Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Peak Oil

Seems like I haven't done a geology related post in a while and recently I came across an excellent and well written piece on peak oil by Eric Cheney and Marianne Hawkes in the June 2007 edition of GSA Today.

The full article in pdf format is HERE. It is only two pages and definitely worth the read.

The crux of the Peak Oil argument is based on Hubbert's 1956 prediction that annual oil production in the US (lower 48 states) would peak in 1970 and decline (read decline as: use oil) steadily and fast from then forward.

"...that production will fall as sharply in the twenty first century as it rose in the twentieth." (state Cheney and Hawkes (C&H) via Urstadt, 2006).

What I found most interesting in reading the article is that C&H point out the differences in assumptions between predicting peak oil in 1956 to the 2007 knowledge base. Which are:
  1. Plate Tectonics (1970's) re-defined rationale for deep-water drilling;
  2. Knowledge of petroliferous rocks and stratigraphy;
  3. Advancement of geochemistry;
  4. Advancement of Technology
    • geophysical surveys
    • deep and deeper water drilling abilities
    • horizontal drilling
  5. Substitution of other sources
    • coal (it is possible to get oil from coal)
    • nukes
    • oil sands
    • oil shales
    • methane ice
Now keep in mind that a few of those, like oil sands, only become economically viable as the prices of raw crude oil increase. It is unlikely that oil shales will ever be worth the energy input to derive oil. More likely is that some smart monkey scientist will figure out a better way to get your 4,000-pound SUV moving down the road. As a side note: ethanol is not the answer.

The article concludes with a point that 2004 oil production is twice what Hubbert projected. Well that is good news, kind of. But the real take away, and one that seems to be logical and non-alarmist in the presentation is that while gasoline will not run out soon it will be come more and more expensive. The every day person will see is gas increase per gallon from 4$ gas, 6$ gas, 20$, 100$ per gallon.

The question I have is; At what price will there be enough outcry and demand for vehicles that are powered by fuel not derived from hydrocarbons?

So, don't freak out. The sky is not falling. Just don't expect gasoline tp be below 2$ per gallon in the U.S. ever again. And have faith in man and science that we will invent a new and better way.

1 comment:

  1. The truth is no one knows at what point global peak oil will be reached. Countries that hold some of the world's largest reserves (Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran) do not let independent oil experts into the country to assess their reserves. We can only go on what the governments of these countries tell us their reserves are, and these countries have never been known for their honesty.