot along the lines of what you might be looking for in his presentation in Denver. (They can be found at
His is labelled the Built Environment.


On Recycling, there is an interesting technology undergoing trials.
Garbage Into Oil
Oil from Anything
Changing World Technologies


Reading through the digest for today I came upon this article at

The excerpt chosen for the EnergyBulletin is below:

It was somewhat frightening to read that UK North Sea oil production is now averaging annual decline rates of 8%-10% according to this report...

...This was after analysts predicted decline rates of more like 5%. How could they be almost 100% out in their predictions?

...In the end, the self-interest of producing nations may hold sway. With reserves reducing, but still in the billions of barrels and guaranteed high prices for decades to come, they may decide to tighten output and nationalize resources. We can see Russia moving in the direction of the latter action, the UK government at this point in time is content just to tax the output.

One thing I am fairly certain of is that the 8% or more depletion rates that would happen with increasing frequency after Peak Oil will simply not be allowed to happen. By then, oil will be regarded as too precious a resource to fritter away.

Now I'm confused how anyone is going to prevent fields from being depleted? If the financial incentive exists (and it seems like it certainly will) why wouldn't someone want to pump more now? I suppose we can see the Iranians holding back some supply now, but how much of a long term decision is that? How likely is it that Saudi Arabia or any of the other in-the-USofA's-pocket governments will hold back oil for themselves? To do so would fly in the face of the global economy (which I'm all about deconstructing), right? I feel like there's something I'm missing about this article. Help?

I think once it's clear that we're facing a global shortage, countries and companies will start hoarding oil (which will of course make the shortages worse).  

Some analysts predict that once it's evident that we really are starting to run out of oil, gas stations will go dry overnight.  Oil will be reserved for government and military use.


i wonder....did the u. s. just do this very thing??...they quickly decided to hold off on ANWR drilling because of "budgetary restraint"....budgetary restaint????...THIS administration??? gotta be kidding..maybe this is the first salvo in the  "fungability destruction " war....every man (or country, in this case} for himself
"Oil will be reserved for government and military use"

I don't know if that would be such a bad idea. We do live in democracies (I do, at least) and in the seventies oilcrisis there was rationing of gasoline, which is a form of handing out seized gasoline by the goverment I'd say. I think that in shrinking economies a governmental overview to assure we all get what we need, and not as much as we would want, is not such a bad idea.

This might be considered "socialism" by many, but do keep in mind that the New Deal was called socialism too. Yet the governments in the nineteenthirties that stuck to free market principles were the ones that fared the worst during the depression.

Yeah, I know what you mean.  I guess it would depend on how benevolent said government was.  If the government takes the oil in order to allocate it to agriculture so we can all eat, well, that certainly makes more sense than allowing the wealthy to keep driving their SUVs while the poor starve.

If, OTOH, the government confiscates the oil so the Bush family yachts can keep running, or to make war on Canada in order to seize the tar sands...I'd be lot less enthusiastic.

Thinking some more about this I come to the conclusion that becoming politically interested, and perhaps even becoming politically active might be a good preperation for peakoil.

I've recently realised that the "dieoff" crowd has a very American way of looking at things in expecting that the post oil world would be individual against individual all over the world. My gues would be that things won't turn out that way. There are completely different preconditions for different places that could influence the possible outcome of peak oil. What peak oil (and peak NG) will cause IMHO is that local problem will be exaggerated. Look for instance at Zimbabwe. Its government made the huge mistake to expel experienced farmers without having a good plan of how to make sure agricultural production is kept at its level. Even without high oilprices that would have caused trouble but since oilprices have risen it starts to become a catastrophe.

Cuba on the other hand experienced a form of peakoil due to the collaps of the Soviet Union. While suffering a great decline in the standard of living they did manage to addapt agricultural production to the new realities.

All kinds of factors could have enormous impact locally: The state of technology (While it may not able to turn the tide it certainly might be able to mitigate at crucial moments the worst effects), the state of the land (Erosion, salification) and the state of the nation (How willing the people are to cooperate) all influence the future.

