In 2003, Mexico’s Cantarell oilfield was the second most productive field in the world, yielding more than 2.1 million barrels a day, behind only Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar field. But as with many of the world’s other giant fields, Cantarell’s best days are behind it.
Production at Cantarell is down by a third this year, the FT says, falling from 1.6 million barrels a day to just over 1 million:
Mexico’s total oil production fell about 10 per cent in the past 12 months to 2.79m b/d in May. That was only marginally above April’s output, which was the lowest in a decade.
“This is not a good sign,” said George Baker, head of energia.com, a Houston-based consultancy. “But it does at least strengthen the government’s position that there is an approaching crisis in oil production.”
Mexico’s situation isn’t unique. Like other oil-producing nations, it forbids foreign investment in its oilfields and relies on a single state-run energy firm to produce all of its oil. Without foreign investment, however, a dearth of innovation and technological know-how has led to precipitous declines in production. The centre-right government of Felipe Calderon has tried to use plunging production rates to argue that Pemex, Mexico’s state-run oil firm, doesn’t know how to extract Mexico’s dwindling crude supplies, but to little effect.
Peak oil enthusiasts suggest that what’s now happening at Mexico’s Cantarell field may soon occur in fields like Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar, which alone produces more oil than every field in the United States. rumours that the Saudis are aggressively pumping Ghawar with water to stimulate production of a dying field have contributed to this year’s super spike.
Colin Campbell, a famous geologist and peak oil theorist, thinks production has already topped out: