A reference that has been asked for

In the past I was asked where I had got the information that Ghawar actually peaked at 6.5 mbd, and I had to confess to not being able to either remember, or find, the reference. Well I have now found it, and thought I would pass it on. It is from page 20 of Matt Simmons White Paper on Giant Oilfields (a pdf file).
In 1970, Saudi's giant Ghawar field, which still ranks as the world's largest oilfield ever discovered, was producing just over 2 million barrels a day. This field finally peaked in 1990 when it briefly produced in excess of 6.5 million barrels per day. This production rate resulted in some damage to the reservoir and the field was never again produced at such a rate.

And as a continuing comment from a "stupid person" about temperatures in the Mid-West, as I noted in the lead below, I was motivated to go look by the comment that we were now reaching the temperatures of the Dust Bowl years in those states. This is likely to impact crop production (another area where I can be defined as stupid), and I would have thought it would be universally negatively, but in discussing this with a friend that has a family farm, she said that the corn crop so far this year, for them, was better than in a long time. So what else don't I know?

Growing season and variations in monthly averages (for precipitation and temperature) might be different.  And please note that the data for July has not been posted at the NASA site (I haven't checked to see whether the July data has been posted to the NOAA Climate Data site).  
Were they in a drought region?

From my past family farm experience,  extremely hot temps and good overnight or morning rainfall made our corn grow like mad.   We had a picture in the local paper for one insane crop where they were 10 feet tall.  

So if its hot, its ok if they get precip.

Its all about population!

It is also about rest period for the crop.  Sustained high night temperatures negatively impact yield through increased respiration.

In Iowa our recent heat wave has lasted less than a week and we have had rain.

Also don't forget that the crop genetics and weed control are also much improved over 1930.

And, of course, even if feeding the world were simply a production issue, this technology would fail, as Duffy's findings show. GE crops are not increasing yields and nor are they benefiting farmers financially by reducing their costs. Those who support GE crops are, therefore, revealed as principally supporting the profits of the biotechnology industry.

Contrast the failure of GE crops with the viability of non-GE alternatives, as has been demonstrated for example in a review of 208 projects from 52 countries, adopted by 8.98 million farmers on 29 million hectares of land in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Pretty, J. and R. Hine (2001) Reducing food poverty with sustainable agriculture: a summary of new evidence, Occasional Paper 2001-2, Centre for Environment and Society, University of Essex,

Using a range of sustainable agriculture technologies - none of which involved GE - farmers have achieved yield increases of 50-100% for rainfed agriculture, and 5-10% for irrigated crops.

I can back this up with data I've seen (at the USDA). During the 1990's, GE cotton replaced old standby cotton strains throughout the southeastern United States, some dating back to the early 20th century.  Widely promoted as a means to improve yeilds and reduce production costs, by the late 1990's GE'd cotton strains made up 80%+ of planted varieties, as the two principle companies that produced these seeds slowly acquired or drove out of business the smaller, independent non-GE seed companies.
The GE seeds could not legally be saved, a liscensing fee was assessed on top of the cost of the seed, and the primary advantage of the GE'd strains were that they were resistant to a petrochemical-derived herbacide (weed control) called "Roundup", which just happens to be manufactured by the same company (Monsanto) and/or certain insects.
The Roundup you buy in the hardware store is 1/10th strength of that used on farms.

Turns out that the roundup ready cotton was extremely succeptible to drought, which we here in the southeast have experienced in abundance for 8 of the last 10 years. Average crop yields per acre fell, rather than rising, compared with similar fields (and even test plots) planted with old strain, non-GE cotton. A class-action lawsuit was pending against Monsanto when I left the USDA. I doubt it had meaningful results.

In England, we have had extreme heat (for us) and drought conditions. The farmers have bought in the crops several weeks early and in much smaller quantities as the wheat grain did not grow because of lack of water. Crop yields are down on a typical year due to the heat and drought.
(1)  The East Texas Field had twin peaks, like Ghawar.  The first (higher) peak in the Thirties was damaging the reservoir, and the state curtailed production (the birth of the Texas RRC).  The second (lower) peak, in 1972, corresponded to the overall Texas peak.  Based on the HL method, Saudi Arabia, in 2005, was at the same point at which Texas peaked in 1972.

