Peak Oil Myth
Oil production is high to start,
then tails off to a dribble
World Oil production and use is as much as a river 5,500 cfs (155 cms)
There are those that still say peak oil is a myth. Actually, peak oil is a theory proposed by Geophysicist M. King Hubbert in the 1950s to describe the phenomenon where oil reservoirs tent to produce along a predictable bell shaped path or curve. He thought that reservoirs the world over would reach their peak production by about 2000. Many in fact have.
Today oil production curves are being changed, extended some by new techniques of reservoir fracturing, heavy tar sand processing and the like.
The curve may be extended, but there is no more new oil, just more expensive to get out of the ground.
Many people seem to take peak oil personally. They label people tracking the oil resource as "peak oilers" and alarmists, and term slow production predictions a Peak Oil Myth. Actually, the Earth does not know or care if people are alarmed or blissfully unaware. Peak oil is a process, not a proclamation. Peak oil myth doesn't mean the world is running out of oil. It isn't. It is running out of cheap oil. As other countries use more and more oil, it will get more and more expensive.
It is no peak oil myth that oil production peaked in the USA in 1971.
Extrapolating to the rest of the world, the oil peak is slated at somewhere
around 2010, with well documented disagreement on the exact date.
The 2010 peak is associated with a peak oil myth.
Basically, the world has used up about 1 trillion barrels of oil from 1860
to today. There are about 1 trillion barrels left in the ground that are
technically recoverable with today's technology. Then there are a half a
trillion or so of possibly recoverable reserves.
This doesn't count the oil shale and tar sand reserves, which are in the
trillion barrel range. The technology for claiming these reserves is not fully
developed. The process for extracting oil from shale is generally expensive
and very hard on water resources. The processes involve things like giant
underground electric fields and fires to herd this oil (kerogen) to collection
points. Then it is processed.
So, oil has not run out. It is just getting harder to produce. People in places like
China and India want to burn a lot more of it. When you consider that 50% of all petroleum use took place after 1984 and about 90% of all oil was produced
only after 1958, it's pretty clear that oil will cost more and get used faster.
Maybe people have a hard time visualizing just how much oil is actually
produced every day in the world. Letís assume it is about 85 million barrels .
That is a lake of oil close to 1100 acres, 1.7 square miles in area and 10
feet deepÖevery day. Itís not like it rains oil, so how do you fill that lake day
after day? By drilling and pumping oil from rocks.
Peak Oil Particulars
Hubbert's prediction is generally shown in the figure. Actual oil production/use would seem to be tracking the prediction fairly closely. According to production numbers, the world is currently at or near the peak possible production of around 85 million barrels per day or so.
Peak Oil Curve
However, there are detractors who maintain a peak oil
myth. These people insist that producers only need to
"open up the tap" and produce more oil. This way of
thinking has been termed "peak demand". In any case,
the lower curves by different theorists show that
production could ramp up as much as 1.7 times what
it is today. Notice the "peak" on all of these curves. It
is just delayed. Time will tell which curve is close to correct.
Peak Oil Economics
There is a correlation between economic growth and oil production. For instance, 10 of the past 11 recessions have been preceded by oil price spikes. Economic however growth is the goal of many countries and growth has continued and continues in countries the world over. As the margin between oil reserves and production narrows, the price goes up. This increase will stimulate new exploration and production, but it will be more and more expensive.
A paper in Eos, a publication of the American Geophysical Union estimates that a 4 percent rise in GDP means a 3% rise in oil production, about 17 million barrels per day. Oil production since 2005 has been flat about 75 million barrels per day, with prices increasing. So, a production increase of any size will be costly. As economies the world over continue to grow, so does their increased appetite for oil. The increased demand may be met by new production techniques, but it will be more and more expensive.
To fill this lake every day would take literally a river of oil. That river needs to flow at a constant average rate of 5,500 cubic feet per second (155 cubic meters per second) to keep on filling that lake every day. Have you seen any rivers of oil lately? Me neither. Where does the river come from? It is no peak oil myth where it comes from.
The river comes from lots of pipes stuck deep in rocks. Think for a minute that most oil wells are actually steel pipes in the ground. Can you imagine trying to fill a lake from a bunch of small steel pipes? That is what is happening; only the flow in the pipes is really slowing down. Its getting harder and more expensive to get oil from deeper in the ground and further offshore into and out of all those pipes every day.
Wells in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico are now drilled from platforms in 4,000 feet of water. The oil reservoirs can then be about 40,000 feet below the sea floor. That's 8.3 miles, or 13.4 km, of pipe. Ironically, a round trip on that pipe would take a gallon of gas for a lot of SUVs and trucks.
What to do? Whether there is a peak oil myth or not, a lot of oil is used to power cars and trucks. You can get an electric car or truck. Also, you could walk, ride a bike or take the train. It will save on needing that river of oil.
If so, why is the United States oil production down? Why is Mexico's oil production declining? Why is England (North Sea) running out of oil? Why is it getting harder and harder to find new oil? Why are oil companies suddenly drilling further and deeper? Why are other companies squeezing low grade oil from shale? Why are prices going to go up again? The reason is peak oil.