Current Situation & 2005 Projections
This past year we have seen how volatile the oil market has become as the world approaches peak oil production. But the recent softening of oil prices demonstrates that we have not yet peaked. What we are experiencing right now is a tight oil market. Production can still increase, but not by much and only with difficulty. The good news is that we are producing more oil than ever before. The bad news is that production is barely keeping up with consumption, and the decline is still ahead of us.
In this tight situation, anything which disrupts oil production around the globe has an effect on prices. This year oil prices were driven up by the triple whammy of the Iraq invasion, civil unrest leading to production disruption in Nigeria, and hurricanes in the Gulf. Production could not increase enough to cover all of those shortages. But now the hurricane season is long over, and Nigeria is back in business. Barring further disruptions - such as the horror of a 9.0 earthquake in the Indian Ocean - prices should remain soft for the short term.
In fact, oil prices might drop back below $20/barrel before 2005 is over - depending on circumstances. Several new large fields should come online this year, adding extra capacity. These are the last of the 500 million barrel mega fields, since none has been discovered in the past few years. Eighteen new mega projects are due to start producing this year, followed by eleven more is 2006. However, 2007 will see the opening of only three new projects, followed by three more in 2008. This will not keep up with declining production in older fields, much less the increase in demand.