I'm writing this after last week’s story that oil extraction rates from Western oil majors have peaked and are now in decline. This week we learn that light sweet crude oil has also peaked globally and is now in decline.
This information has come to us from a most unexpected source, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) itself. OPEC publish a monthly report on the global oil market and the August 2005 issue has data on non-OPEC and OPEC oil extraction by weight and sulphur content from 2000 to 2004.
In 2000, non-OPEC crude output was 66 mb/d and the split of non-OPEC crude production by light (>35 API), medium (26 to 35 API), and heavy (0.5%) whilst in 2004 it was 51%.
OPEC crude production during the 2000 to 2004 period saw an average increase of 1 mb/d of light sweet and 0.9 mb/d of medium sour crudes, while heavy sour output dropped 0.7 mb/d…
August 2005 OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report, Page 4
The key point is that non-OPEC light sweet crude went from 41% of 66 mb/d to 34% of 70 mb/d from 2000 to 2004, a drop of 3.26 mb/d. OPEC added 1 mb/d of light sweet crude over the same period resulting in a global reduction of light sweet crude of over 2mb/d showing that global light sweet crude has peaked and is now in decline.
Although the total volume of ‘oil’ extracted in 2004 compared with 2000 has increased, the proportions of different grades of oil have shifted. Light sweet crude is the most attractive because it is easier to refine, global refining capacity is geared to light sweet crude of which there is now a shortage. This shift in grades has resulted in a shortage of refining capacity for the available medium/heavy sour oil and tough competition for the reduced amount of light sweet oil available.
It is these two factors (less light sweet oil available and lack of refining capacity for the medium/heavy sour oil) that are chiefly responsible for the current high prices.
As oil becomes scarce it is clear that the best stuff will be pumped first, the best stuff is the light sweet crude. The fact that this is now in decline adds more weight to the argument that that the total global oil extraction rates will soon peak.
The only thing left to peak is total all oil extraction rates for which the experts predict 2007/8.