Mind you, these are just some loose thoughts but I think becoming politically active, in other words trying to clean up the mess before this hits us might very well be an important part of how we should prepare for peak oil.

Is there equivalent "discovery data" for natural gas like there is for oil?  If I can get historical data for NG, I think I could try out my macro model to model depletion. Even though as HeadingOut says, NG tends to end suddenly, I believe in terms of flow, the flow is still first-order proportional to the size of the reservoir. For example, you should find many more taps on a big reservoir than a small one. That first-order approximation and some discovery data are the main inputs for estimating a peak NG.
Here is some pretty clean New Zealand data that may be useful to you:

This page has links to small Excel spreadsheets with the data. There is annual production data from 1970 to 2004 for a total of 9 New Zealand gas fields, of which 6 are in serious decline. There is also data on total reserves and remaining reserves for these fields, using 50% probability estimate.

My guess is that the production data is quite accurate, and the reserves numbers are probably open to some speculation, but not falsified.

It does not make for a pretty picture. Sadly, until 1998 we had a great government-subsidized Methanex facility that converted NG to either gasoline or methanol, whichever fetched a higher price at the time. Now that prices are high enough to make it profitable, the NG feedstock needed is gone.

I should think that this item from the Independent provides a look into the USA's near future,

Crisis, what crisis? The Government can hardly be blamed for the weather but it is responsible for the country's energy policy. Having denied for months that we are in danger of running out of gas this winter, there is a sudden sense of panic in the Downing Street air now that the temperature has begun to drop.

Those who warned of trouble ahead, such as the CBI's Sir Digby Jones, were accused of being scaremongers. Now we know that Tony Blair was sufficiently concerned to convene a secret meeting with industry representatives nine days ago to discuss just such an eventuality.

Ministers wanted to find out how much big industrial users could cut their consumption by in order to keep the home fires burning and, second, what impact the resulting decline in output would have on the economy. Consultants have now been hired to crunch the numbers.

The National Grid reckons that in the event of a Siberian-style winter, the like of which Britain experiences only once in every 50 years, industrial consumption would need to halve for the best part of two months. Even a one in ten type winter would require a 30 per cent reduction in demand for 40 days. The Met Office, for its part, reckons there is 65 per cent chance of a colder than average winter this year and a 35 per cent chance of it being a severe one.

Could the Government have done more to prepare for this eventuality? Yes, it could. Indeed, the looming power crisis this winter was entirely predictable. Ministers have known for years that North Sea supplies were running out, turning the UK into a net importer of gas.

Yet no serious effort has been made to ensure greater diversity in energy supply beyond measures to encourage renewables. To the contrary, the fact that Britain relies more and more on gas for her energy needs is largely down to government policy, which deliberately or otherwise, encouraged a dash for gas among power generators.

Extra gas storage and import capacity is being built but it will not be on stream in time for this winter. Meanwhile, the additional facilities that have been built, such as National Grid's LNG terminal on the Isle of Grain, lie idle because the shippers have found they can get higher prices in Spain and America. Those, however, are the laws of the market.

The prospect of a three-day week for industry will not warm the cockles of Mr Blair's heart any more than the idea of householders running out of gas to fire their central heating systems. Whether we run out or not, still higher fuel bills are a certainty. If there is a small sliver of consolation for the Prime Minister, it is that an energy crisis this winter will make the case for new nuclear build unassailable.

Interesting on topic discussion (from peak oil news) at
Looks like each winter from now on, things will get worse...Strange that while the situation DEMANDS an immediate crash program RE: natural gas consumption, the most we are getting is some behind closed doors panicky meetings concerning how we might get through a cold winter.  As though it's just a short term bump in the road....Anyone else get tthis feeling?
They're waiting for the invisible hand of the market to get to work.
I know, I just wish the invisible hand didn't work so often by smacking people up the backside of the head!  Note: usually NOT the people who occupy residences like 10 Downing or 16 Pennsylvania Ave....  
I saw that invisible hand way back in college. It gave me the finger. Ever since, I've been preparing to dodge its fist.