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Saturday, June 26, 2004

Oil from a Turnip

The oil industry-supported IPPA site has interesting numbers on the national scene. You can get some insite into our own production capacity and what the future portends. According to depletion analysis, all oil wells have a finite lifetime. The so-called stripper wells are nearing the end of their lifetime. A previous post pointed out how they contribute about 20% of the nation's production. The intriguing part once again is how they average only 2 barrels of oil per day. At current prices, this is less than $80 gross/day. Remember, these are pumping 24/7 and basically generate the equivalent pumping flow of approximately ONE fluid cup of oil per minute.
2.2 barrels/day * 42 gallons/barrel * 16 cups/gallon * 1 day / 1440 minutes = 1.03 cups/minute

The rest of the oil wells (middle-age, so to speak) in the USA average 10 barrels/day. But this is still only 5 cups/minute per well. Only 3 % of wells are flowing; the rest need artifical lift.

I have no idea how rampant the notion of the "classic" oil gusher is to most people in this country, but when you step back and stare at the numbers, a different picture emerges. In my mind, I visualize that we basically operate several hundred thousand autonomous kool-aid stands to supply a portion of our nations oil needs. And, bizarre as it sounds, the average rate is the same as a grade-schooler selling lemonade at the vegetable market on a hot summer day.

And this next last bit also blows my mind. What is the consumption of gas (in cups per minute) of a SUV getting 16 MPG travelling at 60 MPH?
1 cup per minute

The bottom-line: The average stripper well pumps enough oil to keep ONE SUV continuously operational.


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