An article I wrote on Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar oil field appears in the latest issue of Atlantic magazine. I’m putting up this post primarily to provide a forum for readers who might want to offer comments on that discussion.
Here’s a brief snippet of the part of the article that’s available without a subscription, to get the discussion going:
No country is more important to oil markets than Saudi Arabia. The kingdom produced roughly 9.2 million barrels of crude a day in 2006, and accounted for 19 percent of world oil exports. Many analysts expect it to supply a quarter of the world’s added production over the next few years. And as the only producer with significant excess capacity, it has played a crucial role in alleviating temporary supply disruptions, increasing daily production by 3.1 million barrels during the first Gulf War, for example, when oil production in Iraq and Kuwait dropped by 5.3 million barrels.
The Ghawar oil field is the kingdom’s crown jewel. Stretching for more than 150 miles beneath the desert, it is the largest known deposit in the world. It produces perhaps twice as much oil as any other field, and has doubtless accounted for more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production. Yet the Saudis have been removing oil from this reservoir for half a century. Sooner or later, its production must fall.