228. USGS: THE MOST UNDISCOVERED OIL IS IN IRAQ
The Analysis of Assessment Results section of the USGS World Petroleum Assessment 2000 is packed with geological information relevant to the peak oil issue.
Here's one eye-opener. The USGS estimates that the Assessment Unit (AU) with the largest amount of undiscovered oil is Cretaceous Reservoirs (AU no.: 20300101) with 74 Gigabarrels (mean).
Dialing up 20300101, we get the map (click to enlarge):
Yup, you guessed it. Iraq. Plus Kuwait and Western Iran.
This goes a long way to explaining the discrepancy between the large USGS estimates of oil to be discovered, and the lack of recent discoveries. The #1 candidate for new oil is NOT BEING EXPLORED AT ALL.
Here's another interesting wrinkle. The peak oilers often point out the poor discovery record in recent years for "supergiant" oilfields (exceeding 5 Gbarrels). But consider the USGS's estimate of the size distribution of undiscovered fields in this AU:
As you can see, the vast majority of the undiscovered fields are expected to be small (although the USGS does estimate that about 4 supergiant fields still remain to be found in this AU).
If 4 supergiant oilfields in this AU strikes you as a deluded dream, consider this: In 2001, after the USGS assessment was completed, the Azadegan field was discovered in Iran Source. This is a 26 Gigabarrel supergiant covering 520 sq km, and is the largest field discovered in Iran in 30 years Source. So where is Azadegan? Yup, you guessed it -- AU 20300101:
Then, in 2003, Iran announced the discovery of an even bigger field (38 Gigabarrels), near the Persian Gulf port of Bushehr, which (of course) lies in AU 203000101.
So, right there you can see the merit of the USGS approach. Their expected undiscovered oil volume for the AU was 74 Gigabarrels, and within a few years of the study, the Iranians found 64 Gigabarrels in the AU without even breaking a sweat. If anything, the USGS underestimated the potential of this AU. Also, these facts don't jibe at all with the peak oiler mantra that "the largest fields are always found first", or with Matt Simmons' simplistic fairy tales about kings, queens and lords.
Finally, if you were to use the Colin Campbell method to estimate yet-to-find oil in Iraq, you would have to extrapolate the past discovery trend. But that's a bit of a problem because Iraq doesn't even have a discovery trend. In the case of Iraq, the recent discovery trend tells you a sum total of NOTHING about how much undiscovered oil still remains in the ground.
-- by JD