Friday, 25 March 2011

On peak oil in general.

I find it rather surprising, when otherwise informed people think peak oil will hit in possibly 20 or 30 years, or "hopefully not in my lifetime".

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says production of conventional crude oil peaked in 2006
From here on out, we rely on an ever-increasing amount of ultradeep and unconventional oil to come online. Ultradeep has been a political hot potato ever since the Gulf of Mexico Macondo tragedy in 2010, and would be politically difficult to get through in any significant quantity, plus given the time to explore and get online, will not address the problem in time.

This leaves unconventional sources, such as the enormously polluting tar sands (Canadian Athabasca, and upcoming Venezuelan Orinoco), and other sources such as the much fabled Bakken shale field (much nonsense is published about this, but we'll ignore that for now), NGL-to-liquids, and the extremely polluting coal-to-liquid processes favoured by the Nazis during WW2.

But, being the lions share, the important part to focus on here is conventional. The IEA have formerly (2010) announced decline rates in the region of 5.1-6.7%, with whistleblower estimates all the way up to 9.1%. This effectively means we need to find a new Saudi Arabia (8.5mbpd) every two years through unconventional sources, something a lot easier said than done.

And most of the unconventional processes carry heavy penalties. Any conversion process is by definition a net energy loser, and the polluting processes don't scale at anywhere near the required rates.

And all of this is happening in an environment with ever-increasing competition from primarily China and India for supplies. One wonders what a Chinese consumer will think, having just bought his/her first car, now sees fuel prices rocket before having had a genuine chance to enjoy this newly found mobile freedom.

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