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Using Energy to Extract Energy – the Dynamics of Depletion

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The “Limits to Growth Study” of 1972 was deeply controversial and criticised by many economists. Over 40 years later, it seems remarkably prophetic and on track in its predictions. The crucial concept of Energy Return on Energy Invested is explained and the flaws in neoclassical reasoning which EROI highlights.

The continued functioning of the energy system is a “hub interdependency” that has become essential to the management of the increasing complexity of our society. The energy input into the UK economy is about 50 to 70 times as great as what the labour force could generate if working full time only with the power of their muscles, fuelled up with food. It is fossil fuels, rfined to be used in vehicles and motors or converted into electricity that have created power inputs that makes possible the multiple round- about arrangements in a high complex economy. The other “hub interdependency” is a money and transactions systems for exchange which has to continue to function to make vast production and trade networks viable. Without payment systems nothing functions.

Yet, as I will show, both types of hub interdependencies could conceivably fail. The smooth running of the energy system is dependent on ample supplies of cheaply available fossil fuels. However, there has been a rising cost of extracting and refining oil, gas and coal. Quite soon there is likely to be an absolute decline in their availability. To this should be added the climatic consequences of burning more carbon based fuels. To make the situation even worse, if the economy gets into diffculty because of rising energy costs then so too will the financial system – which can then has a knock-on consequence for the money system. The two hub interdependencies could break down together.

“Solutions” put forward by the techno optimists almost always assume growing complexity and new uses for energy with an increased energy cost. But this begs the question- because the problem is the growing cost of energy and its polluting and climate changing consequences.

The “Limits to Growth” study of 1972 – and its 40 year after evaluation

It was a view similar to this that underpinned the methodology of a famous study from the early 1970s. A group called the Club of Rome decided to commission a group of system scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to explore how far economic growth would continue to be possible. Their research used a series of computer model runs based on various scenarios of the future. It was published in 1972 and produced an instant storm. Most economists were up in arms that their shibboleth, economic growth, had been challenged. (Meadows, Meadows, Randers, & BehrensIII, 1972)

This was because its message was that growth could continue for some time by running down “natural capital” (depletion) and degrading “ecological system services” (pollution) but that it could not go on forever. An analogy would be spending more than one earns. This is possible as long as one has savings to run down, or by running up debts payable in the future. However, a day of reckoning inevitably occurs. The MIT scientists ran a number of computer generated scenarios of the future including a “business as usual” projection, called the “standard run” which hit a global crisis in 2030.

It is now over 40 years since the original Limits to Growth study was published so it is legitimate to compare what was predicted in 1972 against what actually happened. This has now been done twice by Graham Turner who works at the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Turner did this with data for the rst 30 years and then for 40 years of data. His conclusion is as follows:

The Limits to Growth standard run scenario produced 40 years ago continues to align well with historical data that has been updated in this paper following a 30-year comparison by the author. The scenario results in collapse of the global economy and environment and subsequently, the population. Although the modelled fall in population occurs after about 2030 – with death rates reversing contemporary trends and rising from 2020 onward – the general onset of collapse first appears at about 2015 when per capita industrial output begins a sharp decline. (Turner, 2012)

So what brings about the collapse? In the Limits to Growth model there are essentially two kinds of limiting restraints. On the one hand, limitations on resource inputs (materials and energy). On the other hand, waste/pollution restraints which degrade the ecological system and human society (particularly climate change).

Turner finds that, so far it, is the former rather than the latter that is the more important. What happens is that, as resources like fossil fuels deplete, they become more expensive to extract. More industrial output has to be set aside for the extraction process and less industrial output is available for other purposes.

With signficant capital subsequently going into resource extraction, there is insufficient available to fully replace degrading capital within the industrial sector itself. Consequently, despite heightened industrial activity attempting to satisfy multiple demands from all sectors and the population, actual industrial output per capita begins to fall precipitously, from about 2015, while pollution from the industrial activity continues to grow. The reduction of inputs to agriculture from industry, combined with pollution impacts on agricultural land, leads to a fall in agricultural yields and food produced per capita. Similarly, services (e.g., health and education) are not maintained due to insufficient capital and inputs.

