Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Peak Supermajor was in 2005?

Yesterday I posted production charts for three of the big IOCs.  Today I add the other three supermajors (Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Total).  The aggregate production for all six is shown above.  Note that this is all liquids - ie it includes natural gas liquids and syncrude from tar sands in addition to regular crude oil.

As you can see the supermajors as a group have not grown over the last decade and indeed show something of a peak in 2004-2005 from which they have since declined.  Here are the individual lines (which in some cases go back further):

Commenter bmerson asked:
What are the possible explanations for that? 1) Peak oil plateau - within the areas available to the IOC's, the geology simply will not support higher extraction rates. 2) Over-regulation - they are not being allowed to drill in places that could support higher extraction rates. 3) Under-investment - the IOC's have failed to invest in exploration, development, extraction, and extended recovery techniques that would support higher rates. 4) Short term greed - they are more interested in profits today than in increasing extraction rates. (corollary - they don't think they can increase extraction rates so they might as well minimize costs and maximize profits).
I am mainly in favor of explanation 1) -- these are profit making enterprises that are too small relative to global production to set prices themselves, so they have every incentive to maximize production and so this must presumably be the best they can do with the reserves available to them.  Obviously the important caveats are that most of the reserves are under the jurisdiction of national oil companies, and also that there are some areas off-limits for longstanding environmental reasons that could allow some production if those restrictions were lifted.

If you think about it, the relative flatness is remarkable given the huge increase in oil prices over the last 10-15 years.  The level of effort that the oil companies are making must be far greater now than it was, but they are only running faster to stay in the same place, or even slipping backwards a little.


solon said...

Stuart, can't tell if you adjusted for the effect of PSA's (production sharing agreements), or if you looked into that much. Some portion of the majors' production comes from PSA's where the volumes they report can shrink as the price of oil rises. This structure targets a return on capital for mega projects with less commodity price volatility than they carry in typical OECD country projects.

ColdNorth said...

Further to explaination 1), it would be interesting to plot the exploration and production investments of these same companies over the same period, as well as their investments drilling for oil on Wall-Street.

Derwein said...

I am not sure I remember correctly but didn't ConocoPhillips transfer their oil sands business to Cenovous Energy some or a couple of years ago? If so that would have an impact on their production today.

Stuart Staniford said...

In general I didn't attempt to adjust for acquisitions or divestitures or PSAs. Those are factors in the data to some degree (eg BP buying into Russia).