# Peak fossil fuels by 2017

by apeiron
Tags: 2017, fossil, fuels, peak
PF Gold
P: 3,072
 Quote by CaptFirePanda 4) There new methods fundamentally require more energy to undertake. If they didn't, we would have already accessed them. If new methods aren't required and we are producing conventional sources, they are generally more remote and require greater energy to travel to and develop infrastructure for;
While possibly true I don't think it is fundamentally true that new(er) methods must use more energy, just because they have not been used before. There are several other possibilities. It may well be that the new(er) methods such as frac jobs are simply more expensive (for now) than traditional methods. It may be that the technology was not available. Continental's CEO Hamm, per the interview above, suggests the reason is that the investment in unconventional drilling in the US was too risky given the Saudis could in the past had the ability turn on the taps and bankrupt everyone with expensive rigs, and now the Saudis are maxed out (maybe).

Calculating the energy use of frac drilling of oil/gas may not be as straightforward as it seems. Most observers seem to concentrate on how much energy it takes to drill one frac well, which by itself is clearly more than a traditional vertical well. However, I've yet to see consideration of various other factors: with vertical drilling the oil/gas and narrow bores if the well missed by 10 feet that was as dry a hole as if one missed by a mile. A dry hole, and there were many, was utterly wasted drilling energy. With shale geology it appears to me the oil is almost always found given the virtually wide bore, if more difficult to extract. So dry holes may be very rare, eliminating setup and take-down, transport from here to there, etc. This is all supposition; I have not seen data to back it up.
P: 27
 Quote by mheslep While possibly true I don't think it fundamentally true that new(er) methods must use more energy, just because they have not been used before. There are several other possibilities. It may well be that the new(er) methods such as frac jobs are simply more expensive (for now) than traditional methods. It may be that the technology was not available. Continental's CEO Hamm per the interview above suggests the reason is that the investment in unconventional drilling in the US was too risky given the Saudis could in the past had the ability turn on the taps and bankrupt everyone with expensive rigs, and now the Saudis are maxed out (maybe).
Hydraulic fracturing is more expensive now because it requires more energy. The permeability of these shales and tight plays is significantly lower than conventional pools. That cannot be altered by technology unless energy is added into the equation. We can, of course, reduce the overall amount of energy added, but it will still be more than that of conventional sources. You can't (as far as I know) transcend the basic laws of nature with current or foreseeable technology.

Like I said, new technology requires energy (in this case, it is often in the form of currency) and is only applied when and if it is economically feasible. Increased hydrocarbon prices are what makes new technologies economically feasible. Like I've mentioned previously, these increased prices may be the result of market speculation, but long term trends are the result of requiring more and more unconventional sources to meet demands.

The oil sands, for instance, were identified more than 200 years ago and they've been commercially developed for almost 100 years. They haven't become a viable source of crude until just recently, however. So, why leave a vast amount of potential fuel in the ground for so long? Well, because the economicsand technology weren't there first of all. Then, once the technology became available, the economics still weren't there. It wasn't until about 2003 that production reached levels of real significance.

Economics was the limiting factor and when the supply/demand requirements were met, the oil sands were produced. This supply/demand is driven by the fact that consumption is catching up (if not surpassing) production and this is happening because of the energy required to produce the same amounts of hydrocarbons now is greater than the energy required 20 years ago.

 Quote by mheslep Calculating the energy use of frac drilling of oil/gas may not be as straightforward as it seems. Most observers seem to concentrate on how much energy it takes to drill one frac well, which by itself is clearly more than a traditional vertical well. However, I've yet to see consideration of various other factors: with vertical drilling the oil/gas and narrow bores if the well missed by 10 feet that was as dry a hole as if one missed by a mile. A dry hole, and there were many, was utterly wasted drilling energy. With shale geology it appears to me the oil is almost always found given the virtually wide bore, if more difficult to extract. So dry holes may be very rare, eliminating setup and take-down, transport from here to there, etc. This is all supposition; I have not seen data to back it up.
Actually, the size of the well bores has very little to do with recovery of the resource. With unconventional resources, horizontal drilling from well pads is the new status quo. The horizontal holes can be as long as 3500m and run as deep as a couple thousand meters. From these pads, the often drill several holes in various directions (in plan view, they would look like spiders, in a sense). The reasoning behind this is that the gas within the shales is so finely disseminated that it is being treated as a statistical play (eg. there's going to be gas in there, so the more you drill it and fracture it, the greater your chances are for production). Typically, these wells produce at very high rates initially and then drop off quickly. Thus, more pads and more horizontal wells must be drilled.

