And for those who missed this . .

Going through some of the comments on earlier posts, some may have missed the comment by Nick Rouse, and since it highlights relevant information I am bringing it forward.

The latest data for UK oil production from the UK Department of Trade and industry give the 2005 monthly declines over the corresponding month in 2004 as
Jan -12.53%
Feb -11.54%
Mar -20.95%
Apr -15.86%
May -17.65%

For the five months that is -15.75%, an average loss of 307,900 barrels/day

What did CERA expect UK production to do?"

From the Econbrowser summary table, you can see that the overall decline in the UK is estimated by CERA over the next 5 years to total 0.3 mbd over existing production (and that from Norway to total 0.33 mbd).   However the data from the site Nick refers to shows that the UK drop is going to be much greater than that, since it dropped that much over the past year alone. [editor's note, by Prof. Goose]As noted in the comments, that's (1-.15)^5 = .446 remaining, for a drop of 55.4%. A 15% decline each year totals 55%, not 75%. 55% aggregate decline is still large, but at the end of five years you'd have nearly twice as much oil left.)

 Note however that the graph data is in cubic meters/month, not mbd...and here is the graph referred to:

Math note: 5*.15=.75, but that's irrelevant.  
Should be (1-.15)^5 = .446 remaining, for a drop of 55.4%.

A 15% decline each year totals 55%, not 75%.  55% aggregate decline is still large, but at the end of five years you'd have nearly twice as much oil left.  


I was today reading one finnish engineering newspaper and there was one story about how high oil prices have caused lot of investments in UK side of North Sea. There was also that because of these new investments it is assumed that decline won't be as deep as otherwise because you start to produce from more expensive reserves. So you cannot predict future depletion rates from past ones as higher oil prices cause more investments there.
You might as well put Norway in there at -330,000 barrels per day so far this year, also the 2005-2010 decline forecast by CERA.  See

I don't think anyone has a good handle on the waterfall that is deepwater depletion - Norway's forecast for this year as of Jan. 1 was around 10% higher than actual production will end up being.  I'm certain there is a long history of national energy agencies forecasting production that is substantially larger than it ends up being - this is certainly the case for the US EIA, where every forecast for petroleum production in the 1980's showed production increasing within 5 years....

UK decline should be arrested for 1 year or so by Buzzard field coming online and ramping up production rapidly to plateau of 200k bopd in late 2007.  Buzzard with EUR quoted as between 400m and 550m bbls, was heralded as 'the biggest N Sea find for over a decade'.  George Monbiot put something of a dampener on this in his 'Bottom of the Barrel' article where he described the field as 'enough to last the world 5-1/4 days', link:,3604,1097622,00.html

The point which worries me the most re Buzzard arises when one compares peak production rates with former NS 'elephant' - Forties.  Forties peaked in 1978 at 500k bopd and when BP sold it to Appache in 2003 output was down 92% to just 40k bopd with 2.5 Gbbls having been produced since inception.  Apache have invested around $100m in Forties thus raising output to around 65k bopd.  On this basis I'm assuming, as a rough estimate, Forties' EUR = 2.8 Gbbls.

Comparing the higher EUR for Buzzard (550m bbls) with Forties (2.8 Gbbls) we still have Forties' reserves as 5.09x that of Buzzard and yet its peak production was only 2.5x that of Buzzard's estimated peak.  On this basis I can only conclude that we plan to 'pull Buzzard like there's no tomorrow' - at peak rate the field would be drained in just 7.5 years!  As per Hubbart we arrive at mid point of depletion and thus onset of decline in just 3.75 yrs.  It doesn't sound like Buzzard will arrest UK decline for very long.

NG is an even greater concern for the UK. Energy Bulletin Has the info.

Scary stuff

Hey all - recent reader enjoying the discussion with a question: a few weeks back Businessweek made the argument that new technology would come online that would offset the increasingly depleted oil and gas fields and that price increases would have the effect of having more companies invest to bring up the remaining oil.  In other words, that the oil that is now consider economically unviable would become more viable.  But what I'd love to hear from the group is this: can the technology do this?  Are we close to this tech being here, or is it going to be like fusion energy?  

These charts from the UK are downright scary....

Re: "can the technology do this? Are we close to this tech being here, or is it going to be like fusion energy?"

According to what I've read from HO and others about EOR [enhanced oil recovery] technology, the answer to both your questions is NO. There appears to be a double-edged sword here. EOR (e.g. H20 or CO2 injection, horizontal drilling) may lead to short-term gains but can also lead to faster and steeper declines later. This depends a lot on the peculiar geology of the field in question. Apparently J wrote a post on this sometime back with respect to offshore deep sea drilling that showed that these fields deplete fast and EOR techniques do not help. Matt Simmons is of the opinion that all available new technologies have already been deployed and there is nothing new "on the shelf" that will make miracles happen to offset decline rates.
Plus we already have CO2 injection and horizontal drilling being used; still the majors are producing less.

Investment is up; drilling rig deployment is at or near record historic highs in many parts of the world -- yet new finds are not as yet delivering on the gusher(s) Yergin's thesis needs to come true.

And some experienced oil and gas CEO's are saying in public that they don't believe there are new Saudi Arabias just waiting to be discovered, with most of the world having been under the microscope for some time now.

