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Peak Oil 20 Years Later: A Comment by Colin Campbell

Peak Oil 20 Years Later: A Comment by Colin Campbell thumbnail
Colin Campbell illustrating the concept of oil depletion.

Colin Campbell is the originator of the concept of “peak oil,” the founder of the “Association for the study of peak oil and gas” (ASPO) and, together with Jean Laherrere, the author of the 1998 article on “Scientific American” that started a  wave of interest in oil depletion that re-examined the work that Marion King Hubbert performed in the 1950s.

The cycle of the peak oil meme has something in common with the concept of “Limits to Growth.” Both raised great interest, then were rejected, demonized, and criticized. Today, it seems that the general opinion has consigned  both to the realm of “wrong scientific theories,” yet they had a deep resonance in our current view of the world — the very fact that they were both so vehemently rejected tells us something.

The world peak of oil production was expected for around 2010, but shale oil delayed it of a few years, at least in terms of availability of combustible liquids. Now, it seems that we are approaching the real thing. But don’t worry, just as the peak in the US production was not recognized, and not even discussed when it came in 1970s, the world peak will probably be unrecognized and not discussed when it arrives. We’ll surely remain more interested in our usual pastimes of warring and quarreling.

Colin is now 87 and he is a little less active than before in the debate, nevertheless he keeps following it and he wrote to me the note below, related to a recent article of mine. I reproduce it here with his permission (Note that I am not sure I can lead the secession of the Florentine Republic from Italy as “General Bardi” as he proposes!!)

Dear Ugo

Thank you for sending me the reference to your article on Peak oil in Energy Research and Social Science, which was excellent.
I came to realise that one of the main reasons for the difficulties in predicting the course of depletion relates to the reporting of so-called Reserves. Explorers and Engineers have somewhat different approaches. I was in the exploration side of the business and our over-riding mission was to learn the geology of the area we were examining, which especially offshore demanded drilling wells to obtain the geological information needed to build the overall picture and identify the more prospective areas. The Russian explorers under the Communist regime were allowed to drill holes to simply gather geological information, but we in the west had to claim that every wildcat well drilled had a good chance of delivering a profit. That involved estimating its potential “reserves” which we often had to exaggerate to get the management to approve the well.
Once a successful discovery was made, control passed to engineers who had to determine how many wells had to be drilled to develop the field, the size of pipelines and other facilities. It made sense for them to be very conservative in their initial estimates of the “reserves” as they won medals if they improved over time. Their projects were naturally very influenced both by oil price and forecasts thereof. Naturally, more can be extracted if prices are high.
Then we had OPEC which agreed to share its production based on each country’s reported reserves. This in turn led to political pressures. The classic example is how Kuwait increased its reported reserves from 64 Gb in 1984 to 90 Gb in the following year, although nothing particular had changed in its oilfields. Two years later it announced a further increase to 92 Gb, but that proved too much for several of the other OPEC countries. Abu Dhabi matched Kuwait at 92 Gb (up from 31 Gb), Iran went one better at 93 Gb (up from 49 Gb) and Iraq capped both at 100 Gb (up from 47 Gb). Saudi Arabia and Venezuela also made large increases. My guess is that Kuwait changed from reporting Remaining Reserves to reporting Original Reserves (namely not deducting past production). This is in fact normal industry practice in determining the relative ownership of a field that crosses a lease boundary or frontier.
Another great difficulty is the absence of a system of clear definition for the different categories of oil, each of which has its own endowment and depletion profile. I recognise so-called Regular Conventional Oil (with a density lighter than 17.5 Deg API), distinguishing it from various other categories (including that from Fracking). It dominated past production and I think it peaked in 2005.
I discuss all this in my last book Campbell’s Atlas of Oil and Gas Depletion (ISBN 978-1-4614-3575-4) which was published by Springer in 2013. It assesses the status of depletion by country and region as of 2010.
There is accordingly much uncertainty about the date of the peak of all categories of oil, which is imminent, but it misses the point when what matters is the vision of the long decline that follows it.
 
I recently received a reference to a very interesting book (Khan Mansoor 2018, The Third Curve – The End of Growth as we know it. www.mansoorkhan.net) which stresses that it is energy not money that drives the modern world. He was a professor but took this issue so seriously that he went back to India and bought 20 acres of land from which to build a sustainable future for himself and family. 
 
