The Giant Sucking Sound, Revisited

Monday, February 12, 2007

Petroleum and Natural Gas Watch
by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
February 12, 2007, Vol. 6, Number 3

Remember the metaphorical “giant sucking sound” that Ross Perot invoked in the 1992 presidential debates? Perot employed that image to characterize the rapid exodus of jobs to Mexico that would surely result from ratifying the North American Free Trade Agreement. Fifteen years later, that vivid phrase could appropriately describe the increasingly desperate circumstances befalling Cantarell, Mexico’s largest oilfield, situated about 50 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The giant sucking sound you might hear at Cantarell is what happens when hundreds of oil wells begin drawing gas and water from the very reservoirs that used to yield copious quantities of petroleum. It’s the sound of an oilfield rolling over its peak.

To unknowing American ears, the name Cantarell evokes a casual, Southwestern feeling, more suggestive of a dude ranch than the world’s No. 2 oil field. By far the most productive oil reservoir in the Western Hemisphere, Cantarell was yielding more than two million barrels per day (bpd) as recently as 2005, outperforming all other fields save mighty Ghawar in Saudi Arabia. At $50 per barrel that level of production translated to $100 million a day. When a wealth generator of that magnitude starts to sputter and lose productivity, other oilfields must pick up the slack or else the Mexican economy is bound to take a hit.

Continue reading here.


GliderGuider said...

While the official projections of decline at Cantarell are bad enough, plenty of swirling rumour is pointing to a decline of 70% by the end of 2008. If a 20+% annual decline rate continues, this seems all too probable. Even if more nitrogen injection slows the rate temporarily, it is all too likely that such action will lead to an even steeper decline a bit later, as happened with the Yibal field in Oman.

One of the interesting aspects of the inevitable migration problem that's not getting much play just yet is the $385 million contract awarded to KBR in January, 2006, for the construction of a string of detention camps across the southern USA for use in the event of an "immigration emergency". I suspect the American administration has seen this coming for a while.

Cantarell and the knock-on effects of its decline is going to become a poster child for the post-peak world. I have posted an analysis of the Cantarell situation and its implications on my web site dealing with Peak Oil in the context of the World Problematique.