Thursday, September 07, 2006
Chevron's "Jack 2" Deep Water Oil Discovery
So much hype over nothing! Give me a break. CNN, Fox, CNBC, and any other news outlet in North America have been all over this thing for the past 2-3 days. Why?
Chevron's "Jack Two" well is a "new" deep water well in the Gulf of Mexico in a field that "could" hold between 3 billion and 15 billion barrels of oil. They won't know exactly how much oil is down there until they drill more wells to get a true measure of the reserve. The reserve is a total of 28,000 feet down beneath about 7,500 feet of water. Chevron expects to be able to deliver crude from the well to market by 2010.
If absolutely everything about this "discovery" (it was actually discovered in 2000) is the best they could hope for, this whole field may be able to be pushed to deliver up to 500,000 barrels a day some time after 2013 from 100 or more wells.
But let us look at some hard realities.
Generally about half of the oil in a reserve is ultimately recoverable which, if the estimates are for the total reserve size, would mean that 1.5 to 7.5 billion barrels may ultimately be recoverable.
The oil is 28,000 feet down which will require tremendous amounts of energy to get it to the surface. It may even mean that it takes more energy to extract the oil and get it to a refinery (meaning a negative EROEI) than it ever produces in energy.
The well and the field are in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, hurricane alley. And being that far offshore in deep water it is very possible that they will not be able to deliver that crude to shore by pipeline, therefore having to have a tanker-loading facility on the platform. Any tanker being loaded would not be able to make a successful run for shore with a rapidly developing, unpredictable hurricane bearing down on the gulf. Even if they could deliver the crude to shore by pipeline, we have seen the tremendous destruction that can be inflicted on underwater pipelines by a hurricane like Katrina or Hugo.
Even if 15 billion barrels of oil can be extracted from this reserve, that represents less than two years of US demand and only 6 months of global demand. And it won't start to be delivered antil 2010 or later.
There is also a small technical geological issue involved here. It has generally been understood that the viable oil production zone goes down to somewhere between 15-20,000 feet. This is the deepest production well that has ever been drilled. No one knows how the production dynamics of such a deep well will play out. It may be that only a quarter of the oil down there, or less, is ultimately recoverable. The potential of applying technology like water injection or gas injection or lateral drilling on such a deep well are extremely limited. Once well pressure drops and production falls off wells on such a reserve are going to have dramatic and rapid production drops.
All in all, therefore, this "discovery" ain't no Ghawar. It is far too little far too late to make any impact on the long term global crude depletion curve. Sure is good for a November election though.