Having written lots of stuff about the oil industry over the years, I was shocked when an alert from World Oil Magazine showed up in my e-mail box entitled Haiti could have larger oil reserves than Venezuela.
Amidst the utter devastation left in the wake of the earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12th, new findings indicate the existence of 3 million barrels of oil in a shallow formation offshore the island.
The Greater Antilles, which includes Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and their offshore waters, probably hold at least 142 million barrels of oil and 159 billion cubic feet of gas, according to a 2000 report by the US Geological Survey. Undiscovered amounts may be as high as 941 million barrels of oil and 1.2 trillion cubic feet of gas, according to the report.
Apparently a French scientist, one Daniel Mathurin, thinks that even the fantasy resource numbers of the USGS—undiscovered amounts may be as high as 941 million barrels—are far too low:
“The Central Plateau, including the region of Thomond, the plain of the cul-de-sac and the bay of Port-au-Prince are filled with oil”. [Mathurin] added that “Haiti's oil reserves are larger than those of Venezuela . An Olympic pool compared to a glass of water that is the comparison to show the importance of oil Haitian compared to those of Venezuela.”
Whoa! Mathurin appears to be innumerate in so far as he has mixed up millions (106) with billions (109), but maybe he knows something the rest of us don't? I will spare you a deep analysis of why Venezuela's proved reserves, measured in billions of barrels, keep going up even as their actual oil production keeps going down.
Moving on, the always reliable USGS has now decided that there are "an estimated 513 billion barrels of technically recoverable heavy oil are in Venezuela’s Orinoco Oil Belt." Well, OK, that's the mean fantasy estimate of technically (not economically) recoverable "extra heavy" Orinoco crude. (I'm using the term "crude" loosely here.) The stated range was 380 billion barrels (the "F95") up to 652 billion (the "F5"). The "F" in F95 (for example) has a specific statistical meaning for the USGS based on their Monte Carlo roll of the dice combined with their take on the unexamined geology. It does not stand for Fantasy as you might reasonably conclude.
If that sounds like a whole lot of oil, you're right, it is. The recovery rate (or factor) is the important variable regarding these Orinoco "extra heavy" hydrocarbons. Trust me on this one, these huge numbers make little difference regarding our ultimate Petroleum Fate. The BBC weighed in with Venezuela oil 'may double Saudi Arabia'—
Scientists working for the US Geological Survey say Venezuela's Orinoco belt region holds twice as much petroleum as previously thought. The geologists estimate the area could yield more than 500bn barrels of crude oil.
This assessment is far more optimistic than even the best case scenario put forward by President Hugo Chavez.
The USGS team gave a mean estimate of 513bn barrels of "technically recoverable" oil in the Orinoco belt. Chris Schenk of the USGS said the estimate was based on oil recovery rates of 40% to 45%.
Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), Venezuela's state oil company, has not commented on the news. However, Venezuelan oil geologist and former PDVSA board member Gustavo Coronel was sceptical. "I doubt the recovery factor could go much higher than 25% and much of that oil would not be economic to produce", he told Associated Press news agency.
Not even the Venezuelans believe the USGS! Let's put it all together.
- Haiti has more oil than Venezuela
- Venezuela has more oil than Saudi Arabia
- Haiti has more oil than Saudi Arabia