Diminishing per capita supply of services and food cause a rise in the death rate from about 2020(and somewhat lower rise in the birth rate, due to reduced birth control options). The global population therefore falls, at about half a billion per decade, starting at about 2030. Following the collapse, the output of the World3 model for the standard run ( figure 1 to figure 3) shows that average living standards for the aggregate population (material wealth, food and services per capita) resemble those of the early 20th century. (Turner, 2012, p. 121)

Energy Return on Energy Invested

A similar analysis has been made by Hall and Klitgaard. They argue that to run a modern society it is necessary that the energy return on energy invested must be at least 15 to 1. To understand why this should be so consider the following diagram from a lecture by Hall. (Hall, 2012)


The diagram illustrates the idea of the energy return on energy invested. For every 100 Mega Joules of energy tapped in an oil flow from a well, 10 MJ are needed to tap the well, leaving 90 MJ. A narrow measure of energy returned on energy invested at the wellhead in this example would therefore be 100 to 10 or 10 to 1.

However, to get a fuller picture we have to extend this kind of analysis. Of the net energy at the wellhead, 90 MJ, some energy has to be used to refine the oil and produce the by-products, leaving only 63 MJ.

Then, to transport the refined product to its point of use takes another 5 MJ leaving 58MJ. But of course, the infrastructure of roads and transport also requires energy for construction and maintenance before any of the refined oil can be used to power a vehicle to go from A to B. By this final stage there is only 20.5 MJ of the original 100MJ left.

We now have to take into account that depletion means that, at well heads around the world, the energy to produce energy is increasing. It takes energy to prospect for oil and gas and if the wells are smaller and more difficult to tap because, for example, they are out at sea under a huge amount of rock. Then it will take more energy to get the oil out in the first place.

So, instead of requiring 10MJ to produce the 100 MJ, let us imagine that it now takes 20 MJ. At the other end of the chain there would thus, only be 10.5MJ – a dramatic reduction in petroleum available to society.

The concept of Energy Return on Energy Invested is a ratio in physical quantities and it helps us to understand the flaw in neoclassical economic reasoning that draws on the idea of “the invisible hand” and the price mechanism. In simplistic economic thinking, markets should have no problems coping with depletion because a depleting resource will become more expensive. As its price rises, so the argument goes, the search for new sources of energy and substitutes will be incentivised while people and companies will adapt their purchases to rising prices. For example, if it is the price of energy that is rising then this will incentivise greater energy efficiency. Basta! Problem solved…

Except the problem is not solved… there are two flaws in the reasoning. Firstly, if the price of energy rises then so too does the cost of extracting energy – because energy is needed to extract energy. There will be gas and oil wells in favourable locations which are relatively cheap to tap, and the rising energy price will mean that the companies that own these wells will make a lot of money. This is what economists call “rent”. However, there will be some wells that are “marginal” because the underlying geology and location are not so favourable. If energy prices rise at these locations then rising energy prices will also put up the energy costs of production. Indeed, when the energy returned on energy invested falls as low as 1 to 1, the increase in the costs of energy inputs will cancel out any gains in revenues from higher priced energy outputs. As is clear when the EROI is less than one, energy extraction will not be profitable at any price.

Secondly, energy prices cannot in any case rise beyond a certain point without crashing the economy. The market for energy is not like the market for cans of baked beans. Energy is necessary for virtually every activity in the economy, for all production and all services. The price of energy is a big deal – energy prices going up and down have a similar significance to interest rates going up or down. There are “macro-economic” consequences for the level of activity in the economy. Thus, in the words of one analyst, Chris Skrebowski, there is a rise in the price of oil, gas and coal at which:

the cost of incremental supply exceeds the price economies can pay without destroying growth at a given point in time. (Skrebowski, 2011)

This kind of analysis has been further developed by Steven Kopits of the Douglas-Westwood consultancy. In a lecture to the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy in February of 2014, he explained how conventional “legacy” oil production peaked in 2005 and has not increased since. All the increase in oil production since that date has been from unconventional sources like the Alberta Tar sands, from shale oil or natural gas liquids that are a by-product of shale gas production. This is despite a massive increase in investment by the oil industry that has not yielded any increase in “conventional oil” production but has merely served to slow what would otherwise have been a faster decline.

