Lesley Stahl gushed all over the Empty Quarter at the amazing feats of engineering occurring in Saudi Arabia in order to bring their production from about 10 million barrels per day to 12 million. She visited Saudi Aramco’s nerve center in Dahran and gushed some more about the Saudi’s high tech mastery of horizontal drilling from hundreds of miles away.
Stahl’s piece centered on the Saudis bringing on line the Shaybah and Khurais fields. Shaybah was discovered in the late 1960s but couldn’t be exploited until recently with the advent of horizontal drilling. Khurais is reported by the Saudis as containing more oil than the entire U.S. but it will take 84 million gallons per day of seawater – being pumped from over 100 miles away – to supply the pressure to bring the oil to the surface.
The Saudis didn’t used to have drill horizontally or pump seawater into oil fields at the beginning of their production life. Although Stahl didn’t deal directly with the subject of peak oil, the evidence is there that the Saudis are now engaged in producing the harder to find, harder to yield oil.
Much of the report was an interview with Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi. At the end of the piece she asked him about Saudi research into solar energy. From the story on the 60 Minutes website:
Rather than oil pushers, the Saudis see themselves as good global citizens who are trying to save the world from a catastrophic oil shortage. But, as Al-Naimi told 60 Minutes, the kingdom is hedging its bets.
He told Stahl the kingdom is doing research on solar energy, as sunshine is more than abundant in Saudi Arabia.
And he says it won’t hurt their oil industry, but supplement it. “Our vision is that we will be exporters of gigawatts of electricity. We will be exporting both: barrels of oil and gigawatts of power.”
And so, he says, the kingdom will still be in the energy business long after the sun sets on the age of oil.
If Saudi Arabia is now banking on fields that take $60 billion in investment before the first oil is produced and they have long-term plans to be the world’s supplier of solar power, is there any question that we’re in the era of peak oil?