Tuesday, September 05, 2006

EXTRA: Oil Discovery Saves Civilization!

For 35 days.

In 2013.

Except for decline in other fields.


The huge news today is that Chevron, Norway's Statoil, and Devon Energy have jointly discovered our collective salvation in the "Jack 2" deepwater oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. CNN, Fox, and ABC have all been carrying this as the top story all day.

MSNBC and CBS have relegated it below the much more significant story of the Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's death--where it belongs.

Before we discuss conspiracy theories of why this news is coming out now, let's first look at the facts in the absence of cable-news hype. This larger field, of which Jack 2 is just a small part, may someday yield between 3 and 15 billion barrels of recoverable crude. It won't even start to produce oil until 2013, if everything goes according to schedule. Then, it (the entire tertiary GOM zone) may eventually produce 400,000 barrels per day. That's about how much Mexico's Cantarell field declined in production this year. And how much it will decline next year. And the year after. Ultimately, 3 billion barrels of oil will fuel the world--at current consumption levels--for about 35 days.

Did I forget to mention? Chevron first confirmed Jack 2's viability in 2004. They've known all along the expected size of the field's reserves, and this figure has long been part of Peak Oil calculations. In fact, the 6000 barrel per day flow rate of the test well was finalized and published in May of this year. There is absolutely no new information about this event to surface in the past three months. So why all the hype now?

One theory--and I should be the first to admit that I cannot prove motive or intent here--is the upcoming November election. Lower gas prices equal less anti-incumbent sentiment--while this may help the Republicans the most, it also helps the incumbent Democrats who are also facing stiff re-election challenges in light of their failure to propose any viable energy policy alternatives. And this Jack 2 "discovery" is not the only place where the pre-election market manipulations are taking place. None of the drawdown from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the past year has been replaced. Oil majors and refineries are skewing their refining output away from diesel and heating oil and towards gasoline in an effort to keep gas-price hysteria from leading to new regulations or investigations. And there is negative price pressure based on some "hurricane season speculators" dropping their positions. All taken together and it looks to me like gas prices will remain stable or fall slightly for the next few months, then begin another round of significant increases. The more pertinent question is this: will such temporary manipulation have the intended effect of keeping the incumbents in power, or will the post-election counter swing make Peak Oil itself a front page story?


Peter said...

Whenever a scoffer asks, "Hey did you hear about that big oil discovery", I just tell them to apply this formual to it:

Since worldwide consumption is 84 mbpd and growing:

Divide the field's estimated size by 84 million


84 million x 365 = 30,660,000,000 mb per year,

to get a sense of just how much or little it will help.

Anonymous said...

I read your blog regularly but almost never comment on any blog. I feel compelled to comment on the fact that you seem to get fewer comments on your more important posts. This post asks some very interesting questions that I thought would cause many of the more political readers to want to answer. Your previous post on energy return on investment was a very serious topic of great importance and almost nobody winked. Keep plugging away. 100,000 hits - not bad. Now if you had 50-100 commnets on some of your more serious posts, that would really be something.

Anonymous said...

I think its part November election and part maybe about something impending in teh MEast. Bring the price down...and then a disturbance will only take it up from that lower level....that is partly wishful thinking on the part of anyone who may be proposing that but its a plan all the same.

Jason Godesky said...

Is that really a problem, though? I find Jeff's most important posts to be so airtight that any comment I can offer is simply redundant.

Big Gav said...

Comments often follow when you are being controversial or are making blatant factual errors.

No comment isn't a sign the content isn't interesting - traffic volume and incoming links are a much better indicator - the blogs I find most interesting tend to get very few comments but its usually easily to spot the influence they have rippling outwards.

JonsterNYC said...

I concur with Jason, though I do wish more people would read Jeff's posts. But the upside is that because so few people are cognizant of these issues, it allows us to potentially profit from these insights.

While I'm on this topic, I've been doing some back-testing technical analysis of the price of crude and I've found a pattern that has recurred since oil really took off. Oil has been on a secular bull run since the early part of this decade (higher cylical highs and higher cyclical lows). I then played around with the moving averages and found that whenever the 20 day moving average meets the 200 day moving average, that has usually been the cyclical low for crude before the next big move up. Try it for yourself if you have any technical charting tools. Be forewarned though, I would not bet the ranch on technical analysis.

Also, I found it intriguing that a certain Marc F has contributed to one of Jeff's previous posts "Debunking the Geo-Political Premium in Oil Prices"...he sounds suspicicously like the famed investor Dr Marc Faber...

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