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The Evolution of Giant Oil Field Production Behavior


The giant oil fields of the world are only a small fraction of the total number of fields, but their importance is huge. Over 50% of the world’s oil production came from giants by 2005 and more than half of the world’s ultimate reserves are found in giants. Based on this, it is reasonable to assume that the future development of the giant oil fields will have a significant impact on the world oil supply. In order to better understand the giant fields and their future behavior, one must first understand their history. This study has used a comprehensive database on giant oil fields in order to determine their typical parameters, such as the average decline rate and life-times of giants. The evolution of giant oil field behavior has been investigated to better understand future behavior. One conclusion is that new technology and production methods have generally led to high depletion rates and rapid decline. The historical trend points towards high decline rates of fields currently on plateau production. The peak production generally occurs before half the ultimate reserves have been produced in giant oil fields. A strong correlation between depletion-at-peak and average decline rate is also found, verifying that high depletion rate leads to rapid decline. Our result also implies that depletion analysis can be used to rule out unrealistic production expectations from a known reserve, or to connect an estimated production level to a needed reserve base.

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We would like to thank Fredrik Robelius for providing us with helpful insights and valuable help on acquiring the field data. We would also like to thank Professor Chen Yuanqian at the CNPC Research Institute of Exploration and Development for providing useful discussions about oil field modelling. Finally, we would like to give our appreciation to Michael Lardelli for proof-reading.

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Correspondence to Mikael Höök.

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Höök, M., Söderbergh, B., Jakobsson, K. et al. The Evolution of Giant Oil Field Production Behavior. Nat Resour Res 18, 39–56 (2009).

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  • Giant oil fields
  • field behavior
  • peak oil
  • depletion