More specifically, the total spend on upstream oil and gas exploration and production from 2005 to 2013 was $4 trillion. Of that amount, $3.5 trillion was spent on the “legacy” oil and gas system. This is a sum of money equal to the GDP of Germany. Despite all that investment in conventional oil production, it fell by 1 million barrels a day. By way of comparison, investment of $1.5 trillion between 1998 and 2005 yielded an increase in oil production of 8.6 million barrels a day.

Further to this, unfortunately for the oil industry, it has not been possible for oil prices to rise high enough to cover the increasing capital expenditure and operating costs. This is because high oil prices lead to recessionary conditions and slow or no growth in the economy. Because prices are not rising fast enough and costs are increasing, the costs of the independent oil majors are rising at 2 to 3% a year more than their revenues. Overall profitability is falling and some oil majors have had to borrow and sell assets to pay dividends. The next stage in this crisis has then been that investment projects are being cancelled – which suggests that oil production will soon begin to fall more rapidly.

The situation can be understood by reference to the nursery story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Goldilocks tries three kinds of porridge – some that is too hot, some that is too cold and some where the temperature is somewhere in the middle and therefore just right. The working assumption of mainstream economists is that there is an oil price that is not too high to undermine economic growth but also not too low so that the oil companies cannot cover their extraction costs – a price that is just right. The problem is that the Goldilocks situation no longer describes what is happening. Another story provides a better metaphor – that story is “Catch 22”. According to Kopits, the vast majority of the publically quoted oil majors require oil prices of over $100 a barrel to achieve positive cash flow and nearly a half need more than $120 a barrel.

But it is these oil prices that drag down the economies of the OECD economies. For several years, however, there have been some countries that have been able to afford the higher prices. The countries that have coped with the high energy prices best are the so called “emerging non OECD countries” and above all China. China has been bidding away an increasing part of the oil production and continuing to grow while higher energy prices have led to stagnation in the OECD economies. (Kopits, 2014)

Since the oil price is never “just right” it follows that it must oscillate between a price that is too high for macro-economic stability or too low to make it a paying proposition for high cost producers of oil (or gas) to invest in expanding production. In late 2014 we can see this drama at work. The faltering global economy has a lower demand for oil but OPEC, under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, have decided not to reduce oil production in order to keep oil prices from falling. On the contrary they want prices to fall. This is because they want to drive US shale oil and gas producers out of business.

The shale industry is described elsewhere in this book – suffice it here to refer to the claim of many commentators that the shale oil and gas boom in the United States is a bubble. A lot of money borrowed from Wall Street has been invested in the industry in anticipation of high profits but given the speed at which wells deplete it is doubtful whether many of the companies will be able to cover their debts. What has been possible so far has been largely because quantitative easing means capital for this industry has been made available with very low interest rates. There is a range of extraction production costs for different oil and gas wells and fields depending on the differing geology in different places. In some “sweet spots” the yield compared to cost is high but in a large number of cases the costs of production have been high and it is being said that it will be impossible to make money at the price to which oil has fallen ($65 in late 2014). This in turn could mean that companies funding their operations with junk bonds could find it difficult to service their debt. If interest rates rise the difficulty would become greater. Because the shale oil and gas sector has been so crucial to expansion in the USA then a large number of bankruptcies could have wider repercussions throughout the wider US and world economy.

Renewable Energy systems to the rescue?

Although it seems obvious that the depletion of fossil fuels can and should lead to the expansion of renewable energy systems like wind and solar power, we should beware of believing that renewable energy systems are a panacea that can rescue consumer society and its continued growth path. A very similar net energy analysis can, and ought to be done for the potential of renewable energy to match that already done for fossil fuels.


Before we get over-enthusiastic about the potential for renewable energy, we have to be aware of the need to subtract the energy costs particular to renewable energy systems from the gross energy that renewable energy systems generate. Not only must energy be used to manufacture and install the wind turbines, the solar panels and so on, but for a renewable based economy to be able to function, it must also devote energy to the creation of energy storage. This would allow for the fact that, when the wind and the sun are generating energy, is not necessarily the time when it is wanted.