(2)  CNBC is running lots of stories today about the heat and drought damaging agricultural production.   You might want to read "The worst hard times," about the people that stayed in the mid-continent during the Dust Bowl.   Static electricity was so high that cars had to trail chains to ground the cars.   Animals and people routinely died from "dust pneumonia."


I pulled a post over from the previous thread on what means don't say about impact on crops and energy.

I got caught by this a few years ago.  I tried to use mean NWS temperatures to determine growing location in Texas, an area I wasn't familiar with.  The monthly means from near San Antonio, TX and Des Moines, Iowa are not as big as you would expect.  But the growing conditions, year round, are different in the extreme.  How those means build day after day is critical to what will grow month after month in the two locations.  

For my particular situation, a better location is actually New Mexico, not Texas because of cool nights in NM.  Monthly means between TX and NM location are near identical but not the growing environment.

Anecdotal evidence is an informal account of evidence in the form of an anecdote, or hearsay. The term is usually used in contrast to scientific evidence, especially evidence-based medicine, which are types of formal accounts. Anecdotal evidence is often unscientific because it cannot be investigated using the scientific method. Misuse of anecdotal evidence is a logical fallacy and is sometimes informally referred to as the "person who" fallacy ("I know a person who..."; "I know of a case where..." etc.) The problem with arguing based on anecdotal evidence is that anecdotal evidence is not necessarily typical; only statistical evidence can determine how typical something is.

This type of logical fallacy is generally explored in one's freshman English class or in a lower level science class. Reputable scientists avoid anecdotal evidence like the plague for fear of being seen as "dumb." And rightfully so.

The guy grew up on a farm that raised corn. He mentioned this as a reason to give him credibility on his report that high temperatures combined with reasonable amounts of rain is not bad for corn.
Since corn was bred to grow in Central America and Mexico, this is a reasonable statement. It's rainy and hot down there. Corn doesn't grow ears below a certain temperature range because it won't pollinate and make the ears if it's too cold. Places like most of England.
Of course, if global warming kicks in we may see corn move out of the extreme south of England.
My wifes parents are already growing corn in Wales in there garden. This year is proving both very hot for Wales and also typicaly wet...
What's wrong with anecdtoes if they are clearly presented as such?  The contributor identified the comment as from personal experience.  I found the comment interesting.  It was not presented as scientific fact.  

Besides, if we are going to point out things we should have learned in freshman English, let's consider the case of circular definitions.  In this example the error is commited double as both "evidence" and "anecdote" are used to define the phrase "anecdotal evidence":

"Anecdotal evidence is an informal account of evidence in the form of an anecdote, or hearsay"

I suspect that most solid scientific hypotheses began with anecdotal evidence--which is way better than no evidence at all.

Of course, not all anecdotal evidence is equal (to put it mildly).

Drought and heat conditions in Europe two years ago seriously affected crop production there. The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization is a good source of info on world food production. One useful publication is their Crop Prospects and Food Situation.

For the US, a good site is NOAA's drought moniter. Much of the midwest has been in abnormally dry or drought conditions all year.

By coinky-dink, the cover story at MSNBC right now is this one:

Heat wave could leave lasting price impact

From walnuts to ethanol, crop damage could tighten supplies, raise costs

As a blistering heat wave continued to sear much of the U.S., utilities struggled to produce record amounts of power, natural gas prices soared, and farmers assessed damage to scorched crops. Though temperatures eased Wednesday in the western half of the country, the impact on consumers may be felt long after cooler breezes begin flowing again in the east.

Farmers were especially hard hit, which means lost crops could translate to higher prices of everything from walnuts to ethanol.

"This is a very, very strong drought situation," said Jim Bower, a commodities broker based in Lafayette, Ind. "In the western corn belt, the new ethanol plants will have to scramble much harder for feed stock than they thought just several weeks ago."

