Saturday, 23 August 2008

Megaprojects - Are we on plateau?

The people working on the Oil Megaprojects wikipedia database have published an August update. The work is supposed to tabulate and add together all major new oil production coming online in the next few years (time horizon of c. 5 years from now).

There is one image taken from the MP data that bears repeating here. Otherwise those interested in the issue can go and read the whole discussion at TOD.

It is crucial to understand that oil fields deplete as they are produced, and the production from all existing mature fields starts to decline at some point.

The current global decline rate from all mature fields combined is c. 5.1% per year. This means that we need a c. 4 million barrels/day of new production capacity each year, just to stay on current production level. This plateau type of production level does not allow for economic growth in our current paradigm.

Currently, based on production date, demand growth, price trend and upcoming megaprojects data, it looks very much like we are on an undulating production plateau.

This is crucial to understand. Peak projections based on reserves are one thing. This is real data from the real world now. Not a projection, but what is happening in the world now.

This gives strong weight to near peaking hypothesis which are based on projective models.

What about the potential effects of this plateau - even without a final peak and decline?

There are two ways to think about this. If this is true, will it ease when the world goes into recession next year and world demand growth shrinks? Or, will this be the final nail that drives the world into a deep recession, as world economy needs increasing amounts of oil in order to grow?