Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

Did you know the U.S. drilled the last drop of its oil two years ago? – peak oil #7

Seriously.

We don’t have any more oil to drill.  Let me prove it to you.

In 2000, we had 21 billion barrels of proved oil reserves. Proved reserves are the amount that is economically and technically feasible to produce.

In 1999 we produced 5.9M barrels a day. Prediction for production in 2000 was 5.8M bopd. That latter number is equal to 2.11B barrels a year.

That means as of January 1, 2000 we had 9.92 years of oil that we could economically and technically get to. In other words, we ran out of oil back in November 2009 or earlier.

Since then we’ve obviously been importing 100% of our oil after shutting down the entire oil production industry.  There is no more exploration, drilling, production, or refining anywhere inside the 50 states. None. Nada. Zip. All the oil is gone.

That is the mathematical conclusion from this discussion –Oil Consumption in North America.

Let me explain my math by quoting from the article:

The oil production for 2000 is expected to average 5.8 million barrels per day of crude oil. The production for 1999 was 5.9 million barrels per day.

and

According to the EIA, the United States has 21 billion barrels of proved oil reserves as of January 1, 2000.

Here’s the calculation:  we run out of oil in 21B / (5.8M * 365) = 9.92 years.

Leaving aside my ridicule which is so easy to apply, what this article illustrates is the fallacy of Peak Oil. The only oil that we will ever pull out of the ground is what we know about today and can technically recover today and can economically produce at today’s market prices.

The peak oil concept does not allow for new discoveries, new technology, impact of changing prices, or finding out there’s more oil in existing fields than we realized, or any other aspect of reserve growth.

Think I’m putting words in people’s mouths when I say that Peak Oil claims we will run out of oil?  Check out these two comments from the article:

If the natural resources of the world continue to be exploited at such a staggering rate, there will be nothing left to exploit.

And

Unfortunately, conserving resources at this point will only temporarily postpone the inevitable, which is total energy resource exhaustion.

Check that out again. Nothing left to exploit. Total energy exhaustion. 

Still don’t believe that’s the concept? Do you wonder if I’m setting up a straw man argument? Check out these comments from the article. 

We won’t find any new oil:

There is little to no chance of discovering any significant new onshore oil fields in the U.S. There is a good possibility of discovering major deposits of oil offshore, but offshore drilling has been banned in many areas.

We will use up all our oil:

That is only enough oil to last the U.S. about three and a half years without importing oil from other countries.

What was known about oilsands at the time? The article says:

Oilsands, which is another kind of oil deposit, are found in large quantities in Canada. … The strip mining process now being used takes the energy equivalent of two barrels of oil to produce one barrel. In other words, the price to produce it is double the price for which it can be sold. … Canada’s oilsands will probably not be produced in large amounts until the world’s supply of conventional oil is nearly depleted.

Technology has radically changed the situation. Where are things now?

Oil production from oil sands is 1.25M bopd in Canada, according to Oil sands from Wikipedia.  Not quite what the author was predicting in 2000.  I think over a million barrels a day counts as a large amount.

The biggest change is the amount of input to get a unit of output.  I will stipulate that 2 barrels of input to get 1 barrel of output that is mentioned in the above article was true at the time. Look what’s happened since then, according to the Wikipedia article:

Approximately 1.0–1.25 gigajoules (280–350 kWh) of energy is needed to extract a barrel of bitumen and upgrade it to synthetic crude. As of 2006, most of this is produced by burning natural gas.  Since a barrel of oil equivalent is about 6.117 gigajoules (1,699 kWh), its EROEI is 5–6. That means this extracts about 5 or 6 times as much energy as is consumed.

Going from aN input:output ratio of 2:1 in 2000 to 1:5 or 1:6 now is an improvement by a factor of 10 or 12. Cool.

Since 2000, we have found more onshore energy fields, technology has made more energy feasible to recover, and economics have made it worthwhile to extract more resources.

To be fair to the author of the article I cite above, way back in 2000 nobody anywhere on the planet had any clue about all the new technology.

And yet, that is the whole point. In 2000, or 1974, or the 1940s, nobody had any idea of what changes would take place in energy technology. Those totally unforeseeable breakthroughs mean today we can get to huge amounts of energy that in the past nobody ever had any idea how we could ever possibly touch.

We are not running out of oil.

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