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.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  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?

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.