I conclude that easy oil-based energy fuelled the economic expansion of the past century, which allowed the population to expand greatly. The bankers lent more than they had on deposit confident that tomorrow’s economic expansion was collateral for today’s debt. But the oil price surge to almost $150 a barrel in 2008 cut demand and caused an financial crisis with the failure of several banks. Prices then collapsed into the $50s but have since edged up to about $80. I think that the world faces an economic recession comparable to that of the 1930s. We already see many political pressures and massive emigration as people find that their homelands can no longer support them. There are many political consequences which I think will include a return to regionalism as people come to realise that they will have to rely on whatever their particular area can support. Britain is already leaving the European Union (which was little more than a trading empire) and there are comparable moves in several other countries. The Catalonians want to leave Spain, and I would not be surprised if the people of Florence might not want to leave Italy. Perhaps they will turn to General Bardi as their leader.
It is difficult for politicians in democracies to face up to the situation as they only get elected if they tell people what they want to hear, and that is certainly not the implications of Peak Oil.
It is fascinating to observe all this unfold but I am too old to do serious work on it.
best regards
Colin.
cassandralegacy


20 Comments on "Peak Oil 20 Years Later: A Comment by Colin Campbell"

  1. The Truth Shall Set You Free on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 8:39 am 

    Now, for some levity from The World According to Trump (warning: this would be hilarious, if not true)…..

    Trump’s Analysis of National Climate Assessment:

    “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself — we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers [in human-caused climate change]. My high IQ just doesn’t see it.”

    Just in case he hadn’t quite said what he meant, he then offered this Trumpian clarification:

    “You look at our air and our water, and it’s right now at a record clean. But when you look at China and when you look at South America, and when you look at many other places, including — just many other places — the air is incredibly dirty. And when you’re talking about an atmosphere, oceans are very small.”

    OK, got it. We finally have the answer courtesy of Chump. The ocean’s are very small despite covering 2/3 of the planet’s surface.

  2. This is JuanP on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 9:19 am 

    The Truth Shall Set You Free on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 8:39

  3. Siohn von Toot on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 9:40 am 

    Peak oil was in 2005, just like Colin claims. We are now in a steep global collapse with hundreds of millions of deaths from starvation every year. They hide all this from us, but we know, we truly know. Thanks so much Colin.

  4. DerHundistLos on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 9:50 am 

    “This is JuanP”

    Who gives a shit you petty little man with nothing better to do.

    Such a child.

  5. Cloggie on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 10:10 am 

    Peak oil was in 2005, just like Colin claims. We are now in a steep global collapse with hundreds of millions of deaths from starvation every year. They hide all this from us, but we know, we truly know. Thanks so much Colin.

    You need new glasses. He says that peak CONVENTIONAL oil was 2005; claims that “peak oil all sorts” is now.

    I came to realize that one of the main reasons for the difficulties in predicting the course of depletion relates to the reporting of so-called Reserves.

    Sounds like a well hidden mea culpa to me.

    So Colin does admit that he has difficulties with “reporting so-called reserves”.

    There is accordingly much uncertainty about the date of the peak of all categories of oil, which is imminent, but it misses the point when what matters is the vision of the long decline that follows it.

    Colin admits he “missed the point”. He contradicts himself if he says that there is “much uncertainly” about “the date of peak oil” (Colin is getting old, peak oil IS a date) and at the same time claims it is “immanent” (1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 50 years?).

    He acknowledges a “long decline”, which would imply that humanity (read: whitey) has time to develop new sources of energy.

  6. Davy on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 11:10 am 

    “DerHundistLos on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 9:50 am
    “This is JuanP” Who gives a shit you petty little man with nothing better to do. Such a child.”

    Translation: I am in my mid 80’s and addicted to opioids. Davy cleans my clock on a regular basis because I am an extremist lying liberal. This is why I put him down.

  7. Catabolocks on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 11:21 am 

    Not sure a long decline implies development of new energy sources, or much of anything new. Developing new technologies requires energy human inputs, sometimes substantial amounts, certainly at sustained levels. In a world of steadily declining energy availability and the inevitable continual reshuffling of priorities as various resource shortfalls are encountered will make it hard to do much new technology development; mostly it will be repurposing of existing technologies to deal with a never-ending river of issues as we collectively bounce down the other side of the curve.

