Shuck and Jive

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Peak Oil Slowly Getting on the Radar

Peak Oil stories are starting to make the news even if they are relegated to the back pages. Stories like the following should be on the front page every day. This was in Friday's Johnson City Press, Explorers Taking Big Risks to Find Crude.

MIAMI — The world’s thirst for crude is leading oil exploration companies into ever deeper waters and ventures fraught with environmental and political peril.

The days when the industry could merely drill on land and wait for the oil — and the profits — to flow are coming to an end. Because of that, companies feel compelled to sink wells at the bottom of deep oceans, inject chemicals into the ground to force oil to the surface, deal with unsavory regimes, or operate in some of the world’s most environmentally sensitive and inaccessible spots, far from ports and decent roads. All those factors could make it difficult to move in equipment and clean up a spill.

From the Arctic to Cuba to the coast of Nigeria, avoiding catastrophes like BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill is likely to become increasingly difficult and require cooperation among countries that aren’t used to working together.
But that isn't even the story. How much oil you expect to get in those deep waters?
Exploration companies have discovered huge oil fields in the South Atlantic off Brazil, with deposits believed to exceed 8 billion barrels. Reaching them will require drilling not only in waters nearly two miles deep, but through salt layers up to three miles below the ocean floor. The BP well that blew out was in water a mile deep.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic region holds up to one-quarter of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil and natural gas, including 90 billion barrels of crude — most of it offshore.
"Huge oil fields"? Hardly. The world consumes a billion barrels of oil every eleven days. The big find off Brazil of eight billion barrels would last us until Ground Hog's Day. The 90 billion barrels of crude in the Arctic region? Three years, tops assuming they got it all. If that is a quarter of the undiscovered oil, that isn't much friends.

The lesson here is not to be fooled with what looks like large numbers especially when the media says "huge oil" fields. The fact is that discoveries peaked in 1964. We currently extract four barrels for every barrel we discover.

Rather than a midnight movie, I have two midnight powerpoints. The first is from Robert Hirsch, The Impending World Energy Mess.

The second powerpoint should make folks take notice.

This is from former BP executive Jeremy Gilbert.

It would have been nice if Mr. Gilbert had blown the whistle when he wasn't an "ex" but, I guess, better late than never.

Former BP Exec Jeremy Gilbert Just Shot Down Every Argument Against Peak Oil.

Change is coming.


  1. Peak Oil is boring. In the scheme of things, it is not a big deal. We have already seen peak oil once in this nations history, and I would be surprised if ANYONE can name the year.

  2. Peak Oil is boring.

    Thank you, Paul! I couldn't have created a better foil than you!

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Paul clearly demonstrates the need for education on these matters.

    The U.S. peaked in 1970 as M. King Hubbert predicted in 1956. In 1970 we consumed about what we extracted, 10 million barrels per day.

    Today, we consume about 18-20 mpd and extract 5-6 mpd. The rest we import.

    Peak Oil is about the peak of the rate of extraction of the global supply.

    No one has ever seen this.

    But you are right. It is kind of boring. Sports, the Tea Party, and Charlie Sheen's hooker in the closet are much more exciting.

  3. You still haven't named the peak oil we have been though before. Just name it (or come within 10 years) and I will concede that peak oil is something to worry about. But, when the world (and this country) experienced it before, it did not make enough history for people to remember.

  4. Don't be coy, Paul. Enlighten us. You have information we should know?

    I am up front with my information. Here is a helpful website regarding peak production.

    Here is a chart country by country.

  5. John,

    Well, I had used one article. But by more searching of the Internet, know that I need to do more research as what I may have been reading was misleading.

    Anyway, according to Wikipedia, in the 19th century, the leading product of whaling was oil for lamps. But in the middle of the century, a process was discovered to extract Kerosene. This may have led to the decline in the whaling industry.

    In other words, whale oil reached its peak in the mid 19th century, or another "peak oil".

    But, from what I recently read in other sources on the Internet, that there is a "whale oil myth". So, take what I wrote with a grain of salt. If these other sources are correct, the topic is much more complex.

    But so is "peak oil" today. I expect that we will see a variety of energy sources used in the next decade or two that will decrease demand for petroleum in conjunction with the rising cost. Over time, we will probably see one fuel type take over as the dominant fuel type. There will be many factors in what this fuel type is that combine economics, technology, and politics.

    All of this will be change, and just like 160 years ago, lighting was produced in a variety of ways, fuel in 50, 100, and 150 years from now will be something that we cannot imagine today.

    These things are just changes. One can choose to view these inevitable changes as a glass half full or half empty. I choose to see the glass as half full. Things will change. Technology will change. If I could predict what would happen in the future I could be filthy rich by investing in some of this new technology. I am not smart enough to know who or what will be a successful replacement to oil.

    "Peak Oil" will be very exciting to investors who see a new, cheaper alternative. Some investors will become rich, some investors will lose all of their investment. Others will stand on the sidelines and wring their hands with worry and concern. Is that you, John?

  6. Others will stand on the sidelines and wring their hands with worry and concern. Is that you, John?

    That would be me.

    Except I am not quite on the sidelines. I am actually fairly involved in learning and communicating about what I am learning about our interesting times.

    And I don't just worry. I grieve. And I find it rather exciting. And I hope. And I like to think I might contribute in some positive way toward a future for those who will follow.

    Whatever Peak Oil is, I don't find it boring! : )