Furthermore, the places where, for example, solar and wind potential are at this best – offshore for wind or in deserts without dust storms near the equator for solar – are usually a long distance from centres of use. Once again, a great deal of energy, materials and money must be spent getting the energy from where it is generated to where it will be used. For example, the “Energie Wende” (Energy Transformation) in Germany is involving huge effort, financial and energy costs, creating a transmission corridor to carry electricity from North Sea wind turbines down to Bavaria where the demand is greatest. Similarly, plans to develop concentrated solar power in North Africa for use in northern Europe which, if they ever come to anything, will require major investments in energy transmission. A further issue, connected to the requirement for energy storage, is the need for energy carriers which are not based on electricity. As before, conversions to put a current energy flux into a stored form, involve an energy cost.

Just as with fossil fuels, sources of renewable energy are of variable yield depending on local conditions: offshore wind is better than onshore for wind speed and wind reliability; there is more solar energy nearer the equator; some areas have less cloud cover; wave energy on the Atlantic coasts of the UK are much better than on other coastlines like those of the Irish Sea or North Sea. If we make a Ricardian assumption that best net yielding resources are developed first, then subsequent yields will be progressively inferior. In more conventional jargon – just as there are diminishing returns for fossil energy as fossil energy resources deplete, so there will eventually be diminishing returns for renewable energy systems. No doubt new technologies will partly buck this trend but the trend is there nonetheless. It is for reasons such as these that some energy experts are sceptical about the global potential of renewable energy to meet the energy demand of a growing economy. For example, two Australian academics at Monash University argue that world energy demand would grow to 1,000 EJ (EJ = 10 18 J) or more by 2050 if growth continued on the course of recent decades. Their analysis then looks at each renewable energy resource in turn, bearing in mind the energy costs of developing wind, solar, hydropower, biomass etc., taking into account diminishing returns, and bearing in mind too that climate change may limit the potential of renewable energy. (For example, river flow rates may change affecting hydropower). Their conclusion: “We nd that when the energy costs of energy are considered, it is unlikely that renewable energy can provide anywhere near a 1000 EJ by 2050.” (Moriarty & Honnery, 2012)

Now let’s put these insights back into a bigger picture of the future of the economy. In a presentation to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas, Charles Hall showed a number of diagrams to express the consequences of depletion and rising energy costs of energy. I have taken just two of these diagrams here – comparing 1970 with what might be the case in 2030. (Hall C. , 2012) What they show is how the economy produces different sorts of stuff. Some of the production is consumer goods, either staples (essentials) or discretionary (luxury) goods. The rest of production is devoted to goods that are used in production i.e. investment goods in the form of machinery, equipment, buildings, roads, infrastracture and their maintenance. Some of these investment goods must take the form of energy acquisition equipment. As a society runs up against energy depletion and other problems, more and more production must go into energy acquisition, infrastructure and maintenance. Less and less is available for consumption, and particularly for discretionary consumption.


Whether the economy would evolve in this way can be questioned. As we have seen, the increasing needs of the oil and gas sector implies a transfer of resources from elsewhere through rising prices. However, the rest of the economy cannot actually pay this extra without crashing. That is what the above diagrams show – a transfer of resources from discretionary consumption to investment in energy infrastructure. But such a transfer would be crushing for the other sectors and their decline would likely drag down the whole economy.

Over the last few years, central banks have had a policy of quantitative easing to try to keep interest rates low. The economy cannot pay high energy prices AND high interest rates so, in effect, the policy has been to try to bring down interest rates as low as possible to counter the stagnation. However, this has not really created production growth, it has instead created a succession of asset price bubbles. The underlying trend continues to be one of stagnation, decline and crisis and it will get a lot worse when oil production starts to fall more rapidly as a result of investment cut backs. The severity of the recessions may be variable in different countries because competitive strength in this model goes to those countries where energy is used most efficiently and which can afford to pay somewhat higher prices for energy. Such countries are likely to do better but will not escape the general decline if they stay wedded to the conventional growth model. Whatever the variability, this is still a dead end and, at some point, people will see that entirely different ways of thinking about economy and ecology are needed – unless they get drawn into conflicts and wars over energy by psychopathic policy idiots. There is no way out of the Catch 22 within the growth economy model. That’s why degrowth is needed.

