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Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy Paperback – May 16, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

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Investment banker Simmons offers a detailed description of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the U.S and our long-standing dependence upon Saudi oil. With a field-by-field assessment of its key oilfields, he highlights many discrepancies between Saudi Arabia's actual production potential and its seemingly extravagant resource claims. Parts 1 and 2 of the book offer background and context for understanding the technical discussion of Saudi oil fields and the world's energy supplies. Parts 3 and 4 contain analysis of Saudi Arabia's oil and gas industry based on the technical papers published by the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Simmons suggests that when Saudi Arabia and other Middle East producers can no longer meet the world's enormous demand, world leaders and energy specialists must be prepared for the consequences of increased scarcity and higher costs of oil that support our modern society. Without authentication of the Saudi's production sustainability claims, the author recommends review of this critical situation by an international forum. A thought-provoking book. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"...this is an important book and worth reading" (The Royal Society for Asian Affairs, April 2006)

"The clearly an expert in his field…I recommend anybody in the financial markets read this book." (Financial Engineering News, October 2006)

"Those who follow with their own tales of imminent economic collapse struggle to emerge from [Simmons'] shadow." (Spectator Business, October, 2008)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (June 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471790184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471790181
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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234 of 250 people found the following review helpful By Autonomeus TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Matt Simmons has bad news about Saudi oil, very bad. Who is Matt Simmons? He's a Houston investment banker who specializes in oil. He's a member of the National Petroleum Council and the Council on Foreign Relations. Not a radical environmentalist, in other words, quite the opposite. What Simmons has done in TWILIGHT IN THE DESERT: THE COMING OIL SHOCK AND THE WORLD ECONOMY is to analyze the technical papers of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) on Saudi oil, shining a light behind the veil of secrecy that has shrouded it since OPEC stopped reporting oil production data in 1982. In short, what the SPE reports reveal is that the official Saudi claims for reserves and production capacity are vastly overstated. Further, tragically, it seems that the fields have been mismanaged, making it unlikely that all the oil will ever be recovered.

Now someone with a suspicious mind might suspect that Simmons, a banker, has an interest in leading the market to believe that oil is scarce, because that will put upward pressure on the price, and the oil companies and he, their banker, will benefit. I do have a suspicious mind, but I am convinced by Simmons's meticulous presentation of the SPE data. It is probably the single most important piece of evidence that the world is entering the Hubbert's peak for oil ("peak oil" as it is colloquially and ungrammatically known). He systematically presents the data on every single big Saudi oilfield, from the biggest of all, Ghawar, which as of 1994 still produced 63% of all Saudi oil, through Abqaiq, Safnaya, Berri, Zulaf, Marjan, Shaybah, and smaller fields.

Are there vast untapped reserves in Saudi Arabia? According to the SPE data, the answer is no.
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127 of 137 people found the following review helpful By John G. Hilliard on June 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The basis of this book is fear, not unwanted fear spread by the author, but it is the emotion you start to feel as you move through the book page by page. For good or bad the U.S. and the world have become reliant on one natural resource that is controlled by a very few countries and people. This fact alone should have most of us concerned, 60% of the oil we use each day is controlled by a bunch of countries that are primarily dictatorships surrounded by people that would sooner burn the oil in mass dumping grounds instead of selling it to us regardless of the price. We have become backed into a corner and it appears that our only response so far as been to flex our power.

What will happen if the oil fields in Saudi can not keep up with demand? What if the production facilities are almost overmatched at this point and further facilities are difficult to put in place? All of these and more questions are covered in this book. The author also talks about the populations and political situation in Saudi and the picture he presents is another difficult and concerning one at that. One can only hope that the production in Iraq gets up and running or that better technology is hurried into production.

The footnotes and documented sources detailed in the book give it the appearance of a very well documented and accurate study. The details on the production process in Saudi is worth the price of the book alone. It is a rather back handed slight at our news media that the very real issues presented in this book have not yet made it to the talking heads at 6 pm. Overall I enjoyed the book a great detail. It is well written and put together. The reader is never lost in the detail no matter how little previous knowledge the reader has about the oil business. What I found was that the good was a very fast read given that it is difficult to put it down. It is a book that we all need to read.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By J.E.Robinson on November 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a well written and well researched book by Mathew Simmons, an expert on the oil business including Middle East oil supplies. The book is a bit technical and is mostly solid information on oil extraction, the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, along with a number of projections. The best comparison that I can make is with a university reference book, but not a text book: it is a well written reference book with a very short introduction of Saudi history.

The book is a little over 400 pages in medium font, and has many maps showing the locations of the oil, schematics showing how the crude oil is actually processed, photographs, and a number of tables. There are about a dozen large oil fields in Saudi Arabia. These fields are discussed, and comparisons are made with other large active oil fields around the world, including the North Sea oil fields started in the early 1970s. The core idea of the book is that we are about to face the reality of limited oil production in Saudi Arabia and in the rest of the Middle East: the situation is not good and projected inventories and extraction rates are too optimistic. The era of growing sources seems to be over, regardless of the political situation in the Middle East. The sources cannot keep up with the demand for oil that is expected to continue to grow.

The book is divided into four sections and then has a very short appendix. The first section is just 69 pages and details the political and historical development of Saudi Arabia as a country, and the introduction of foreign oil companies.

Section two is short, just 50 pages, and covers the subject of how the oil is extracted from the ground, and what has to be done to separate the crude from water, methane, and various other contaminants to get "pure oil".
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