Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Oil Crisis Downunder: "While Australia’s natural resource-based economy has enjoyed tremendous growth along with the rebound in commodity prices worldwide, the country’s oil production continues to decline at a staggering pace. The country’s production peaked at 805,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) in 2000 and only averaged 490,000 bopd in the first 10 months of 2004."

"Exploration for oil began early, with a reported small discovery being made in 1900. (It should be noted that the Australian Commonwealth was formed in 1901.) As many as 157 wildcat wells were drilled onshore by 1930 despite very little encouragement. A new chapter opened in the 1960’s when important discoveries were made in a tertiary basin in the Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania and on Barrow Island off Western Australia. The three largest fields were Kingfish (1967) with 1,200 million barrels (Mb), Halibut (1967) with 850 Mb and Mackerel (1969) with 450 Mb Australia’s oil production struggles can be traced back to 1967, the year which marked the peak year of oil discovery for Australia. (Source: APSO) More recent exploration efforts have focused on the NW Shelf of Australia and several onshore basins but results have been mixed.

"A total of 4,200 wildcats have been drilled so far. Peak exploration was in 1985 when 184 wildcats were drilled. The number has since declined to about 80, and is expected to continue to do so as the list of viable prospects dwindles. (Source: ibid) While there is hope that recent initiatives by the government will increase exploration spending, especially on country’s NW Shelf, there have been few discoveries of significant size to indicate that oil production can stabilize at current levels, much less increase.... Once the country achieved peak oil production, however it did not decline gradually as one might expect, production fell off a cliff. How did this happen? Shouldn’t production have declined more gradually according to Hubbert’s Peak theory?"

"[Australia's] steep decline curve is an excellent example of what can happen when advanced extraction technologies are applied to a very mature reserve base. While Australia and Oman are two well documented examples of production dropping quickly after peaking, I believe there are other countries that are likely to follow suit. If one of these countries happens to be Saudi Arabia, Russia or a major Middle Eastern exporter, the world will experience rapidly escalating oil prices."

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