Mexico’s Cantarell, until recently the world’s third largest oil field, waved an ‘adiós’ in January as the field lost its position as the country’s largest in favour of the Ku-Maloob-Zaap oil field. This adds weight to the view that fast maturing oil fields will tighten the global oil market when demand recovers.
The decline in Cantarell is one of the starkest signs of mature oil fields falling production, and signals the growing difficulties to increase global oil output. The International Energy Agency, the western countries’ oil watchdog, last year warned that oil companies will struggle to pump enough new oil to offset the steep production declines of the world’s older fields.
Pemex, Mexico’s state oil company, said on Friday the Ku-Maloob-Zaap pumped an average of 787,000 barrels a day, above the 772,000 b/d of Cantarell. In early 2006 the Cantarell field was pumping more than 2m b/d.
The ageing oil field, which entered in production in 1979, is named after Rudesindo Cantarell, a fisherman who discovered it the swallow water of the Campeche Bay after noticing an oily substance mixed in the water.
The country’s total crude oil production dropped in January to 2.685m b/d, down 9.2 per cent from last year’s same month of 2.957m b/d. In January 2006, Mexico’s crude oil production was at 3.372m b/d.
The IEA said last year on its World Energy Outlook report that the oil industry will have to invest $350bn each year until 2030 to counter the steep rates of decline of existing fields and find enough extra oil to satisfy the growing demand of countries such as China, the report states.
Output from the world’s oil fields is declining at a natural rate of 9 per cent, the IEA found, following the most comprehensive review of its kind.
This decline rate is curtailed to 6.7 per cent when current investments to boost production are made. However, even with such investments, the decline rate worsens significantly to 8.6 per cent by 2030.
The declining rates are steeper than the industry had previously assumed.