How Technology Lets Us Push Back The Day We Run Out Of Oil

from the peak-what? dept

In recent years, a confluence of factors including environmental concerns, geopolitical issues and worries about the scarcity of oil have led to record investments in green technologies as well as ethanol, whose green credentials are up for some debate. But all the same factors have also prompted fresh investment into the traditional energy industry as well. Paul Kedrosky points to a great article in the New York Times exploring the way the oil industry has greatly increased production levels at aging oil fields. The results are rather dramatic. Using new imaging technology and other engineering techniques, fields that had been good for just 10,000 barrels per day a few decades ago are now yielding over 80,000. And it's not just a matter of sucking oil out of the ground at a faster rate; companies actually have access to more total oil than they thought they could get out of these fields. It's important to keep these things in mind whenever people talk about things like Peak Oil or other neo-Malthusian theories of resource depletion. Typically, they all fall into a common trap. They look at the supply of a certain resource (Malthus, of course, originally talked about food production), and then calculate how much longer we'll have it based on an estimate of future demand. But the consistent mistake is in holding supply constant. As demand (and price) grow, technology often allows for the creation of more supply, even for a "non-renewable" resource like oil.
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  1. identicon
    Brandy, 6 Mar 2007 @ 2:38am

    oil reserves

    The tehcnique, while applicable all over the world, will only increase reserves in the US, North Sea and other non-Opec regions, as the 'proven reserves' in Opec member states are at best fictional, and are only used as a factor when dividing the cake of total oil production. This led to a massive increase in 'proven ressources in around 1988 in OPEC of often more than 250% overnight.

    Thus the 'proven ressources' in Iraq of several billion barrels cannot be enhanced to 8 times that amount, as the original figure is fictisious.

    We are still consuming about 83 mill barrels a day, and production barely can keep up. Nothing is produced to reserves, as was customary a few years ago, as there is no room for surplus production.

    The question is not only when peak oil occurs/occurred, but also when demand for oil exceeds production for oil, even if production of oil is still growing, but at a lower rate than the demand is. This will probably happen in 2009 at the latest, and perhaps a year later with this new technique.

    When demand exceeds production, there will be some debate as to who should get oil, and who shouldn't, or if we all should use a little less.

    I wonder if the US Army with its precense in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere will be the first in line to voluntarily give up 10% of its oil consumption, or if I as a private person will have to give up 20% so that the US army can keep their 100%, or perhaps 120% if activities spread?

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