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Is BP’s new oil field worth drilling?

Bob Moon Sep 2, 2009

Is BP’s new oil field worth drilling?

Bob Moon Sep 2, 2009


Kai Ryssdal: There was a gusher of news from the oil giant BP this morning. We’ll go with the most promising part first: that the company has tapped what is described as a giant oil field 250 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico.

The not-so-promising part here is that the mother lode is as deep as an oil drill has ever gone underwater. As far as 4,000 feet down. We could be looking at a 10-year wait before any of the oil shows up on the market and that is if going to get it is even worth it.

Here’s our senior business correspondent Bob Moon.

BOB MOON: It’s either a hopeful sign that the world might not really be running on empty, after all, or an indication of how desperate our thirst for oil has become.

Some skeptics contend this discovery doesn’t really help much. For starters, they say, it will inevitably necessitate higher prices. But analyst Stephen Schork argues that’s exactly what the marketplace is responding to.

STEPHEN SCHORK: It brings home the adage in economics that high prices are the best cure for high prices. Because, you make the price high enough, someone out there is going to invent the technology to get the supply to the market.

Stephen Leeb watches the oil industry at Leeb Capital.

STEPHEN LEEB: Look, if oil were $5,000 a barrel, it would probably make sense to look for oil on the moon.

Leeb is convinced that bringing this undersea treasure to the surface will prove prohibitively expensive.

LEEB: When you’re drilling a depth equivalent to Mount Everest into the water, you’re going to need oil prices significantly higher than they are today.

Stephen Schork counters that recently successful deep sea exploration in the area suggests a possible trend and that would put oil speculators on the defensive.

SCHORK: Part of the run-up in oil prices over the past four years has been the perception the world was running out of oil. But the oil is there, and the technology, more importantly, is proving to get it out.

Stephen Leeb still isn’t impressed, though. He points out a possible three-billion barrels sounds like a lot, but not next to the 25 billion from Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, for example. And the likely daily output would be a mere drop in the bucket.

LEEB: Three-hundred-thousand barrels a day, in the context of a world that right now is consuming, you know, close to 85-million barrels a day, is just not significant in terms of the oil scene.

Leeb does allow that the find should provide a significant boost to the fortunes of BP and its partners.

I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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