Sunday, November 1, 2009

TechnoSanity #30: Peak Oil and the UKERC Peak Oil report

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In October 2009 the UK Energy Research Centre released an indepth report on Peak Oil. In this episode of the Technosanity Podcast we go over several articles discussing the report.

Articles discussed in the podcast:-

"Global Oil Depletion" a report on Peak Oil by the UK Energy Research Centre is my summary of the report. Of especial interest is the following two charts.

This shows the rate of oil discovery over the years, and shows that the peak of oil discovery occurred in the early 1960's. The lack of discovering oil is not due to a lack of searching, it is due to a lack of finding. The lack of finding new significant oil discoveries implies strongly that the fossil oil resources on this planet have all been tapped out.

The important wedges in this chart are "Crude oil - fields yet to be developed" and "Crude oil - fields yet to be found". Looking at the chart it appears the IEA expects on the order of 40 million barrels/day will come from those two sources. The first, fields yet to be developed, is oil that's known to exist but hasn't had infrastructure installed to extract the oil. The fields yet to be developed require extensive investment to install that infrastructure.

The fields yet to be found simply aren't known yet. Where are they? We don't know. The IEA is putting a lot of credence in the wish or hope or expectation that those fields will be found. Maybe they'll be found, maybe not.

There needs to be a long lead time to install the infrastructure - something like 10 years to build out an oil field full of oil derricks etc.

Peak Oil - It's Still Coming, It May Be Delayed Though, Whither Resilience and Transition? Why ‘Peak Oil’ Has Yet to Outlive its Usefulness, Oil production could peak in 10 years' time, Have We Reached Peak Oil? and A post-oil world gets less sci-fi by the day all go over the same UKERC study.

The UKERC study warns that the world society will have to find 64 million barrels/day in production by 2030 to replace the decrease in production they expect by then. This is shown on the above chart. But it's not clear where that oil will come from.

Canadian tar sands? The Canadians doubt they'll ever get more than 3 million barrels/day in production.

There are four key issues about oil production and which together point to a supply crunch sooner rather than later.

  • declining output: That's peak oil, once we're past the global oil peak it means oil production is declining
  • declining discoveries: Discoveries have been in a decline since the early 60's, it means discoveries do not match the rate of use, and that we're due to run out no matter what
  • increasing demand: Population increases and other factors mean continuing demand increases
  • insufficient projects in the pipeline: Without oil infrastructure projects to exploit the known fields, the oil production capacity cannot increase even with fields we know about

Reflections from ASPO: Contradiction, EROI, and Future Energy Supplies is a look back at the recent conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. He talks at length about Energy Return on Investment (EROI) in regard to some claims about "Shale Gas" resources. Someone claims there's 200+ years of natural gas available from Shale Gas. However what's missing from that claim is the EROI of extracting that gas, and if it requires a lot of energy to extract natural gas from shale then is it worthwhile to do so?

TechnoSanity #30: Peak Oil and the UKERC Peak Oil report