Posts tagged “peak oil”
Let’s build upon last week’s long-term bullish case for crude oil. Much has been said about, “Global Peak Oil” production in the last few years, and probably for good reason. We know that U.S. crude oil production peaked in the early 1970s just as Mr. King Hubbert predicted back in the late 1950s.
But, is peak global oil production just around the corner?
Energy industry analysts believe that global oil production will peak sometime between 2015 and 2025. That sounds like a fairly broad range. However, the reality is that it’s a fairly short timeframe in geologic time that does not even register a notch, and it’s rapidly coming upon us.
(Read More: Five Misconceptions About Peak Oil)
I’m not a forecaster, but I have studied oil supply and demand for the last 20 years, and I do believe that global crude oil production has reached a plateau, and may very well peak sooner than we think.
Why? For one thing, on average, the global natural decline rate of producing wells is roughly 7% plus or minus 1% or 2%. That means production has to grow at least 8% a year to register a net positive increase.
A few years ago, I made the observation that the best thing that could happen to mitigate against some of the potentially severe consequences of peak oil was for oil prices to rise, and remain high in the years before oil production peaked. That would have the effect of encouraging conservation, as people adapted to a world in which oil is no longer cheap. High oil prices would also incentivize oil production, which would have the effect of preventing steep declines in global oil production — which some had predicted would lead to severe economic crisis or possibly economic collapse.
We have certainly seen both conservation and increased oil production, but I have been really surprised by some of the details of how it has happened.
For example, as oil prices raced to $100, consumption in the US and Europe declined as I expected. But consumption in all developing regions increased sharply — so much so that the net impact was for global consumption to increase.
(Read More: Petroleum Demand in Developing Countries)
I didn’t expect this; rather I expected that we would see oil consumption decline across the board.
Potential for Expansion of Global Oil Production
I, along with my editor Sam Avro, recently conducted a broad-ranging interview with John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil. The topics touched upon included future oil supplies and prices, climate change, U.S. energy policy, and topics familiar to R-Squared Energy readers such at Peak Lite and the Long Recession.
I will present this interview in a series of stories covering some of the various topics. In this first story, I will discuss Mr. Hofmeister’s detailed answer to the question, “What do you feel is the potential for expanding global oil production, and the time frames?”
Readers my recall that I have put forth a pair of hypothesis with respect to future oil production and prices. One is called Peak Lite. (See also: Five Misconceptions About Peak Oil)
Saudi Arabia’s per capita oil consumption is higher than the U.S. and most developed countries
Long known as perhaps the most oil-rich country in the world, Saudi Arabia’s dwindling crude oil deposits could see that nation become an oil importer in less than 20 years, according to a a report compiled by Citigroup Inc.
With the country’s peak rates of electricity production growing at up to eight percent per year and with oil and its derivatives used to generate about 50 percent of the power used by its own citizens, the bank warns that Saudi Arabia could find itself without the crude oil needed to keep its young and relatively wealthy population stocked with energy, forcing it to import the fuel from other nations as soon as the year 2030.
Following last year’s ASPO conference, I was interviewed by Aaron Wissner of Local Future, which is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to issues of energy, the environment, and sustainability. Aaron just made that interview available, and instead of an R-Squared Energy TV episode this week, I thought I would share this interview with readers.
Among other things, we discuss:
- The reasons that I became interested in energy issues
- My Long Recession hypothesis
- The relationship between oil prices and recession
- The importance of taking control of your personal energy consumption
- Why lower oil consumption in the U.S. didn’t lead to lower oil prices
- The climate change challenge
In this week’s episode of R-Squared Energy TV, I discuss the recently released paper by former Eni executive Leonardo Maugeri — in which he suggests global oil supplies will increase by 17 million barrels per day by the end of the decade — as well as George Monbiot’s highly publicized reaction to the report.
Here I describe some interesting new research on modifying Hubbert’s model of peak oil to take into account the incentives for additional production that higher oil prices would be expected to bring.
A recent IMF Working paper by Jaromir Benes, Marcelle Chauvet, Ondra Kamenik, Michael Kumhof, Douglas Laxton, Susanna Mursula and Jack Selody begins by noting the trend in forecasts of oil production from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In earlier years, these forecasts were primarily just extrapolations of trends in global demand, with the assumption that supply would grow as needed to meet demand. If EIA’s 2001 forecast had proven accurate, the world today would be producing about 100 million barrels of oil each day. The EIA forecast for 2012 has been revised downward in each successive year, and now stands just under 90.
Since I first started writing about energy in 2005, I have said many times that my view on oil prices is long-term, and that if I projected five years into the future, I foresaw oil prices being higher than they were in the present.
The chart below — using spot prices from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) for both Brent and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crudes — shows that this has held true since 2001.
On May 3rd I will be delivering a talk called Moving Beyond Oil Dependence as a part of UC Santa Barbara’s Spring 2012 Chemical Engineering Seminar Series. The talk will roughly follow the outline of my book, and I have used several graphics from the book in the presentation.
However, I created a couple of graphics specifically for this presentation that I believe explain the majority of the oil price escalation over the past decade. True, part of the price rise may be due to speculation, but the following two graphics show just how robust demand has been even in the face of $100 oil. The data source for both graphics is the 2011 BP Statistical Review of World Energy:
I am traveling some over the next two weeks, and did not have a chance to record my weekly video segment this week. However, last Friday I was a guest on Alan Colmes’ show on Fox News Radio, so I will share that this week instead. I had been a guest on his show last month to discuss whether President Obama bears responsibility for high gas prices.
As I said then, gas prices are outside the control of a sitting U.S. president. As an aside, gas prices appear to have peaked for now and are on the way down. Does anyone who blamed Obama for higher prices think he is responsible for bringing them back down? That is in fact a dangerous issue to campaign on, because if gasoline prices fall between now and the election — and you have made a big deal out of how they are the President’s responsibility — guess what? President Obama now takes credit for falling gas prices.
Anyway, I am drifting off topic here. On his show, Alan and I discussed my new book Power Plays. Some of the topics we discussed were:
- What peak oil means
- The role of speculators in the oil market
- Why I am skeptical that we will address rising carbon emissions
- Whether methane hydrates are a viable alternative energy source
- The difference between our oil shale resource and oil reserves
- Which alternative fuels are promising