Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Peak Oil... and the oil industry

Whilst 'peak oil' is a powerful concept, it is nevertheless controversial.
Is it more a question of price?

In 2009, Dr. Christoph Rühl, chief economist of BP, argued against the peak oil hypothesis:[174]
Physical peak oil, which I have no reason to accept as a valid statement either on theoretical, scientific or ideological grounds, would be insensitive to prices. (...) In fact the whole hypothesis of peak oil – which is that there is a certain amount of oil in the ground, consumed at a certain rate, and then it's finished – does not react to anything.... Therefore there will never be a moment when the world runs out of oil because there will always be a price at which the last drop of oil can clear the market. And you can turn anything into oil into if you are willing to pay the financial and environmental price... (Global Warming) is likely to be more of a natural limit than all these peak oil theories combined. (...) Peak oil has been predicted for 150 years. It has never happened, and it will stay this way.
According to Rühl, the main limitations for oil availability are "above ground" and are to be found in the availability of staff, expertise, technology, investment security, money and last but not least in global warming. The oil question is about price and not the basic availability. This is entirely compatible with Hubbert's empirical method, which focuses on observed patterns of extraction rather than their causes. Rühl's views are shared by Daniel Yergin of CERA, who added that the recent high price phase might add to a future demise of the oil industry – not of complete exhaustion of resources or an apocalyptic shock but the timely and smooth setup of alternatives.[175] 
Clive Mather, CEO of Shell Canada, said the Earth's supply of bitumen hydrocarbons is "almost infinite", referring to hydrocarbons in oil sands.[176]
Attorney and mechanical engineer Peter W. Huber pointed out in 2006 that the world is just running out of "cheap oil." As oil prices rise, unconventional sources become economically viable. He predicted that, "[t]he tar sands of Alberta alone contain enough hydrocarbon to fuel the entire planet for over 100 years."[176]
Industry blogger Steve Maley echoed some of the points of Yergin, Rühl, Mather and Hofmeister.[179]
Environmental journalist George Monbiot responded to a 2012 report by Leonardo Maugeri[180] by proclaiming that there is more than enough oil (from unconventional sources) for capitalism to "deep-fry" the world with climate change.[181] Stephen Sorrell, senior lecturer Science and Technology Policy Research, Sussex Energy Group, and lead author of the UKERC Global Oil Depletion report, and Christophe McGlade, doctoral researcher at the UCL Energy Institute have criticized Maugeri's assumptions about decline rates.[182]
Peak oil - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Peak Oil Is Dead Wrong

Peak Oil

Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. The concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, and the combined production rate of a field of related oil wells. The aggregate production rate from an oil field over time usually grows exponentially until the rate peaks and then declines—sometimes rapidly—until the field is depleted. This concept is derived from the Hubbert curve, and it has been shown to be applicable qualitatively to the sum of a nation’s domestic production rate and to the global rate of petroleum production in the absence of a major technological breakthrough.
In the long term, there is no doubt that oil production will peak and decline. We are using oil at a much faster rate than it is being discovered, as shown in the following figure*, and eventually, the dwindling inventory will preclude maintaining current production. However, this figure must be viewed with caution, because reserve growth within current discoveries can and have countered the decrease in world reserves, so the timing of peak oil has considerable uncertainty.
Discovery Chart
Oil production in the United States has already peaked, as shown in the following figure, and oil consumption exceeded domestic production in the early 1990s. The rebound in production starting in 1977 was initiated by the completion of the Alaska pipeline and enhanced by Federal off-shore leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Without the pulse of Alaskan and off-shore Gulf of Mexico oil, the lower 48 oil production curve follows the Hubbert relationship more closely. Alaskan oil production has also now peaked, as has English production from the North Sea. Production of shale oil could mitigate the drop in US oil production by producing millions of barrels per day for hundreds of years.
Oil Production Chart
However, the rapid increase in tight oil from shale formations such as the Bakken and Eagle Ford has reversed the decline in US production.   The increased production from this source is projected by the US Energy Information Agency to peak within the next 10 years, and just as after the peak in Alaska production, the total national production will decline.  Significant production of shale oil from oil shale could start in about 10 years and become a substantial source in 20-25 years, thereby mitigating the production declines predicted after 2020.  US oil production from oil shale could be maintained at a few millions of barrels per day for hundreds of years.

projected oil production

A common area of confusion is the balance between production and demand.  By definition, production approximately equals demand, since there is negligible storage capacity for oil.  The question is whether the supply is constrained by political forces outside normal economic forces, which distorts the natural balance.  The temporary peak oil production just before 1980 was caused by political forces that constrained supply and forced prices artificially high.
These high prices caused demand reductions, including efficiency improvements and a permanent shift away from using oil for electricity generation.  Consequently, demand in the 1980s could be met at lower production levels, which resulted in a dramatic reduction in oil price.  The price decline continued until 1999, at which time oil was as cheap (in real terms) as it had been for more than a century.
Oil Prices (2)
                                                         * Williams, Bob., “Future Energy Supply – 1: Oil Depletion”.Oil and Gas Journal, July 21, 2003
In the future, as easily produced oil becomes scarcer, the price of oil will be influenced by demand as affected by global economic growth and constrained by the cost and availability of alternative energy and conservation.  The resulting price will profoundly affect the timing and breadth of the peak in oil production.

Peak Oil - AMSO LLC

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