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.

Peak Oil = Flat Earth? – #23

Has the Peak Oil concept, which is the idea we can calculate the day that oil production irreversibly starts a catastrophic drop and calculate the specific year we use the last drop of oil, finally gone the way of the Flat Earth Society?

The answer is yes. At least that is the suggestion from an article by Mr. Colin Sullivan at EnergyWire: Has ‘peak oil’ gone the way of the Flat Earth Society?

The article starts with a graph from the 1950s showing a bell curve of all the oil production from 1850 through 2200 (yes, that would be 240 years out). The cumulative production to the c.1950s is exactly 90×10^9, or 90B. Proven reserves are 250B barrels. All future discoveries, under a smooth bell curve peaking at 2000 are 910B barrels. Total oil on the planet ever to be produced is precisely 1,250B barrels, give or take a rounding error.

Only problem with the entire concept? It’s wrong. Why?

Those behind the theory appear to have been dead wrong, at least in terms of when the peak would hit, having not anticipated the rapid shift in technology that led to exploding oil and natural gas production in new plays and areas long since dismissed as dried up.

Those are the same points visible in all critiques of Peak Oil: technology change, new fields, new oil in fields thought used up.

Disappearing spokesmen

For several weeks the author tried to track down 6 named experts who were high profile Peak Oil evangelists in the past. None were willing to talk.

He is not impressed with the persuasive powers, nor the logic, nor command of the facts in the new generation of evangelists.

Check out the article for some of the conversations.

One of the intriguing factors in this article that I’ve seen elsewhere is the fluid definition of Peak Oil. As production levels and proved reserves grow, the meaning of Peak Oil shifts. It now includes either the end of cheap oil, or it means oil will be more difficult to get out of the ground. It might also mean that some day, eventually, somewhere in the distant future that production levels will decline for a long time. I’ve also seen commenters on blogs say that the declining production in a one specific well or area or one entire field proves Peak Oil is correct.

New Predictions

One of the new disciples of Peak Oil has been able to calculate the total amount of shale gas under the ground. He says

there is about eight years’ worth of shale gas available in the United States

He says many of the shale fields have already hit peak production, although I don’t know and won’t research which ones he includes on this list:

He also believes that about 80 percent of U.S. shale plays have already reached their peak.

Please make a note for the future – – we will have no more shale gas in 2021 and only 1 out of 5 shale plays will ever see an increase in production.

You may also note I’m using words from the religious world: disciples and evangelists. That is appropriate because in my opinion the Peak Oil concepts are in the realm of faith – you just have to believe.

When will we stop using oil?

The Peak Oilers say we will stop using oil when we run out. And they can calculate the day.

I don’t know any of the background and implications, but see in the following comment a perceptive hint of the future.

Check out this observation:

Ralph Cavanagh, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council … {says} … “Now we know we will stop using oil well before we run out of it. We will do that almost independently of who turns out to be right on what the actual reserves were.”

The Aha! from that comment for me is the idea that economical alternatives to oil will develop and we will gradually phase out our reliance on oil as we adopt whatever is the next superb energy source.

We just don’t see what that nifty new source will be yet.

Check out the full article. It is a very good read. Several other sources quoted who take a dim view of Peak Oil.

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4 thoughts on “Peak Oil = Flat Earth? – #23

  1. LOL. What a load of complete rubbish!

    Peak oil is not a ‘theory’ to be proven or disproven – it’s a mathematical certainty: the production of any finite resource must peak and then decline. US crude oil production peaked in 1970, world crude oil production has been on a plateau since 2005 – i.e. we are at peak oil.

    “For several weeks the author tried to track down 6 named experts who were high profile Peak Oil evangelists in the past. None were willing to talk.”

    Bullshit. Colin Campbell is still around – if I can have an email correspondence with him, so can you.

    “One of the new disciples of Peak Oil has been able to calculate the total amount of shale gas under the ground.”

    Bullshit. Who is this supposed ‘disciple’?

    “He says many of the shale fields have already hit peak production,”

    Of course they have. ALL shale oil plays START at peak and immediately decline. That is their very nature.

    “The Peak Oilers say we will stop using oil when we run out. And they can calculate the day. ”

    Bullshit.

    “economical alternatives to oil will develop and we will gradually phase out our reliance on oil as we adopt whatever is the next superb energy source.

    We just don’t see what that nifty new source will be yet.”

    That’s a shame, because we needed to develop it 20 years ago.

    You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • Mr. Cooper:
      Thanks for your comment.

      Please reread my post. I quote an article at EnergyWire. The author of that article was not able to get people to engage in conversation. That you can get a reply to an email does not guarantee the author of the article will.

      Read the original article for the name of the individual who says most shale gas fields have reached their peak. You are bolder than he is since you say all shale gas fields are at peak while he says only 80% are.

      The person cited in the initial article has calculated when we run out of shale gas: 2021, that’s his 8 year estimate.

      The following commenter, MrColdWaterOfRealityMan, has calculated when we will run out of oil and gas: between 2053 and 2063, that’s his calculation of 40 to 50 years.

      It’s an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council that suggests we will phase out the use of oil before we use the last drop.
      I’m all in favor of figuring out what that replacement energy source will be. When the research wizards find something more abundant, more reliable, even denser in energy, and cheaper than oil, we will all hear about it.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      Jim

  2. MrColdWaterOfRealityMan on said:

    This article showsboth a lack of facts and remarkably poor reasoning. I suggest you learn the difference between “reserves” and “resources” before you publish again. You’re less likely to embarrass yourself. You might also familiarize yourself with some numbers. I would start with the book referenced here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubic_mile_of_oil. It has numbers but the anwers are worked out for you. Perhaps you can get a numerate friend to help.

    To clarify, here’s the *energy* problem:

    1) Oil supply isn’t the same thing as energy supply. It takes energy to get energy from oil. The energy that’s left is “Net energy” and has been declingingince the first wells were drilled.

    3) If you have to do *anything* special to a well like fracking, drilling in deep water, anything at all, it takes MORE energy to get the stuff out and yields LESS net energy. There are no exceptions to the rule. You don’t get something for nothing, anywhere in the physical univers.

    3) We’ll never run out of oil. We’ll run out of oil that’s cheap enough to afford and gives us enough net energy to do some useful work. I guess that’s a “fluid” concept to some folks who have difficulty reading Hubbert’s work.

    So yes, we’ve got oil and natural gas for a while. 40-50 years at current consumption rates of 30 billion barrels a year, but as we move through that 40-50 year period, *energy* from gas and oil is just going to get more and more expensive, and by unit, will yield less and less NET energy.

    FYI, this applies to natural gas and coal too. So, peak oil or not. It doesn’t matter. The only viable substitute we have now to produce energy at that scale is nuclear power combined with better battery technology, an then only if we use thorium reactors like the Chinese and Indians are starting to do. Oil is finished before the century is out, fracking and horizontal drilling notwithstanding.

  3. Mr. ColdWaterOfRealityMan:

    Thanks for taking time to comment.

    Jim

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