29 January 2011

Peak Oil Keeps Slipping, Slipping.....Into the Future...

Important Note 3 Feb 2011: The author of the article quoted below is Jeremy Bowden, a writer and analyst who specialises in energy and other topics.
“The estimates for how much oil there is in the world continue to increase,” according to William M Colton, Exxon Mobil’s vice president for corporate strategic planning. “There’s enough oil to supply the world’s needs as far as anyone can see.” Just as prices rose sharply and peak oil concerns re-emerged, huge deep water oil fields were found off the coasts of Brazil and Africa. Higher prices also stimulated “unconventional” oil production from massive Canadian oil sands projects, which now provide North America with more oil than Saudi Arabia. In 2009, the United States increased domestic oil production for the first time in decades. _Source
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Much of the fashionable panic surrounding "peak oil DOOM!" is reminiscent of the catastrophic circus that surrounded Y2K. While it is true that the Y2K problem required the attention and effort of thousands of professionals to solve, the same thing is obviously true for the problem of providing ongoing energy supplies in the face of rising global populations and expectations. Maintaining reliable energy supplies is an ongoing problem which is solvable as appropriate effort is applied.
...at least one positive development has resulted from the sharp rise in oil prices of recent years. The influx of capital to oil companies from high prices, combined with expectations that prices are unlikely to fall very far, has boosted investment in oil exploration and production, especially in what the industry terms “frontier” areas – namely enhanced oil recovery (more oil from existing fields), the deep (or ultra-deep) water and the Arctic. Massive new reserves have been identified, proven up, and brought to production – whilst reserves previously considered impossible to reach are now no more than a horizontal drilling or steam injection technique away. All this should help ensure supply can meet global demand for far longer than was expected just a few years ago – pushing back the oft-cited “peak oil” date by decades.

...most of this newly-discovered potential avoids the above-ground risks and cartel policies that constrain oil production in most of the world’s largest proven deposits – the bulk of which lie in Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), or are controlled by national oil companies in central Asia and Russia. It is the technical expertise and project management skills of the most dynamic multinational and independent oil companies that hold the key to these new hard-to-get-at reserves, rather than the whims of Arab dictators or the level of OPEC budget deficits. A similar, but even more dramatic change has taken place with gas, where new techniques mean huge “tight” gas deposits present in many rocks are now recoverable. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently estimated that natural gas reserves could last twice as long as previously expected – up to 250 years.

...Some experts claim enhanced oil recovery (EOR) could potentially double the amount of oil that can be extracted globally. Most fields only recover just over a half of the original oil in place and sometimes less than a third. With modern techniques field development should be able to extract a far higher proportion of the oil, while more and more oil can be made recoverable from existing wells.

...Faced with falling reserves and barred from acquiring fresh production in areas such as the Middle East, international oil majors began to search for new large deposits in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico in the 1990s – on the back of a proven drilling record in shallower Gulf areas, and in the North Sea. Exploration and drilling below 10,000ft of water and through miles of hard rock, thick salt and tightly-packed sands required the development of supercomputers and three-dimensional imaging techniques as well as equipment that could withstand the heat and pressures common at such depths, not to mention submarine robots to make repairs.

That technology is now available to drill in other areas such as the Arctic and elsewhere...Similar advances in technology have opened up huge unconventional oil shale resources in Canada. ...the Bakken shale field is now the country’s fastest-growing major oil field [in the US]. Production has reached about 350,000bpd, from 100,000bpd a decade ago. In a recent report, consultancy firm PFC Energy projected production would climb to 450,000bpd by 2013. _Industrial Fuels and Power

Meanwhile, Exxon Mobil forecasts that by 2030, gas will surpass coal as an energy source.

Many analysts are expecting a lot of new oil supplies from multiple locations around the globe.

Clever technologists are finding ways to make every barrel of oil go that much further. This is true in many ways, not just in terms of improved efficiency at the consumer level.

The concept of "peak oil" is heavily dependent upon unknown factors which could change at any time. Only a fool would maintain a posture of predictive certainty in that atmosphere of uncertainy and rapid change.

This article is excerpted from an earlier article published at Al Fin Energy

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Blogger JRB said...

Hi Al, pleased you liked the article - you should quote me (the author) too though. As an experiencd IHS-CERA analyst and now single-father freelancer, I need the exposure. I like the stuff I've read on your site - interesting.
Shame there're not more comments here - they are mounting up on the original and oilprice websites - mostly unfavorable.
Jeremy Bowden

Thursday, 03 February, 2011  
Blogger al fin said...

Quite right, Jeremy. My apologies.

I will try to hunt down as many places as possible where my version of the story has been re-published, and correct the omission.

You have to remember that millions of people have invested a lot of time and belief in "peak oil doom." They will not let go of it easily.


Thursday, 03 February, 2011  
Blogger JRB said...

Thanks Al. Btw if you can pass any business my way I'd appreciate it. I'm not concerned by negative feedback - we had access to the best global data in the world at my last company, and no coorperate position on the oil price. To those in the know, the above is accepted wisdom. Anyhow I could write a piece putting a bullish case for oil just as well, and have done. Who knows - there could be another China or Middle east war to upset the balance.

Thursday, 03 February, 2011  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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