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Peak Oil Denial: Still More Almost-Truths

General Ideas

Following up on my post from last week with a few more talking points regarding the amusing article on Montana’s oil production…:

In the US the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania and New York, ‘could easily be the second largest gas field in the world.’ [quoting Michael Economides]

Another one of those annoying little fact-based problems, however.

In January, the Energy Department cut its estimate of the amount of gas available in the Marcellus Shale by nearly 70 percent, and a group affiliated with the Colorado School of  Mines warns that there may be only 23 years’ worth of economically recoverable gas left nationwide. Even worse, new studies suggest that because of fugitive emissions of methane from wellheads and pipelines, natural gas may actually be no better than coal when it comes to global warming. [1]

Federal government analysts on Monday slashed their estimate of the natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale formation, and at least one major producer announced plans to cut in half its expenditures on new gas leases in the wake of dropping prices.
The U.S. Department of Energy cut its estimate of the Marcellus reserves from 410 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to 141 trillion cubic feet, citing better production information that emerges as drilling operations in the region mature and the exclusion of data from the pre-shale area. [2]

But don’t let that discourage you! We have more good news from Mr. Economides:

[He] predicted that by 2014 – 15 the price of gasoline will get to $8 and stay there, because of world demand, led by China.…
Indicating that he believes the issue of climate change will eventually go away, coal will be used to a greater extent in the US and it will go ‘head to head’ in competition with natural gas….
He said that ‘peak oil may never happen. Natural gas will contribute a massive share of transportation fuel.’

Please … do not trouble yourselves with any concerns about how “climate change will eventually go away” or how exactly “natural gas will contribute a massive share of transportation fuel.” Facts don’t matter! Click your heels together twice, close your eyes, and all will be well with energy supplies and those pesky realities about climate change and environmental concerns regarding fracking and chemicals and flammable water and earthquakes. Quite the relief, isn’t it?

But if you might still be concerned about Peak Oil, another recent article should help clear things up [* all quotes following are from that article unless noted otherwise]. And just to be super-helpful, I’m going to add some facts to the points raised by Mr. Mills. (My best guess is that the piece was just too long, and there simply wasn’t enough room to supply any in support of his position.) No need to thank me: I’m happy to do so!

First, the good news:

As more and more people within the oil industry have come to realize in recent years, the world has plenty of oil that can be produced at competitive prices for a long, long time to come.

So don’t trouble yourselves with the following facts and statistics—which might be interpreted as contradicting the statement above. Remember, these are just facts:

World oil supply is not growing very much
The fitted line in Figure 1 [chart supplied by the author] suggests a ‘normal’ growth in oil supplies (including substitutes) of 1.6% a year, based on the 1983 to 2005 pattern, or total growth of 10.2% between 2005 and 20011. Instead of 10.2%, actual growth between 2005 and 2010 amounted to only 3.0% including crude oil and substitutes.
The shortfall in oil production relative to what would have been expected based on the 1983-2005 growth pattern amounted to 4.7 million barrels in 2011. This is far more than any country claims as spare capacity….
The shortfall in growth especially occurred in crude oil….
Between 2005 and 2011, crude oil production rose only 0.5%. It was mostly the substitutes that grew.
While substitute liquids are OK, they are not really crude oil. Natural gas liquids are the largest category. In the US, they sell for a little less than half as much as crude oil….On an energy content basis, they provide about 70% as much energy per barrel as crude oil.
‘Other liquids’ has also been growing. It is mostly ethanol, which has about 60% of the energy content of crude oil per barrel. This category also includes biodiesel, liquid fuels made from coal or from natural gas, and even a mixture of water with very heavy oil called ‘Orinoco emulsion.’ [3]

But if those facts nonetheless bother you, then this should cheer you right up!

In November 2011 supply actually reached 90 million bpd for the first time ever. This is on a broad definition – including unconventional oil, natural gas liquids and biofuels – but to the consumer, the source of the fuel that goes into the tank is irrelevant.

If your barbecue grills and cigarette lighters are amply supplied with propane and butane, don’t worry about gasoline prices in your city or town or supply and demand issues! Just crack open a coupla Bic lighters (you can purchase them in bulk online, by the way), or skip grilling those steaks, pop open a canister of propane, and hit the highway!

And if OPEC oil production is a concern, not to worry! “Its reserves-to-production ratio is more than 85 years.” Who cares if that doesn’t mean OPEC will still be able to produce oil at full throttle for 85 years? It will work itself out, so rest easy. Stuff will certainly happen as and when needed. (This approach does save lots of research time!)


The key OPEC news since 2008 was Iraq’s award of massive field development contracts to international oil companies, which would bring production capacity to a nominal 13.5 million bpd around 2017. This target will not be reached, for a variety of logistical, economic, political and security-related reasons. But even an increase to 6.5 Mbpd would meet more than half the world’s incremental demand over that period.

Just skip over that “target will not be reached, for a variety of logistical, economic, political and security-related reasons” mumbo-jumbo. It was just included to appease all of you reality-based “worriers.” As I noted above: “It will work itself out, so rest easy. Stuff will certainly happen as and when needed.”

Mr. Mills was also nice enough to let us know that we shouldn’t waste a moment worrying about Saudi Arabia’s oil production, so don’t let any of this information concern you, okay? (And please don’t look at any of the statistical charts and graphs from the referenced post, either. They’re nothing more than evidence in support of the facts….)

Saudi Arabia has not been increasing its production for many years. At the same time, the country’s own oil consumption has been rising rapidly. The combination means that oil exports have already started declining.
Saudi Arabia tells us that its crude oil capacity is 12 million barrels a day. In fact, its crude oil production has not exceeded 10 million barrels a day in recent years, according to EIA data. [4]

Since this is so much fun, I think I’ll continue this in an upcoming post—can’t have anyone OD’ing on good news!

Just so no one thinks I’m being mean, I’ll leave you with this:

After many disappointments in the Arctic waters of Norway’s Barents Sea, two substantial oil finds have come along in the last year….

Norway’s Statoil said Monday it has discovered a large oil reserve in the Barents Sea, its second major oil find in the Arctic region in less than a year.
The state-controlled oil company said a well drilled in the Havis prospect in the Barents Sea proved both oil and gas at an estimated volume of between 200 million and 300 million barrels of recoverable oil equivalents.
Last April, Statoil said it had discovered between 150 million-250 million recoverable barrels of oil equivalents in the nearby Skrugard prospect. [5]

Yup! That’s right, everyone. Punching in a few numbers on my handy-dandy calculator (using the highest totals, just to be super-duper optimistic), I find that Norway’s Statoil has found an “estimated” (which, as everyone knows, is just another word for “guaranteed, no-questions-asked”) 550 million barrels of “oil equivalents!” Wow! That’s like supplying almost a whole, full, entire week’s worth of world oil demand.

I almost cannot stand all this good news. How about you?

Until next time….

peak oil matters

One Comment on "Peak Oil Denial: Still More Almost-Truths"

  1. BillT on Fri, 1st Jun 2012 3:26 am 

    Great article…lol. I enjoy poking fun at the deniers. The fools who want to believe that the world is not changing in a way that will down size their life styles to maybe 3rd world levels before they die.

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