He said that engineers had tried to maintain 1.9 million barrels per day but that 1.7 million is the optimum rate. Kuwait will now spend some $3 million a year for the next year to boost output and exports from other fields.
However, it is surely a landmark moment when the world's second largest oil field begins to run dry. For Burgan has been pumping oil for almost 60 years and accounts for more than half of Kuwait's proven oil reserves. This is also not what forecasters are currently assuming.
Forecasts wrongLast week the International Energy Agency's report said output from the Greater Burgan area will be 1.64 million barrels a day in 2020 and 1.53 million barrels per day in 2030. Is this now a realistic scenario?
The news about the Burgan oil field also lends credence to the controversial opinions of investment banker and geologist Matthew Simmons. His book 'Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy' claims that the ageing Saudi oil filed also face serious production falls.
The implications for the global economy are indeed serious. If the world oil supply begins to run dry then the upward pressure on oil prices will be inexorable. For the oil producers this will come as a compensation for declining output, and cushion them against an economic collapse.
However, the oil consumers then face a major energy crisis. Industrialized economies are still far too dependent on oil. And the pricing mechanism of declining oil reserves will press them into further diversification of energy supplies, particularly nuclear, wind and solar power.
Geological factsAll this was foreshadowed in the energy crisis of the late 1970s when a serious inflection in oil supply by the year 2000 was clearly forecast. How ironic that those earlier forecasts now look correct, while more modern and recent forecasts begin to look over optimistic and out-of-date with geological reality.
Nobody can change the geology, and forces of nature that laid down reserves of oil and gas over millions and millions of years. Could it be that we have been blinded by technological advances into thinking that there is some way to beat nature?
The natural world has an uncanny ability to hit back at the arrogance of man, and perhaps a reassessment of reality at this point is called for, rather than a reliance on oil statistics that may owe more to political maneuvering than geological facts.