Further ideas can be extrapolated from Hall’s way of presenting the end of the road for the growth economy. The only real option as a source for extra resources to be ploughed into changing the energy sector is from what Hall calls “discretionary consumption” aka luxury consumption. It would not be possible to take from “staples” without undermining the ability of ordinary people to survive day to day. Implicit here is a social justice agenda for the post growth – post carbon economy. Transferring resources out of the luxury consumption of the rich is a necessary part of the process of finding the wherewithal for energy conservation work and for developing renewable energy resources. These will be expensive and the resources cannot come from anywhere else than out of the consumption of the rich. It should be remembered too that the problems of depletion do not just apply to fossil energy extraction coal, oil and gas) but apply across all forms of mineral extraction. All minerals are depleted by use and that means the grade or ore declines over time. Projecting the consequences into the future ought to frighten the growth enthusiasts. To take in how industrial production can hit a brick wall of steeply rising costs, consider the following graph which shows the declining quality of ore grades mined in Australia.


As ores deplete there is a deterioration of ore grades. That means that more rock has to be shifted and processed to refine and extract the desired raw material, requiring more energy and leaving more wastes. This is occurring in parallel to the depletion in energy sources which means that more energy has to be used to extract a given quantity of energy and therefore, in turn, to extract from a given quantity of ore. Thus, the energy requirements to extract energy are rising at the very same time as the amount of energy required to extract given quantities of minerals are rising. More energy is needed just at the time that energy is itself becoming more expensive.

Now, on top of that, add to the picture the growing demand for minerals and materials if the economy is to grow.

At least there has been a recognition and acknowledgement in recent years that environmental problems exist. The problem is now somewhat different – the problem is the incredibly naive faith that markets and technology can solve all problems and keep on going. The main criticism of the limits to growth study was the claim that problems would be anticipated in forward markets and would then be made the subject of high tech innovation. In the next chapter, the destructive effects of these innovations is examined in more depth.


18 Comments on "Using Energy to Extract Energy – the Dynamics of Depletion"

  1. Go Speed Racer on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 8:17 am 

    What horse schit is that. 50 to 70 times human
    muscle power ?????

    Bullcrap. It’s 1000:1 cause I would like to see your
    70 guys supply the power needed to push a 747 on
    takeoff roll .

  2. bobinget on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 10:04 am 

    Simply put.
    As of this morning there is no substitute for oil.

    If you wondered which side the WhiteHouse will take in the Qatar/Saudi Arabia dispute.
    Think about this.

  3. onlooker on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 11:55 am 

    It is this equation which will define the end of the Oil age even if oil still remains in the ground. This is because when it takes more energy to get the energy than it provides you are into a losing proposition and the Oil Industry will cease to be useful to society

  4. rockman on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 2:08 pm 

    “Energy has to be used to refine the oil and produce the by-products, leaving only 63 MJ.

    Then, to transport the refined product to its point of use takes another 5 MJ leaving 58MJ. But of course, the infrastructure of roads and transport also requires energy for construction and maintenance before any of the refined oil can be used to power a vehicle to go from A to B. By this final stage there is only 20.5 MJ of the original 100MJ left.”

    He provides no basis for those energy consumption values and for good reason: he just made them up. So let’s just step back and use some simple logic. The world is current using a lot of oil that IS NOT being used to find, produce, refine (actually essentially no oil is used in the refining process) and distribution of those products. Anyone want to estimates how much oil the global economy uses every day outside of the petroleum industry? The Rockman will: a ridiculously large sh*t load. Any wants to disagree go ahead and make your argument to crowd here. Now take this guy’s estimate of how much oil is consumed in the petroleum phase: a ridiculous sh*t load. So here’s the math according to the writer:

    Oil produced (a rediculously large sh*t load) – oil used by the petroleum industry (a rediculously large sh*t load) = the amount of oil consumed by all other aspects of the global economy (a rediculously large sh*t load).

    Does that makes sense to anyone? So where is the math wrong? Does the world economy (excluding the petroleum industry) not use a rediculously large amount of oil? Good luck making that argument to this crowd. LOL. Anyone want to argue the world isn’t producing a rediculously large sh*t load of oil given we are currently sucking a near record breaking amount out?

    So that only leaves his estimate of a rediculously large sh*t load of oil utilized by the petroleum industry to fuel the entire process. Given he does not offer one bit of DOCUMENTATION to back up his numbers it would seem logical to assume his entire article is just a rediculously large sh*t load of…bullsh*t. LOL.

