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
    Mr Hate to Break it to Ya, 6 Mar 2007 @ 3:17am

    Nothing new

    Continuous steam injection was invented by Getty Oil in California in the sixties.

    CO2 injection and water injection are 1970s technology.

    "DOE has been funding research into CO2 EOR since the late 1970s. The big commercial expansion of CO2 flooding in U.S. oilfields that began in the 1980s"

    This is old news. CO2 isn't to flush out the oil it's to lower the viscosity of heavy oil. These old oil wells are already accounted for as estimated heavy oil reserves.

    Saudi Arabia failed to fill it's contract with Japan last year.

    "The state oil company, Saudi Aramco, notified Japanese refiners, including Cosmo Oil and Idemitsu Kosan, on Friday that it would cut supplies by as much 8 percent from contracted volumes, according to refinery executives who got notices from the company and asked not to be identified because of confidentiality agreements. Aramco had said before the OPEC meeting last week that it would supply all its contracted volumes in November."

    They're investing in bring fields on tap sooner, and refining heavier oils to cover demand. These are known reserves, not increases due to technology advances or new discoveries.

    If you follow the analysis, it looks like Saudi plans to gain enough slack to offset disruption of Iranian supplies (page 2):

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