I've read that east of the Mississippi corn has been doing well, while to the west not so well.  Here is a good drought page.


Georgia's 2006 corn crop, while meager by midwestern standards, was decimated by prolonged drought.
"Co-owner Irwin Bagwell said the farm would probably lose 700 to 800 acres of its 1,000-acre corn crop. The last year the family's farm was devastated to this extent was during the drought of 1993, he added.
Jack Montgomery, another Cave Spring-area farmer, said he is experiencing similar problems."
"It's taking a toll on farmers," he said. "I've never seen it this dry. I've never seen crops hurt this bad."
"Last week, Eddie Green made his way through a patch of cornstalks that barely reached his knees.
Not quite the Field of Dreams he had hoped for when he planted earlier this year.
"These probably won't even be harvested," he said as he looked at a droopy, lifeless brown stalk of corn."

The situation is much the same throughtout the deep south (Louisina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina).
"We're looking at either extremely low yields or abandonment on most of the corn crop in central and south Alabama. We're finally getting some rain, but it has come to late for some of our corn, with some producers looking at about a 50-percent crop," said Delaney in late June.
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 48 of Alabama's 67 counties as natural disaster areas on July 5, making farmers in those counties eligible for emergency loans from the federal Farm Service Agency. Some west Georgia farmers also are eligible because their counties border some of Alabama's disaster counties."

I thought peak oil was a matter of when Ghawar peaked, and now it already did in 1990? I don't understand.

The number above is production rate whereas the classic definition of peak oil refers to the point where 50% of the total oil in the ground has been produced. Often, this occurs near the point of maximum production rate but not necessarily.

What concerns people is whether Ghawar is past the 50% mark of its total oil because once beyond that it takes extraordinary measures to increase production rate and worse, doing so can damage the field further reducing total oil to be recovered. As westexas is fond of saying, Ghawar appears to be at about the 58% mark on a Hubbert plot done by Khebab, which strongly suggests that it is past peak. But we won't know that for some time after the fact.

To demonstrate how confusing it can be, here is the data that I plotted for the lower 48 US from 1969 to 1973. The lower 48 peaked in 1971, but as you can see from the graph, picking that out from the surrounding years is not very obvious. Likewise, a world peak may span several years and be hard to confirm except in hindsight.

As for Ghawar, the plot says 58% and we are starting to see production going down there. Whether this is actually the decline or a voluntary cutback we cannot tell and must rely on whatever Saudi Aramco says. For the moment they say it is voluntary. Again, only in hindsight will the world really confirm the truth.

Just to add to the "anecdotal evidence".

I'm an avid gardener and can tell you this:

Heat doesn't kill plants... but dry does.

It gets up over 30C in the summer here... if I don't water the garden extra, everything burns and dies.

But if I do water extra (early morning is best), then everything grows like gangbusters.

So the heat wave could be a heat wave... but if the corn fields are still getting water, either from periodic rain (one thunderburst would do it), or good irrigation... then they should be just fine.  And if the heat wave only lasts a couple weeks many crops could still survive.

I believe it, I was kickin' around Calistoga CA and wandering around, in the rain, on foot, it was a lovely walk..... I came to some steaming water-filled ditches by the side of the road, and crawled on down there to investigate..... stuck my hand in and that water was HOT!! Hotter than I'd ever consider for a bath. Yet, the plants and reeds looked very happy.

If you're ever up there, check out the geyser, it's neato.