  8. This is JuanP on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 11:29 am 

    Davy on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 11:10 am
    “DerHundistLos on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 9:50 am
    “This is JuanP” Who gives a shit you petty little man with nothing better to do. Such a child.”
    Translation: I am in my mid 80’s and addicted to opioids. Davy cleans my clock on a regular basis because I am an extremist lying liberal. This is why I put him down.

  9. This is JuanP on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 11:38 am 

    This is JuanP on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 11:29 am

    Davy on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 11:10 am
    “DerHundistLos on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 9:50 am
    “This is JuanP” Who gives a shit you petty little man with nothing better to do. Such a child.”
    Translation: I am in my mid 80’s and addicted to opioids. Davy cleans my clock on a regular basis because I am an extremist lying liberal. This is why I put him down.

  10. I AM THE MOB on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 2:07 pm 

    Don’t worry Dr Campbell well take it from here!

    University of California: Environmental Science & Technology (Malyshkina 2010)

    1. It Will Take 131 Years to Replace Oil with Alternatives

    2. World oil production will peak between 2010-2030

    3. World proven oil reserves gone by 2041

    https://www.scribd.com/document/394656677/Future-Sustainability-Forecasting-by-Exchange-Markets-Basic-Theory-and-an-Application-Malyshkina-2010

    A global energy assessment (Jefferson 2016)

    An extensive new scientific analysis conducted by the Former Chief Economist Michael Jefferson at Royal Dutch Shell published in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews titled “A Global Energy Assessment 2016” : says “that proved conventional oil reserves as detailed in oil industry sources are likely “overstated” by half.” & “punt bluntly,the standard claim that the world has proved conventional oil reserves of nearly 1.7 trillion barrels is overstated by about 876 billion barrels. Thus, despite the fall in crude oil prices from a peak in June 2014, after that of July 2008, the “peak oil” issue remains with us.”

    The World in the 21st Century is faced with huge challenges that go far beyond, but importantly include, energy challenges on the supply, access, and use sides. So severe are these challenges, mainly arising from the demands of a rapidly increasing human population on the Earth’s limited resources, that the future existence of large numbers of people may be threatened with extinction. In that sense, we may be observing the twilight of the Anthropocene (Human) Age.
    https://www.scribd.com/document/394043449/A-Global-Energy-Assessment-Jefferson-2015

    Projection of world fossil fuels by country (Mohr, 2015) Fuel

    Over 900 different regions and subfuel situations were modeled using three URR scenarios of Low, High, and Best Guess. All three scenarios indicate that the consistent strong growth in world fossil fuel production is likely to cease after 2025. The Low and Best Guess scenarios are projected to peak before 2025 and decline thereafter. The High scenario is anticipated to have a strong growth to 2025 before stagnating in production for 50 years and thereafter declining.
    https://www.scribd.com/document/375110317/Projection-of-World-Fossil-Fuels-by-Country-Mohr-2015

    IEA Chief warns of world oil shortages by 2020 as discoveries fall to record lows
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/iea-says-global-oil-discoveries-at-record-low-in-2016-1493244000

    Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Warns of World Oil Shortages Ahead
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/saudi-minister-sees-end-of-oil-price-slump-1476870790

    There will be an oil shortage in the 2020’s, Goldman Sachs says
    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/09/goldman-sachs-there-will-be-an-oil-shortage-in-the-2020s.html

    Wood Mackenzie warns of oil and gas supply crunch
    https://www.ft.com/content/a1eb0e58-d7a4-11e8-ab8e-6be0dcf18713

    Imminent peak oil could burst US, global economic bubble – study
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/nov/19/peak-oil-economicgrowth

    Collin missed it by about a decade..Oh well better early than never!

  11. I AM THE MOB on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 2:16 pm 

    Could Fracking Industry Debt Trigger a Financial Crisis?

    http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/will-fracking-industry-debts-set-off-financial-tremors/

  12. I AM THE MOB on Sat, 8th Dec 2018 2:21 pm 

    BREAKING: Man who drove car into counterprotesters at white nationalist rally in Virginia convicted of first-degree murder.

    https://twitter.com/AP/status/1071164604435312640

    Eat shit you loser! Hope you like getting fucked in the ass by Bubba!

  13. Cloggie on Sun, 9th Dec 2018 12:21 am 

    “BREAKING: Man who drove car into counterprotesters at white nationalist rally in Virginia convicted of first-degree murder.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/04/charlottesville-trial-james-fields-video-sobbing-heather-heyer

    “The white nationalist who drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a Virginia rally last year began sobbing and whimpering after his arrest when police told him he had killed someone, according to video played at his trial on Tuesday.”

