"Cantarell is going to fall a lot, and quickly," said Guillermo Cruz Dominguez Vargas, a former executive of Petróleos Mexicanos. "I can't imagine the strain on this society if there is nothing to replace it." Leaked to Mexican newspapers, Pemex's esitmates that it is possible that production will crash by an incrediable 71% from May levels in just three years. Such a rapid decline would not only have a serious impact on Mexico but also on the global price of crude and on the U.S. which relys on Mexico for much of it's oil needs.
Beyond individual super fields reaching their peak, the last few years has seen more and more multinational oil companies announcing decline in their total production. In the first half of this year, Premier Oil was producing an average 33,600 barrels of oil per day, down between 1% and 2% from last year. Statoil said it's year-on-year decline was mainly a result of maturing fields on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and BP last month announced a 2.5% fall production compared to the same period last year.
Meanwhile, world government's slowly coming to terms with the implications a decline in global oil production and are scrambling around for alternatives.
While the UK talks of nuclear, rising oil prices have encouraged China's massive coal industry to invest in a new generation of coal liquefaction projects. Coal liquefaction converts coal from a solid into liquid fuels and with a global peak of conventional oil production predicted to occure within the next five years, those countries with lots of coal will be looking at China's progress with great interest.
History provides only a handful of examples of this technology being develeoped on a large-scale. During the second world war the Nazi's built plants to try to stave off their oil crisis which eventually grounded their air force and stalled their tank advances. South Africa also developed these technologies as a result of economic sanctions in 1960s. There was also a surge of interest during the OPEC oil crises of the 1970s but the return of cheap oil after the North Sea bonanza put a stop to developement.
China is the world's second-largest producer of energy, being the world's largest producer of coal and the fifth-largest producer of crude oil. Nether-the-less it still imports 30% of the energy needs - and 47% of it's oil. Despite domestic production of crude oil increasing by a healthy 2.1 % in the first half of this year, China's net crude oil imports increased by a massive 17.6 % in order to meeting the growing demands of it's economy.
Surprisingly, China's government has just stepped in with measures they claim are designed to slow down the rapid growth of the coal-liquefaction industry - moves reported to be at least partly due to fears that excessive development is polluting the environment and putting to much demand on water supplies.
However, these curbs take may actually have the opposite effect as they simply put an end to the approval of coal liquefaction projects with an annual production capacity under three million tons. In other word's they discourage only small plants and thus may result in much larger projects being proposed.
It is reported that there are at least 30 coal liquefaction projects currently in development stages in China. Some of these projects are joint ventures with multinationals such as Shell Gas and South Africa-based energy giant Sasol.
Professor Lin Boqiang of Xiamen University warned that the repaid growth of the industry would damage the already deteriorating environment of the country. Coal liquefaction produces huge amounts of pollution and uses massive quantities of of water, something which most coal-rich parts of China are already very short of.
Large-scale take up of this technology around the world would result in a significant increase in CO2 emissions and contibute to pushes levels beyond critical tipping points beyond which positive feedback loops result in ireversable runaway global warming and the snuffing out of most live on the planet.
Talk about these issues and what if anything we can do about them at the Earth First! summer gathering in Wales and the Camp for Climate Justice near leeds in a few weeks time.