BTW, speaking of peaking, today's WSJ (8/2) had an article on Cantarell peaking, and apparently going into fairly rapid decline. This is not news at TOD, but this is the most alarm I've seen in  the MSM over the issue.
Here's another suggestion for those who don't seem to understand global warming/climate change.  I always read the energy bulletin.  I can't believe that anyone serious about PO hasn't found EB.  Well, there are loads of climate articles there.  That's where I get most of my information, and I've learned a lot.  That and the top books from Amazon.  I'll try to avoid any discussions about whether or not it's happening, whether or not it's dangerous, and whether or not it's caused by human activity.  Those questions are scientifically settled.  The only questions that remain are how soon and how bad will it be.  There are not, and probably never will be, firm predictions that anyone can hang their hat on.  Despite the evidence from the past, we are entering uncharted waters.
Pay attention to the weather around the world.  It ain't a pretty picture I'm afraid.  Things are turning out worse than the worst predictions from just a few years ago.
Let me put in a plug for realclimate.org as well. There, you skeptics can go mano on mano with real climate experts. Chances are, they've already dealt with just about every objection you can come up with.

However, I have the uneasy feeling that by the time the evidence is irrefutable, which is now, it is too late. I recall being in Washington, D.C. in about 1985 when Hansen announced we have a serious problem.  I also noticed at that time that winters were already getting warmer.  All we've done since that time is fiddle and burn. Yes, we have a supertanker here and it ain't turning around in time. I'd say bring on the geoengineering.

I am especially sensitive to this issue because I live at a high altitude. The changes in temperature are more pronounced here than at lower altitudes and latitudes, although it is still more comfortable.  We also depend heavily on snowpack which comes later every year and leaves earlier.  Maybe the planet isn't doomed but I think it won't be long before this area is uninhabitable because of the water situation.

I agree, precipitation is more critical than the heat.  My garden is doing great this year in Chicago in spite of 100 degree temps.  But we've had good rains every week or two.

Last year was worse with cooler temps but an extremely dry July and August.  Farmers getting inadequate rain before and during these heatwaves will be hurting.

I just read a very sobering book on global warming, "The Winds of Change".

What concerns me most is the amount of recent research showing Earth's climate is historically unstable with frequent shifts, some major and abrupt.

There are many conflicting statements being made regarding global warming.  Some say if we don't take action in X years it will be too late.  Others say we have time to adjust gradually.  Sort of like the debate regarding the urgency of peak oil.

But I believe our climate, especially rainfall, is less predictable than our energy resource over the coming decades.  A shift in wind patterns can turn wheatfields into desert.  China is already battling creeping deserts overtaking farmland.  The middle east seems dangerous while times are good.  I'd hate to see what happens if a bad drought lead to widespread starvation.

With all the terradeforming we're doing we are increasing the odds for nasty surprises.  The recently pitched idea of putting sulfur into the upper atmosphere to fight warming becomes a lot less appealing if one believes the threat is primarily an unstable climate.  If it stops raining on a big chunk of farmland (or if it rains too much) we'll have a huge calamity regardless of the temperature.  While one might be able to roughly predict the effect of such an experiment on temperature I think it could easily trigger unintended damaging side effects.

We are being foolhardy relying on fossil fuels, especially coal for our energy needs.  We ought to slow down because we don't know where we are going.

You are right; Heat is OK with many plants to a point provided there is sufficient moisture. Here in TN we garden year round. We grow 'cold season' crops in the winter. Thses are mostly things of European origin like cabbage, kale, turnips, etc. These die as soon as it gets hot and no ammount of effort will keep them alive. But then we grow 'warm season' crops of things that are primarily of American origin such as beans, corn, tomatoes, squash, etc. which die as soon as the weather turns cooler. Water is critical to all.
One other critical factor is soil PH. Some plants prefer slightly acid soil; some prefer neutral or slighy basic soil. Nothing will grow in soil that is very far off in either direction however. This is the scariest thing about the proposal to shoot sulfer compounds into the upper atmosphere. We could make the whole planet look like the Copper Hill moonscape did when I was a child.
If you want some serious moonscaping...the island of Nauru is a stark example.  It's hard to believe it was a thriving, lush, tropical island.