    But that’s just the opinion of someone who pays invoices for the consumption of the energy used to drill, complete and produce oil wells.

  5. bug on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 2:26 pm 

    Want to see a lot of energy being used to get energy, leave Bayou la Fourche Louisiana in a crew boat and head south into the GOM. Look at the drills ships and the vessels that supply the operation. I am still baffled how this entire deep sea drilling stuff is feasible.

  6. MASTERMIND on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 3:37 pm 

    The plan is to provoke Russia to war to cover for the economic collapse. The Elders hopes to get Russia to drop a nuclear bomb on the US to cause chaos. The elites plan to be safe in their silos while the rest of the population suffers. Economic problem solved. Angry US population neutralized..

  7. dave thompson on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 4:20 pm 

    This article is very well written. However the problem of calculating the true EROEi in any given sector or economy is daunting and fraught with problems. The simplest method might be to look at the only growing portion of the oil industry, that is unconventional oil. Just looking at what it takes to get a barrel of oil out of the tar sands alone gives one pause. Plenty of reading on the web.

  8. onlooker on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 5:29 pm 

    Gartman: ‘Oil Heading Egregiously Lower’; Saudi Oil Reserves Will Be ‘Worthless’

  9. Anonymous on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 5:59 pm 

    The Oil Drum site seems to be down.

  10. Harquebus on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 6:27 pm 

    Sources were stated and this:
    “The diagram illustrates the idea of the energy return on energy invested.”

    Calculating total energy invested is almost impossible. The crossover that will bring you and us down is out there somewhere. We will know only when it arrives.


  11. makati1 on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 8:09 pm 

    As I have been saying, it is NET ENERGY at the pump/factory/warehouse/store that counts. Not how many barrels might be left in the ground. And while the guy with the oily career on the line wants to naysay the numbers, I think they may be on the conservative side. Some cannot see the forest because of the piles of money in the way. The guys making buggy whips had the same problem.

  12. Apneaman on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 8:46 pm 

    MASTERMIND, when the elite are underground how long do you think they plan on staying there? It’s going to be for at least a few centuries because once the Russians drop their nukes, 99 US nuclear power plants will be unattended and go into melt down because the plant workers were neutralized. When they melt down and there is no people and the resources of the nation state to try and contain the melt downs it’s a different/worse story than Chernobyl and Fukushima. The sky will burn. It’ll be the end of the story for everyone. All human problems solved forever. Sounds good to me. What better punishment for some of the worst humans to ever exist, American elites, than to be entombed with each other for their remaining days. The greediest, most self important back stabbing cunts all locked up together and instant death if they attempt to go outside. When you add in all the spent fuel pools and refineries and chemical plants and all the rest of the cancer that will explode or burn up, I think America would turn into a 1000 year Super Toxic Super Fund site coast to coast.

  13. makati1 on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 9:17 pm 

    Ap, maybe they will resort to cannibalism? Couldn’t happen to a more deserving group.

    But it would be at least 100,000 years before the radiation would get to a level that would allow some life to exist. Anyone hunkering down in a billion dollar coffin would find that it is just that. Their final resting place.

  14. rockman on Fri, 23rd Jun 2017 11:37 pm 

    bug – “I am still baffled how this entire deep sea drilling stuff is feasible.” I do appreciate the difficulty you’re having with the visuals. But take a look at this Deep Water production facility:

    How many bbls of oil do you see being produced: 300,000 bopd? How many gallons of 25% diesel yield do you see coming out of the ground from those bbls of oil: 3.1 MILLION GALLONS PER DAY.

    But you don’t see hundreds of thousands of bbls of oil or millions of gallons of diesel, do you? But you do see a lot of metal: ore that had to be mined and then smelted into steel. And then had to be cut and welded together. And you’ve already see work boats with black smoke coming from their stack.

    IOW you’re only getting a visual of the energy input and nothing of the out put. Below is a picture of 500 bbl oil tanks typical of what we use onshore:

    Now instead of 4 of them in a row picture 600 standing in a row. And every day that Deep water field fills up every one of then. And at night all 600 tanks are drained by a pipeline and the next day all 600 are filled to the top. And that happens 365 per year and continues for years.

