All the evidence strongly suggests that the US and the world have now reached peak oil production. From hereon, oil production will start trailing off despite rising demand.
OIL PRODUCTION in the lower 48 states has peaked and the graph below shows what that means. On the graph Hubbert"s model or characteristic curve is based on production data of many oil fields and was used to predict peak and post peak decline. All the other information on this chart is actual. The prediction was based on fitting the characteristic curve to the actual data: that is the squares to about 1945. The squares after 1945 show how actual production compared with prediction. The predicted peak was in 1970 at 8.5 million barrels per day. The actual peak was in 1975 at 9.5 million barrels per day. (Graph used with permission from Worldwatch Institute www.worldwatch.org.)
Notice that there was an increase in price per barrel in the early 1970s; to increase production a lot of money was invested in drilling. This produced only a small increase in production rate for a short time period. Production rate did then decline despite the investment confirming the firm trends. This graph defines production peaking, production rate decline and resource exhaustion. Application of mature extraction technology makes little difference.
This chart shows the actual world oil production rate from 1920 to 2006, with predicted production shown to 2080. The prediction is based on the observed production characteristic of typical oil fields as in the first figure. All countries currently producing are well aware of the condition of their reserves relative to peaking and the effect of world production rate on world price. By slowing production, price increase is assured, extending production to later calendar time for higher prices.
The graph defines the problem facing the US with 5% of the world's population using 25% of the world's fossil fuels. Within the next 10 years world oil production will decrease by about 18 million barrels per day from the 84 million barrels per day peak. The US currently uses 20 million barrels per day and imports 13 million bbls per day from the world market.
Look again at the chart of actual oil production performance on Pg 1. Notice that in the 10 years after the actual peak, oil production in the US declined by 2 million bbls per day. This estimation shows a drop in the first 10 years after peak is 19 million bbls per day. This drop as a fraction of peak is similar to the actual post peak drop in US domestic production
Much of the data above is reported in BP Statistical Report of World Energy June 2005. One of the reported parameters is the R/P ratio being the ratio of reserves to yearly production. For the world In 2004 the R/P ratio for oil is 40 years, for natural gas 60 years and for coal 120 years. Note that current world production levels cannot be maintained as reserves are depleted.
Survival requires the US to replace all of the energy represented by oil at a rate matching the decline in world oil production. The replacement must be renewable and carbon free to avoid the economic and social dislocations resulting from energy shortage. The replacement energy, electric power and fuel must be carbon free since Earth's warming is threatening. Bio fuels, alcohol and bio diesel, are not renewable, and not carbon free. These cannot be scaled to meet our quantity requirements.
Recent information on Britain's oil and gas production has been made available in THE ECONOMIST magazine in spring 2007 per the following graph. Notice that after the year 2007 Britain's oil and gas production is on a steep decline and that the picture is like that for the US production and the world prediction.
Deploying wind turbines on the 2 million square miles of windy region in the US providing electrical power to grid and generating hydrogen fuel by water electrolysis is currently competitive with today's practice for cost and capacity potential. New technology is not required. Deploying a very large number of wind turbines and solar panels is essential to replace oil and natural gas production that is slowing. The replacement must be carbon free since world carbon dioxide emissions exceed tolerance. Run-away warming and climate change must be avoided. With a domestic energy supply there is presently a $ BILLION per day saving in military expenditures made to secure and defend our title to foreign oil. Avoiding oil import reduces our negative trade balance by $ BILLION per day.
Copyright © 2008 John Baird