Did anyone read Stephen Hawking's recent commentary on how humanity will survive this century? I did. He didn't even mention peak oil I don't think, but I'm pretty sure I remember him talking about global warming. I think humanity is safe unless it is uber bad like the coming global superstorm says. Like ice age. I don't know if we can do that. Who knows how humanity will react depleting stuff, but areas will survive that I think. Who knows what the plans are that elites will do like nukes, but I generally trust them, not to be looking out for us, but to look out for themselves, and not want that scenario.
Hello TODers,

Just announced by DOE--they must have been reading RR's postings and the Vinod Khosla thread!

Washington - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will spend $250 million to establish and operate two new bioenergy research centers to accelerate basic research in developing cellulosic ethanol and other fuels derived from plant byproducts, called biofuels, DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman announced August 2.

http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2006&m=August&x=2006 0802151102lcnirellep0.8541529&chanlid=washfile

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

The DOE also did $116M for research related to electrics just a few days ago.  That's the kind of "spreading of bets" I like to see:


(they should halt the production subsidies, and continue to spread the research bets until a true winner shows up)

Hello Odograph,

Excellent-- that sounds like an entirely appropriate strategy--but I bet the oil campanies' political lobbyists are already doing a full court press trying to increase oil subsidies vs having them cutoff by Congress.  We will have to follow the money clout of campaign contributions to truly see which way this goes.

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Heading out said:
"This is likely to impact crop production (another area where I can be defined as stupid)"

Im not sure whether you are confused in your word usage or whether this is a difference between American English and UK English. Where I come from stupid means an inability to think logically, and ignorant means a lack of knowledge.

Ive seen no evidence from your earlier posts that you are stupid. Everybody is ignorant about a huge range of subjects apart from those which particularly interest them.

SO do you actually mean:

"This is likely to impact crop production (another area where I can be defined as ignorant)"

or is this yet another little subtle difference in usage between London and Washington?

 Sorry to go on about it but this is one my own interests...

This has nothing to do with differences between UK English and American English.  George Bush, however, is both stupid and ignorant.  Over time, wilful ignorance leads to stupidity because of lack of activity in those little grey cells to which Hercule Poirot refers.

Back to the subject at hand. While it may be true that increased heat can be mitigated by more water, it is the heat itself that leads to more evaporation.  With an abundant water supply this might not be a big problem, but out here in the west it is a big problem as a shortage of irrigation water leads to farmers being cut off from their water supply by those with senior water rights.

News from the world of REAL "stupid persons" :

Dress code for quake aid workers
Free help is "not enough", I would let them die in their shit (I know, I know, this is terribly INCORRECT)!

French fries back on House menu
Do I need to add a comment on this one?

Does anyone REALLY thinks that the kind of people who hold such opinions as above and ACT ACCORDINGLY will be of any help to deal with PO & GW ?

Yet another reason we are likely doomed, though I still hope we have a tiny chance to avoid "terminal" devastation.

Reminds me of the old Baptist joke that teenage sex could result in something really bad, DANCING.
in the version I know, the Calvinists are afraid that making love standing up might lead to dancing :)
Unlike many fields, from the information I have, it is unlikely that Ghawar will ever have any secondary recovery.  For several years I was in charge of reservoir simulation (which, since I am a geophysicist, made the reservoir engineers wonder what went wrong with the universe). Anyway, I went to many seminars on reservoir simulation.  I made a habit of talking to any reservoir engineer who had worked Ghawar.  One guy told me that they had drilled a well in an area that the water flood water front had passed.  He said they were getting 85% recovery, leaving almost nothing to go after in the future. (this is fantastic recovery, but it is a carbonate afterall)  Given the reservoir model published by the Sauds at the SEG convention in 2004 (seen at the bottom of http://home.entouch.net/dmd/ghawar.htm ), one can see that Ghawar actually has a limited future.
"One of the things to keep in mind as you look at the model below is that the original oil column was 1300 feet thick.  Today, the green layer is less than 150 feet thick.  One must draw the necessary conclusions that most of the oil has been removed from Ghawar."

It's actually been a while since I've had that real sinking feeling.

How long have you been lurking?  I see that you've only been posting a month, few posts and mainly "fluff."  Your website and career lead me to believe the TOD community could learn from your research and knowlege.