The Future of Oil (por StanfordUniversity)

peak oil vs. “business as usual”

  • accounting & measuring issues
  • using the lower-48 states of the USA as a statistical basis for “what exhausting a given area’s geological reserves should look like” elsewhere in the world
  • new kinds of discoveries (deepwater, tarsands, seismic tools by geophysicists application to reservoir finding)
    • the first trillion bbl we’ve used
    • the second trillion bbl we known where it is
    • the third trillion bbl — ???
  • issues of stocks vs flows
  • We’re actually discovering more oil fields now (due to seismic & 3D reservoir modelling), but they’re smaller.
  • Saudi Arabia used to produce 12% of the world’s oil consumption with only a handful of rigs (12) — just very, very productive wells. Now they have several times that number of rigs
  • It’s not even that wildcatting (new drilling) is discovering less oil per year. But rather the second derivative <0. The growth in per-year wildcat additions is slowing. (Whilst it’s thought demand will grow ever faster as growing populations in developing countries finally get decent modern lifestyles supplied with electricity.)
  • We also know that we’ve already found all the big oil fields, because bigger (gigantic) oil fields are the easiest ones to find.
  • image
  • 48,000 oil fields but maybe 500 huge ones.
  • (World’s biggest oil field, in Saudi Arabia, produces 6% of the world’s oil per year, and has done so since the 1950’s.)
  • Daqing oil field produces half of China’s oil by itself. (how’s this for your long tail / powerlaw distro!)
  • Recovery rates vary from 20% to 70%, averaging 35%
  • The enhanced recovery methods use pretty “simple” or familiar solvents/methods. CO, heat, ….
  • (Kind of like cancer treatments, right? Burn, poison, and cut, all familiar to 1st-century Barbarians, although we do the burning with lasers and the cutting with robots.) But since air and water and heat are such simple stuff, we can do things on an industrial scale within adequate expence.
  • “Green” friendly idea: take CO₂ gas from eg a coal plant and pipe it back into the ground to sweep the oil over to the pump.
  • Not a lot of 30-somethings in petroleum engineering. So the 20-somethings getting more responsibility & pay early on in their careers.
  • Some projections about likely future production. He takes a humble position about his gut instinct on the projection.
  • But! This was 1 October 2009. And he says (at the 1-hour mark) he doesn’t think offshore drilling will lead to environmental catastrophe. Deepwater Horizon oil spill 6½ months later. But he was so humble about his other prediction I feel bad pointing this out.

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