    “But within minutes of the mayhem at the tail end of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on 12 August 2017, James Fields could be heard on footage recorded by a detective’s body-worn camera saying he acted in self-defense.

    “I didn’t want to hurt people, but I thought they were attacking me,” Fields told the police, according to the video footage played to the jury, which is now expected to opine sooner than expected on whether to convict Fields on 10 charges, including murder.”

    What most likely happened was that he unintentionally got stuck in an antifa-crowd, that began to hit his car with clubs, he panicked and tried to escape and that there wad no intentional murder. The mother of the killed fattie had admitted she had died of a heart attack.

    But in the US it is a crime to be white. This Fields chap was used to set an example against white nationalism. The US just got a step closer to CW2.

  14. Dooma on Sun, 9th Dec 2018 1:19 am 

    Sorry to spoil your fantasy MOB but he will probably be well protected by the Aryan Brotherhood.

  15. Davy on Sun, 9th Dec 2018 5:26 am 

    “Honda, NASA, & Caltech Claim Fluoride Battery Breakthrough”
    https://tinyurl.com/ydbo2avx

    “Lithium is one element that is good for making batteries, but it is not the only one. Flouride — the most electro-negative element in the periodic table — is also quite suitable for the task. In fact, fluoride batteries are capable of being 10 times more energy dense than lithium batteries. But until now, they needed to be heated to 150° Celsius. A joint research team composed of engineers from Honda, NASA, and Caltech solved that problem by creating a new liquid electrolyte they call BTFE that lets fluoride dissolve at room temperature, according to Engadget. When used in a prototype battery composed of copper, lanthanum, and fluorine, the new battery was able to be discharged and recharged at room temperature. The prototype also has a “more favorable environmental footprint” than a lithium battery, according to Honda. No word on how well it performs in winter when the thermometer is well below “room temperature.”

  16. Cloggie on Sun, 9th Dec 2018 5:41 am 

    ““Honda, NASA, & Caltech Claim Fluoride Battery Breakthrough””

    Posted this yesterday, but seems too important to me to ignore. Basically the short term electricity storage problem would be solved:

    https://deepresource.wordpress.com/2018/12/08/elestor-builds-large-scale-hydrogen-bromine-battery/

    Probably not suitable for automotive applications, but with storage cost of 2 cent/kWh as of 1,000 kWh storage capacity, things look very bright.

    Now solving the long term storage problem is next. Strong candidates:

    – pumped hydro
    – hydrogen
    – ammonia
    – metal powder for combustion [*]
    – biomass
    – storage of seasonal heat in large water or stone volumes

    [*] – https://tinyurl.com/y7kdncuz

    Most likely it is going to be combination of all of the above.

  17. Davy on Sun, 9th Dec 2018 5:50 am 

    “Basically the short term electricity storage problem would be solved:”

    I don’t think there is any solving these problems but it may make a big dent in them. There is much more to it than one tech type. There is economics and behavior.

  18. DavyScum on Tue, 11th Dec 2018 2:02 am 

    I AM DAVYSCUM. HEAR ME ROAR, PEOPLE…….

  19. JuanP Mon, 23rd May 2016 on Tue, 11th Dec 2018 3:38 am 

    I was just telling my wife yesterday that I would very willingly give my arms, legs, tongue, eyes, ears, nuts, and dick to experience life like normal people do for just one hour to know what it feels like. I have been a seriously depressed realist since I have a memory. My first memory of my life is of leaning against a tree alone in my kindergarten’s playground looking at all the other kids playing, thinking how stupid their behavior was, and wondering why I wasn’t like them.
    I basically don’t interact with normal people anymore. They have nothing to offer me and I don’t want to give them anything.

  20. robert francisr on Wed, 13th Mar 2019 6:33 am 

    The entire Peak World dialectic is one gigantic hoax that is used to trick the mind into believing that hydrocarbons are scarce. Well, they’re not. They infinitely regenerate. The earth is composed of 3 primary elements. Hydrogen, Carbon, and Oxygen. All of these elements transform, and regenerate through various chemical actions and reactions to the suns solar activity one example is through a process known as photosynthesis. Anyway to make a long story short… Energy is neither created nor destroyed it simply transforms and regenerates infinitely. The oil people benefit by LEGALLY creating a perception of scarcity so they can place higher values and or prices on infinity that they attempt to control psychologically.

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