On The Greater Burgan Oil Field

burgan fields

Those of us who were alive to witness the first Gulf War remember the Burgan Oil Field of Kuwait – it’s the one Saddam Hussein’s forces put the torch to when they beat a retreat back to Iraq and the prevailing theory at that time was something akin to “if we can’t have it, neither can you.”

The Burgan Oil Field, discovered in 1938, is the world’s largest sandstone oil field that was pressed into production by the US-UK joint venture Kuwait Oil Company in 1946. Burgan’s total potential production of recoverable oil has been estimated as between 66 and 75 billion barrels, plus perhaps 70 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The words “potential” and “perhaps” bother me. 

In Rasoul Sorkhabi’s article “The Great Burgan Field, Kuwait”, Dr. Sorkhabi goes on record to say “Like any other Middle Eastern oil field, the reserves and production data for Burgan are shrouded in a cloud of secrecy, uncertainty, and controversy.”

And not without good reason – the kingdoms that rule the Middle East aren’t exactly universally loved by their subjects. In fact, it’s fair to say that the range of emotions of the commons runs from, at best, ambivalent to, at worst, overwhelmingly hostile. That these kingdoms being identified as the most repressive in all regards concerning human rights and basic civil liberties makes anyone wonder why the people of these nations simply don’t rise up and revolt.

The answer lies in my father’s version of The Golden Rule which states, “He who has the gold makes the rules”. These kingdoms use the wealth that their oil generates to buy the loyalties of certain security directors and military leaders to make sure the populace is kept down nice and suppressed. As long as the security apparatus of the state is well paid and happy, life goes on for the royals.

Lest I outright call them liars, I would venture to say that, on the whole, there really isn’t any percentage in it for these monarchs to be completely honest about how much (or little) oil they have left in the ground.

After all, when your very existence – indeed your very survival – depends on a steady revenue of petrodollars you don’t rock the boat and any mention that your oil production levels are falling (or indeed about to fall) is generally bad for business – that is, if your business is to keep yourself in a lifestyle to which you have grown accustomed and the rest of your country can  go pound sand.

So today I put on my prognosticator hat once again to determine just how much time is left on Burgan.

Burgan has been producing since 1946 – which is 67 years as of this year. Surmising there is nothing special about my observation of this field I predict  that Burgan is somewhere between 22 and 25 years away from being played out with my best guess that the field peaked around 8-10 (upwards to 13 1/2) years ago.

Having said this, I predict that Burgan will be abandoned at least by 2035 and at most 2038.

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