From McClatchy Washington Bureau, a report by Tom Lasseter that Russia is lagging behind in developing new oil fields, thus endangering their oil income and world oil prices.
The Russian oil boom, which has produced a gusher of cash, political power and an opulent elite — and has helped fuel the country’s renewed assertiveness in Georgia and elsewhere — is on shakier ground than officials in Moscow would like to admit.
Most of the oil produced after the country’s 1998 financial collapse has come from drilling and re-drilling old Soviet oil fields with more advanced equipment — squeezing more black gold out of the same ground — and efforts to develop new fields have been slow or non-existent.
That strategy is potentially disastrous, said Valery Kryukov, who researches oil companies in western Siberia for a government-funded think tank.
“If the situation which exists now stays the same, oil production will start to decline seriously in two years,” Kryukov said in a phone interview from his offices in the city of Novosibirsk.
The implications extend far beyond Russia’s borders. Last year, Russia was the world’s second-largest oil producer. If its output begins to decline or is hampered by inept or corrupt business practices, the price of oil could begin climbing again.
Here’s the accompanying graphic:
The article notes that:
The government declared oil to be part of a “strategic sector” in which foreign investors need permission from the government before they can buy a significant stake in companies. Foreigners have been steadily shoved out, including a recent incident in which the head of the joint Russia-UK company TNK-BP, one of the country’s leading oil concerns, and 148 specialists left the country after their visa status was called into question.
In the short-term, business has been lucrative: Russian oil output jumped from about 6.1 million barrels a day in 1998, when the price of a 42-gallon barrel was less than $20, to an average of some 9.7 million barrels a day in the first half of this year. Prices reached $145 a barrel in July before dropping back to the $120 range.
At its current rate of production, though, Russia will run out of oil relatively soon, in about two decades, according to BP statistics. Saudi Arabia — last year’s biggest oil producer — can continue pumping at its current clip for about 70 years, according to the same BP statistics.
A chart provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration lays out the stark details: Only two of Russia’s 14 largest oil producing fields were opened after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and half of the 14 were more than 60 percent depleted in 2006. As fields are depleted, pumping oil out of them generally becomes harder and more expensive.
After a decade of oil production increases, there’s been a slight drop — 0.5 percent — in production during the first seven months of this year, according to state statistics. Troika Dialog, Russia’s largest investment bank, is forecasting a 0.7 percent decline in oil production this year from 2007.