They definitely do have a much better success rate based on the simple fact that the gas is pervasive. But it isn't a simple one to one comparison (simply based on the intensity of unconventional drilling).
PF Gold
P: 3,072
 Quote by CaptFirePanda The question arises: Can we change policies and regulations quickly enough to allow for the development of other energy sources to a degree that they can replace hydrocarbons? Maybe. I am pessimistic about this because we will also be faced with many other challenges in the coming decades and they will all be of very significant proportions. Assembling vast amounts of wind farms, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants, etc... will become increasingly more difficult if/when crude prices rise and supply dwindles. What kind of pressures will this put on the agricultural industry which relies heavily on hydrocarbons? Even with another 50 -100 years, we're going to be challenged...
Yes the issue you describe, sometimes called the energy trap, after a close look gives me little concern. I find that the US economy has i) an enormous amount of energy consumption slack in it that is ignored, and likewise ii) has an enormous capability to produce alternatives.

For case i), reference the 1979/Iranian oil crisis. US energy use per capita had been continually increasing every year as far back as the data shows. In 1978 it was at its all time high, and by 1983 after the crisis had dropped 14%. Yet during that same 5 year period GDP rose 32% (not inflation corrected). Here's another narrower example. A US family summer vacation might be 1000 miles round trip, consuming 5GJ (5e9 Joule) in the average 25 mpg car. This source claims the construction of a nuclear power plant requires 25PJ (25e15 Joule), so that if 100 million families decided to forego a single summer vacation (gasp!) twenty new nuclear power plants could be built from the energy savings. If all those skipped family vacations were air travel, 2 people one flight, then 340 nuclear plants could be built.

For case ii), the ability to quickly produce alternatives, look at ethanol. Yes corn ethanol is a poor energy crop, is a dumb subsidy, using up arable land, etc, but this is beside the immediate point, which in this case is volume. US ethanol production, going from almost nothing a decade ago, is now one million barrels per day, and it would be greater if not for the 10% blend limit imposed by the EPA that has leveled off production. For comparison the US produces almost six million bbls / day of crude oil (and rising).
PF Gold
P: 3,072
 Quote by CaptFirePanda ... Actually, the size of the well bores has very little to do with recovery of the resource.
By virtual bore diameter, I refer to the reach of the created fissures shown in this illustration:

This increases the explored volume well beyond the bit diameter and thus the odds of success.

 Typically, these wells produce at very high rates initially and then drop off quickly.
Last I looked, yes hydro frac gas drops initially in the first months and then stabilizes to a slow decrease. Is that your understanding?

 They definitely do have a much better success rate based on the simple fact that the gas is pervasive. But it isn't a simple one to one comparison (simply based on the intensity of unconventional drilling).
I don't follow the last sentence. Can you please explain further?
PF Gold
P: 194
 Quote by mheslep While possibly true I don't think it is fundamentally true that new(er) methods must use more energy, just because they have not been used before.
Advances in technology cannot violate the laws of thermodynamics. We can find more efficient methods of extraction from sources like oil sands; however, we will never match the energy efficiency of conventional wells. And here is why:

"About two tons of oil sands are required to produce one barrel (roughly 1/8 of a ton) of oil."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_san...action_process

Lets pretend for a moment that we were pumping oil sand like a conventional well. We would need to pump 16 tons of sand in order to produce 1 ton of oil. In a conventional well, we would get much closer to 16 tons of oil. So just from the extraction standpoint alone, we have lost a great deal of efficiency. And we still have to separate the oil from the sand.

We are very close if not at peak production of oil. But the peak should not worry people nearly so much as the long terminal decline. How do we manage the long term?
PF Gold
P: 194
 Quote by CaptFirePanda The question arises: Can we change policies and regulations quickly enough to allow for the development of other energy sources to a degree that they can replace hydrocarbons? Maybe. I am pessimistic about this because we will also be faced with many other challenges in the coming decades and they will all be of very significant proportions. Assembling vast amounts of wind farms, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants, etc... will become increasingly more difficult if/when crude prices rise and supply dwindles. What kind of pressures will this put on the agricultural industry which relies heavily on hydrocarbons? Even with another 50 -100 years, we're going to be challenged.
There is going to be a need for lifestyle changes. Historically, we can divide the modern era into two parts: Expansion of oil production and decline of oil production. My best guess is that we are going to be seeing a great deal of demand destruction. In addition, we may begin to measure economies by how fast they decay.

