Bakken oil, Oilsands, Deepwater Oil update

Bakken Oil North Dakota Update
In October, 2008 North Dakota had an average of 203785 barrels of oil per day, with most of that from the Bakken Oil Formation.

In spite of reduced oil prices drilling is continuing in 2009 in North Dakota but drilling budgets will be down about 30%

Better and Cheaper Oilsands CAPRI, THAI Projects Go Ahead
Petrobank has its approvals in Alberta (Whitesands, May River Project) to proceed with testing of its new oil recovery method called Capri.

The project will be constructed in phases with the first module (Phase-1) having the capacity to produce 10,000 to 15,000 bbl/d of partially upgraded bitumen. Expansion will continue in stages with the production capacity ultimately reaching 100,000 bbl/d.

Alberta Oilsands for 2009

Alberta oilsand spending is projected to drop 25% from $20 billion to 16 billion in 2009

Total Canada withdrew a regulatory application for the 115,000-barrel-a-day Northern Lights project. Petro-Canada last month postponed a decision on the $25-billion Fort Hills mine for at least a year while it reviews cost estimates. Earlier this fall, Shell Canada withdrew regulatory applications for a 100,000 barrel a day in-situ project near Peace River, in addition to delaying a 100,000 barrel a day expansion of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project. Suncor Energy delayed by at least a year the $20.6-billion Voyageur expansion.

Stringham, VP of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), said the current round of expansions has merely involved delays, but the cancellation of new projects could result in a five-year production lag between 2012 and 2017 on the road to three million barrels a day.

Many producers are waiting to see if costs fall enough to make those delayed projects economic again.

“They hope they can bring those costs down,” said CAPP’s Stringham. “That’s why they’re buying some time to do that. It’s money well spent in deferring it out.”

Like crude prices, the costs for materials such as steel have fallen by about two-thirds since reaching their peaks. But Justin Bouchard, a research analyst with Raymond James in Calgary, said it remains to be seen if costs for other items like labour will come down enough to make projects like Fort Hills viable again.

“We fully expect costs to come in lower, but the big question is how much lower? Our concern is that labour and contractor rates may be stickier in the near term than expected.”

Note: The THAI and CAPRI oil recovery methods could reduce the cost of oilsand projects.

Deepwater Oil and other Megaprojects
From Chevron’s Oct 31, 2008 conference call:

Let’s start in the Gulf of Mexico deepwater with our Tahiti project. The project is progressing on schedule. The spar hole was installed during the first quarter and the topside modules during the third quarter of this year.

The facility sustained minor damage during hurricane Ike and will be repaired during ongoing hookup and commissioning activities. However, this will not delay the projects and we still anticipate first oil by the third quarter of 2009.

In Brazil, at the Frade field construction of the FPSO is 85% complete with a sail-away from Dubai expected in late December. First oil is expected during the second quarter of 2009.

In Angola, the Tombua Landana project remains on schedule, to meet first oil during the second half of 2009. The hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, did not significantly impact the schedule for sail-away of the various compliant pile tower components.

The Large Scale Steam Pilot in the Partitioned Neutral Zone also remains on schedule. If this pilot is successful, it will lead to a full-field development at Wafra. First steam injection is expected during early 2009.

Finally, I would like to provide a summary of other key 2008 upstream highlights. Please turn to slide 20. For September 10, we announced the extension and amendment of the Partitioned Neutral Zone operating agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This agreement extends the existing arrangement for 30 years through 2039.

Chevron’s Tahiti gulf project is expected to produce 125,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd).

Shenzi 85,000 bopd by BHP Billiton is another US oil project for 2009

Other oil megaprojects at wikipedia

Previous look in mid-2008 at new oil production.

Alberta oilsand production is still projected to reach 2 million bopd by 2010-2011 from current 1.3 million bopd.

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I think it realy makes sense to think about how a post-singularity world behaves. Ths growth figures are very impressive. If we look at Hansons phase model, one could assume that we will even be getting new phases with more rapid growth. That of course means that even the whole universe will not last many centuries for ever increased growth. It might be interesting to calculate how long it actually would take before energy usage reaches "universal" magnitudes. It is of course possible that the next phase is the final one and that we will not see any more acceleration. That would of course be a very "todays human" centric model.


The growth limit is set by thermodynamics for industry based on Earth. I can believe efficiency improvements, but you can only go so far.

But trouble arises long before we get to the point of matching the Sun. Assuming a 1 degree rise in temperature is trouble for regular weather, and an effective temperature at the top of the atmosphere of 255 K currently, that means 3.8 W extra energy per sq.metre, some 2x10^15 W total. Even with a 5 fold efficiency improvement that's just 9.4 doublings.

Just how we would off-world industry in bulk is an interesting question too...


Hypergrowth would mean filling up and using oceans, deserts etc...

Regular growth would mean that too, but hypergrowth means getting their sooner. The expectation is to fill out the current planet by growing 100,000 times from where we are now. I would expect starting to go offworld in a serious way at the same time as we totally fill out the oceans and deserts etc...


Why go off world if you can live under the sea, on mountainous terrain, or in the desert?

Surely, if we possess the technology to live on another planet or moon/asteroid, we could just as easily live under currently inhospitable conditions on Earth, and do it much more cheaply too.


I was thinking about how this plays out longer term and will write some follow up articles to explore this and other issues.

In 1900, global energy consumption equaled 0.7 TW(=10**12 Watt.) Now DSP is up over 100 times and we use about 15TW. So there was an increase of 6 times the efficiency in energy usage to GDP. Plus I think there was some decoupling of GDP from resources. Things like information technology and other less resource intense industries. In the future to maintain hypergrowth we might need more virtual industries.

More GDP from less resources can go beyond just going to the limits of energy efficiency.

100,000 times more for Kardashev 1 all the energy on the planet. 3 of the big stages which if they are coming faster each time would happen very quickly. Definitely need to go offworld, but with fusion and nanotech not a problem.

Then the solar system, 10**26 power. 1 billion times. 4-5 major doubling cycles. (a major doubling cycle has seven doublings.) So if things are accelerating it happens even faster.

It seems we will either have to decouple economic growth from energy growth a lot more or use super tech to tap more power than solar.


Hi Brian

Interesting and provocative essay there Brian. I wonder how long "super-growth" might last before it runs into Earth's thermal limits and has to majorly go off-planet?

Earth receives 174,000 terawatts from the Sun, bounces 52,200 back into space, absorbs and re-radiates the rest - some 121,800 terawatts. Human technologies and thermal processes use ~ 15 TW. Currently we waste ~ 60-80% of the heat we generate. If we improved efficiency while increasing growth the 4-5 fold improvement in efficiency would last but a few decades at most (2-2.22 doubling times.) We would then we thermalising energy gradiants and be squeezing every bit of useful work out of them. Just 13 doubling times after that we would match the Sun's input - a few doublings before that point things would be much too hot. Industry will need to off-world within 195 years at the very latest if industrial growth is to continue.

But for how long will one system be enough? In just 31 doublings after industry off-worlds we will match the Sun's energy output. That means Matrioshka Brain levels will appear within ~ 660 years.

And then?