As President George W Bush strolled around his Prairie Chapel ranch in Texas last week with Saudi ruler Crown Prince Abdullah, oil prices were high on the agenda during talks between the leaders of the world?s biggest energy consumer and largest oil exporter.
At the same time, Matt Simmons, one of Bush?s energy advisers, was at a conference in Edinburgh, spelling out harsh facts on Saudi oil production which, if proved true, would have severe repercussions for the global economy.
Simmons?s belief is that Saudi has been overstating its oil reserves for years, its biggest oil fields are in decline and it will struggle to live up to its promise to crank up daily output from around 10 million barrels a day to 12 million by 2009 and later 15 million to meet global demand.
A review copy of Twilight in the Desert, Simmons’s new book, just landed on my doorstep today, so I should have more to say about this in a few days. It’s chock full of conclusions drawn from technical engineering reports and does not appear at first glance to be very user friendly. For example:
This task force also recommended efficiency improvements in the water separation processes at Ghawar’s GOSPs and expansion of the dehydrator/desalter facilities to avoid overloading. Ghawar’s downstream capacity was further de-bottlenecked by additions to the piping, seawater pumps, pipelines, and the seawater injection facilities. The most important action resulting from the taskforce’s work, however, was the expansion in 1979 of Ghawar’s seawater injection program, from its initial capacity of 4 million to an expanded 7 million barrels of seawater per day.
That’s a bit dense, isn’t it? My life will also be made more difficult by the fact that the galleys don’t contain any of the graphs and charts that will show up in the finished product, and I have a feeling those graphs and charts do a lot to make the text more understandable. Sigh.
But I shall persevere, and I expect that shortly I will be a minor expert on the arcane details of carbonate rock formations, Gas Oil Separation Plants, and geostatistical modeling. I’ll bet you can hardly wait.