Renewable technology is going to be very difficult without massive energy storage systems. And nuclear is going to be difficult from a psychological perspective, and it will be difficult from a military perspective.
P: 27
 Quote by mheslep For case i), reference the 1979/Iranian oil crisis. US energy use per capita had been continually increasing every year as far back as the data shows. In 1978 it was at its all time high, and by 1983 after the crisis had dropped 14%. Yet during that same 5 year period GDP rose 32% (not inflation corrected).
That's all well and good, but since the 1980's the gap between US production and consumption has widened significantly. Anomalous drops in consumption reveal that, to some degree, conservation may help. The bigger picture, however, reveals that production is hitting a plateau and nominal drops in consumption will not be enough.

(taken from here)

Also, I am highly doubtful that the US economy will be making strides like it did in the 80's.

 Here's another narrower example. A US family summer vacation might be 1000 miles round trip, consuming 5GJ (5e9 Joule) in the average 25 mpg car. This source claims the construction of a nuclear power plant requires 25PJ (25e15 Joule), so that if 100 million families decided to forego a single summer vacation (gasp!) twenty new nuclear power plants could be built from the energy savings. If all those skipped family vacations were air travel, 2 people one flight, then 340 nuclear plants could be built.
The construction of 340 nuclear power plants would be a very significant contribution to alternative sources of energy in the US. These plants, of course, could not be built overnight and, seeing that the Plant Vogtle in Georgia (which was approved earlier this year) was the first in 34 years to be approved and likely won't be operational until 2017, I would suggest that the time required to get 340 plants proposed, approved and built would be significant. Also, nuclear power isn't what keeps the US transportation industry driving, nor does it keep any of those tourist-laden planes aloft.

 For case ii), the ability to quickly produce alternatives, look at ethanol. Yes corn ethanol is a poor energy crop, is a dumb subsidy, using up arable land, etc, but this is beside the immediate point, which in this case is volume. US ethanol production, going from almost nothing a decade ago, is now one million barrels per day, and it would be greater if not for the 10% blend limit imposed by the EPA that has leveled off production. For comparison the US produces almost six million bbls / day of crude oil (and rising).
The US consumes ~19.2 million bbl, so that would meet 5% of the consumption for the country. Increasing production beyond current numbers, even without EPA restrictions, is likely not going to happen. Food/arable land is just as (if not more) valuable, so offsetting hydrocarbon consumption by taking up valuable agricultural land is something that would be far from an easy sell.

 Quote by mheslep I pointed out that pulling oil out of shale is not the only place where energy is consumed. In response you ignore that point and repeat what you said previously. Why? Let's not have anyone fool us or fool ourselves. What about Hamm's reasoning?
I didn't ignore it, I just missed the addition you made to that post. As for Hamm's reasoning, he does a very good job at saying what any CEO of an oil & gas company should say.

 Quote by mheslep By virtual bore diameter, I refer to the reach of the created fissures shown in this illustration: This increases the explored volume well beyond the bit diameter and thus the odds of success.
The term "virtual" well bore is something I am not familiar with and does not seem to come up on any sort of regular basis in discussion around hydraulic fracturing.

Please note that fracturing of wells is something that has been done in vertical wells throughout the history of oil and gas production. It is not a new concept. Techniques have changed and adapted to suit new resources (eg. shale gas), but it has been used for decades.

 Last I looked, yes hydro frac gas drops initially in the first months and then stabilizes to a slow decrease. Is that your understanding?
Production drops off significantly throughout the first year of production. New wells are therefore required in order to compensate for this drastic drop-off in order to maintain production levels.

 I don't follow the last sentence. Can you please explain further?
I was addressing your statement about how much more successful the shale gas wells are based on the drilling techniques. As I'd mentioned, the gas in these plays is pervasive, but very disseminated throughout the entire play (which can cover vast geographical areas). Thus, the chances of getting some gas are very high. However, drilling intensity has to increase in order to see viable rates of production. Your typical vertical well, on the other hand, may have a limited areal extent, but they are drilled to intersect much more productive gas horizons.
PF Gold
P: 3,072
 Quote by SixNein ... We can find more efficient methods of extraction from sources like oil sands; however, we will never match the energy efficiency of conventional wells. And here is why: "About two tons of oil sands are required to produce one barrel (roughly 1/8 of a ton) of oil." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_san...action_process Lets pretend for a moment that we were pumping oil sand like a conventional well. We would need to pump 16 tons of sand in order to produce 1 ton of oil. In a conventional well, we would get much closer to 16 tons of oil. So just from the extraction standpoint alone, we have lost a great deal of efficiency. And we still have to separate the oil from the sand.
Comparisons are not well served by examining one side of the problem. How much energy do you imagine is required to pull oil up a vertical well from two miles below the surface, or set up an off shore drilling platform, or drill dry wells? Oil sands projects don't have failed exploration problems, the resource is near the surface. We've already seen the energy comparison of oil sand production to traditional production courtesy of CaptFP. Yes oil sand requires more energy than *average* traditional oil, but not all all traditional, and certainly not as much more as you story indicates. Anyway the thread above (recently) is about shale oil and gas and hydraulic fracturing, not the tar sands.