    Now picture a diesel pickup truck that has dual tanks so it can carry 60 gallons of fuel. Now crack those 300,000 bopd and just get a 25% diesel yield. Now picture 52,000 of those pickup driving down the road for 24 hours until their tanks are empty. And then filling up and driving down the road again. And those 52,000 trucks doing that 365 days every year and continuing to do so for years into the future.

    BTW it wouldn’t be uncommon to get a 35% gasoline yield. Now picture a large SUV with a 25 gallon tank. Now imagine 175,000 of those SUV’s traveling down the road with those pick up trucks.

    Of course that oil yields 60% diesel + gasoline leaving another 40% of the yield as other refinery products but I’ll stop with the visualization there. Now look at that platform again and picture its production pushing a QUARTER OF A MILLION VEHICLES down the road 24 hours a day for years.

    A different perspective now, eh? LOL

  15. bug on Sat, 24th Jun 2017 4:53 am 

    Thanks rock, mind boggling in any case. I just hope Tidewater and Sea drill don’t go under, lol

  16. indigo on Sat, 24th Jun 2017 8:51 am 

    “Over the last few years, central banks have had a policy of quantitative easing to try to keep interest rates low.”
    This [Quantitive Easing], is the key to understanding how governments have masked the energy depletion problem, and appeared to have kept the economic pot boiling way past its EROEI sell by date.
    If I have a fistful of free freshly printed money, at zero cost to myself as an investor, and I say to two people:
    Person 1. I will pay you $200,000 per year, if you go down to the beach, collect shells, and bag them up into 2 kilo bags. Person 1, might question the pointlessness of the task, but he would still do it.?
    Person 2. is an oil worker. I say to him, this oil field is at best outputting 2:1 on energy return basis, but I’ll pay you $200,000 per year to extract oil there. Person 2, might acknowledge that the process is barely worth it to a broader society, but they would do it anyway?
    The economic viability of the task of both the above is being masked by free no-cost money subsidy.
    The closer you are to the free money spigot, the less you will see a problem. The further away you are from the free money spigot; your landscape is increasingly littered with crumbling infrastructure, crumbling society, and a degrading civilization,
    If you are being paid handsomely to extract unviable 2:1 energy, you need to look over your shoulder to see the pointlessness of your endeavor to society?

  17. rockman on Sat, 24th Jun 2017 11:56 am 

    bug – “I just hope Tidewater and Sea drill don’t go under”. How it’s always worked for the last 200+ years: bad times some service companies disappear…good times and new ones are created.

  18. Jerry McManus on Sun, 25th Jun 2017 4:29 pm 

    “More specifically, the total spend on upstream oil and gas exploration and production from 2005 to 2013 was $4 trillion. Of that amount, $3.5 trillion was spent on the “legacy” oil and gas system. This is a sum of money equal to the GDP of Germany. Despite all that investment in conventional oil production, it fell by 1 million barrels a day. By way of comparison, investment of $1.5 trillion between 1998 and 2005 yielded an increase in oil production of 8.6 million barrels a day.

    Further to this, unfortunately for the oil industry, it has not been possible for oil prices to rise high enough to cover the increasing capital expenditure and operating costs. This is because high oil prices lead to recessionary conditions and slow or no growth in the economy. Because prices are not rising fast enough and costs are increasing, the costs of the independent oil majors are rising at 2 to 3% a year more than their revenues. Overall profitability is falling and some oil majors have had to borrow and sell assets to pay dividends. The next stage in this crisis has then been that investment projects are being cancelled – which suggests that oil production will soon begin to fall more rapidly.

    Very interesting indeed.

    Alexander Graham Bell made similar observations in 1917, 100 years ago almost to the day:

    “There is however one obstacle to further advance in the increasing price of the fuel necessary to work machinery.

    Coal and oil are going up and are strictly limited in quantity We can take coal out of a mine but we can never put it back.

    We can draw oil from subterranean reservoirs but we can never refill them again

    We are spendthrifts in the matter of fuel and are using our capital for our running expenses In relation to coal and oil the world’s annual consumption has become so enormous that we are now actually within measurable distance of the end of the supply.

    What shall we do when we have no more coal or oil!?!”

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