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January 20, 2005

The production and reserves data for 2004 appeared in Oil & Gas Journal. During 2004, world oil production showed an uptick of 3 1/2 percent, in increase of about 2.5 million barrels per day over the 2003 figure. More than half of the increase came from two sources: Iraq and Russia. Production in Iraq doubled, and Russian production increased by 8 percent. There have been no reports of major Russian oil discoveries or field extensions, presumably the increase comes from catching up on maintenance deferred during the Communist era. My interpretation is that the uptick is part of the normal up-and-down jitter in the production curve. Worldwide, there have not been major discoveries or innovations that would put a permanent dogleg in the long-term trend.

Of particular interest is the 2004 production from Saudi Arabia: 8.75 million barrels per day. Early in 2003, Saudi Aramco and the government of Saudi Arabia announced that their production was maxed out at 9.2 million barrels per day. Yet there have been persistent stories that the Saudis could increase production to 11 million barrels per day. Both statements may be true! They could increase production, but they would soon regret having done so. An abrupt increase in their production rate would pull water up through the dolomitized streaks in the Ghawar field, like a teenager sucking on a soda straw. Saudi Arabia was supposed to be the world's last source of unused production capacity. Matthew Simmons has written an important book about Saudi oil production "Twilight in the Desert" which will be published by John Wiley & Sons on May 27, 2005. At this point, there seems to be no surplus oil production capacity anywhere in the world.

"Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak" is now at the printer. will get an allottment of books as soon as they come from the printer, and Amazon is now taking orders for the book. Hardcore Hubbert freaks will appreciate chapter 3 in "Beyond Oil" because Hubbert's pages of differential equations are replaced by three lines of high-school algebra.

Here are some corrections to the existing "Hubbert Peak" book:

  1. A reader pointed out that I could push the rock slab on page 92 with one hand, but it would take me a geologically long time to build up a significant velocity. A corollary: that parking lot better be exactly horizontal. If the parking lot had a slope of one degree, after one minute the rock slab would be moving faster than anyone could run to get out of the way.
  2. A chemist pointed out that the bottom molecule pictured on page 28 is impossible because it contains an odd number of carbon atoms. The resonance structure of aromatic compounds, like benzene, requires that there be an even number of carbons.
  3. At the bottom of page 153, readers were challenged either to discover a straight-line plot for the Gaussian bell-shaped curve or to prove that none could exist. The answer is now affirmative, there is a straight-line plot. A paper, to be submitted to Mathematical Geology, is now in preparation.

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