It may be that all our new technology has ALREADY been staving off peak oil... i.e. without satellites and advanced seismic etc etc we'd have peaked long ago.

When it comes to finding stuff underground that can be extracted, at some point there will be a peak... that is inevitable. Its possible we are already good enough at finding and extracting it to have largely maxed out the planet.

I appreciate everyone taking the time to reply. I agree that the peak is coming regardless of technology - just curious if it was likely to offset the losses as BusinessWeek feels.

Are there similar charts or graphs for American oil sources?  Or perhaps for Saudi oil (I know their data is questionable)?

There are some things that you can do with EOR that will actually enhance overall oil recovery - doing liquid CO2 injection is one of them.  But it will only work in certain situations, and you need a power station that wants to find a way of getting rid of its exhaust to make it work economically. (Pumping the gas into the middle of the North Sea was a non-starter not because it wouldn't work, but because getting the gas there and liquifying it cost too much). maybe you have given me the incentive to do my "Oil Companies and Technology" Post - so I'll go write it for tomorrow.


Peak Oil theory is not just a theory, it has already been proven true in most countries. Nearly every year another country is added to the list of those who passed peak.
Two links on that

"Technology" can do three things.  
  1. accelerate extraction rates,
  2. reduce the cost of extraction and development,
  3. increase the total amount of recoverable oil (Estim. Ultim. Recov.).  

These are often linked: technology that reduces costs may make unprofitable oil profitable at the current price, so extraction is accelerated.  Cost reduction may make some oil that would be unprofitable at any forseeable price (EROEI less than 1) sufficiently profitable that it should be added to the EUR.  And sometimes the unique geology of a field allows extraction-accelerating technology to increase total recoverables - slower extraction may strand more oil in inaccessible pockets as water rises or the field structure collapses.

There have been and continue to be advances in all three aspects, such that reserves and EUR are slowly but constantly being revised upwards.

But there's an exponential scale problem.

Each new field starts out with all the benefits of previous technology - so higher extraction rates and greater total recoverables are already factored in.  If we want technology to increase reserves at the same rate in the future that they have grown in the past, it must develop at an accelertaing rate.  

Example: decades ago, Field X had 100 mb.  Of that, perhaps 30% was recoverable, or 30 mb.  Let's say past technology may have increased recoveries by 10% of the in-ground total, recovering an additional 10mb and raising the total to 40mb.  That's growth of 33%.  Not bad.  Today, if we were to find the 100mb Field X, we would say it has 40mb recoverable.  But if future technology will raise recovery by the same 10% of the in-ground total, that's still another 10mb - but now it's only a 25% increase.  In order to increase our recoverables by 33% again, we need our new technology to raise recovery rates by 13.3% of the in-ground total over the same interval.  

So we need technology to do ever more for use, when in fact it gives us diminishing returns.

There's also a "big idea" problem.  

50-60 years ago, if you'd asked oil geologists for a Tech Wish List, they would have asked for things that were simply not possible:

  • "see" the oil in the ground and accurately map a field without drilling a single well.  
  • Drill multiple wells from a single rig, in any direction - not just straight down, but twisting, turning, miles down into the ground, even horizontally, to hit the smaller isolated pockets of oil in a field, especially off-shore.  

These are the two 'breakthrough advances' of the last 30 years: 3D-seismic imaging and multiple-directional-drilling.

Sure, lots of other improvements have been of the 'incremental' variety: gradual improvments in drilling rigs, well monitoring and sensors, pipeline and extraction technologies, and pushing off-shore into gradually increasing depths or farther onto the tundra and ice.  But those two big breakthroughs have been HUGE - accounting for a very large share of the gains from technology, and both are now 20 years old or more. There hasn't been a 'breakthrough' in a long time.

If you ask geologists what they want today, there are no big ideas out there, just incremental advances.  Those increments may still result in large gains over time, but it's hard to think of any extra abilities we need.

-- E.v.T  (aka Silent E)

You are making a very dangerous assesment here Heading Out. Only looking at the trend from the last five months seems wrong to me. Look at what is going on from a year after the peak until now. It could very well be that production increases from some fields in decline for a short while. Could also not be but based on such a short time factor seems quite rigorous.

Then you are as mentioned above also missing the huge buzzard field (200.000 b/d). And 3 small fields each good for around 12.000 b/d (clair in 2005, blane and enoch in 2006).

Then secondly were did the april 2005 decline come from? The data from your link (which is the most reliable UK data source) says this:

January 2005 8,688,739
February 2005 7,729,363
March 2005 7,732,590
April 2005 7,952,636
May 2005 7,413,241

An increase in April?

HO is looking at year-on-year declines in a given calendar month, not month-to-month declines. According to BP Statistical summary, depletion rates where:
99-00: 8.3%
00-01, 7.1%
01-02, 0.5%
02-03, 8.4%
03-04, 10.1%
and the evidence for 04-05 is that it's running closer to 15%. So depletion has been accelerating. I assume the 01-02 anomaly represents a new field ramping up, but I don't know.

You assume in your analysis that depletion before addition of new fields will be 7%, which seems over-optimistic.

Sorry for my mixe-up with year to year and month to month, ill look into it more tomorrow see if i can come up with some predictions and stuff from the industry.