 We are very close if not at peak production of oil.
<shrug> Maybe, but saying it does not make it so.

 But the peak should not worry people nearly so much as the long terminal decline. ...
Why? Energy consumption in the developed world is in a long decline.
PF Gold
P: 194
 Quote by mheslep Comparisons are not well served by examining one side of the problem. How much energy do you imagine is required to pull oil up a vertical well from two miles below the surface, or set up an off shore drilling platform, or drill dry wells? Oil sands projects don't have failed exploration problems, the resource is near the surface. We've already seen the energy comparison of oil sand production to traditional production courtesy of CaptFP. Yes oil sand requires more energy than *average* traditional oil, but not all all traditional, and certainly not as much more as you story indicates. Anyway the thread above (recently) is about shale oil and gas and hydraulic fracturing, not the tar sands. Maybe, but that's saying it does not make it so. Why? Energy consumption in the developed world is in a long decline.
PF Gold
P: 194
 Quote by mheslep Anyway the thread above (recently) is about shale oil and gas and hydraulic fracturing, not the tar sands.
On the topic of shale gas, a great deal of companies are pulling back on drilling because price is too low.

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/as-...#axzz1nLG40ovC

Here is an interesting quote form the first link:
 As recently as last week, natural gas futures were trading at $2.69 per million BTU, less than half the price it was as recently as September 2008 and far below the$5 to \$7 level that many say is the average price required in North America to produce shale gas economically. Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/as-...#ixzz1nLGLeN2J
PF Gold
P: 3,072
 Quote by CaptFirePanda That's all well and good, but since the 1980's the gap between US production and consumption has widened significantly.
Since 2005 the gap has closed significantly as those graphs show, and continues to close. US oil imports have dropped ~25% since the peak back then.

 The construction of 340 nuclear power plants would be a very significant contribution to alternative sources of energy in the US. These plants, of course, could not be built overnight and, seeing that the Plant Vogtle in Georgia (which was approved earlier this year) was the first in 34 years to be approved and likely won't be operational until 2017, I would suggest that the time required to get 340 plants proposed, approved and built would be significant. Also, nuclear power isn't what keeps the US transportation industry driving,...
Sure, please don't overdraw the example, which was to show the amount of slack in the system. I provided it in response to the earlier
 Quote by CaptFirePanda ...Assembling vast amounts of wind farms, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants, etc... will become increasingly more difficult if/when crude prices rise and supply dwindles.
so substitute whatever energy infrastructure you care to build.

 The US consumes ~19.2 million bbl, so that would meet 5% of the consumption for the country.
Sure, and falling. Again I cited the explosive growth in corn ethanol in response to the query about energy changes being made "quickly enough", not to promote more ethanol. If you don't like corn ethanol (I don't), substitute your favorite biofuel approach (I like this one at 500 bbls/acre-year). I don't know what may or may not work, but once an approach is proven I have little doubt of industrial ability to scale up rapidly - as shown by corn ethanol.

 Increasing production beyond current numbers, even without EPA restrictions, is likely not going to happen.
Ethanol production is somehow fixed at today's levels? What is proven by a "not going to happen" assertion?

 I didn't ignore it, I just missed the addition you made to that post. As for Hamm's reasoning, he does a very good job at saying what any CEO of an oil & gas company should say.
Sorry I responded before your edit/update and since deleted the comment. Whatever Hamm's motivation, his explanation for the growth in US domestic oil production is logical.

 Please note that fracturing of wells is something that has been done in vertical wells throughout the history of oil and gas production. It is not a new concept. Techniques have changed and adapted to suit new resources (eg. shale gas), but it has been used for decades.
Yes I'm aware, though the current technique and scale is little like that of decades ago.

 Production drops off significantly throughout the first year of production. New wells are therefore required in order to compensate for this drastic drop-off in order to maintain production levels.
Sure, another reason why success rate is important. Drill (for instance) ~150,000 frac shale wells at 100 bbl/day and domestic supply meets demand (after refinery gains, some NG liquids, and some ethanol)
 PF Gold P: 3,072 As we've seen before:
PF Gold
P: 2,432
 Quote by SixNein And nuclear is going to be difficult from a psychological perspective, and it will be difficult from a military perspective.
This is one aspect of the story that still really puzzles me.

I get that the gas and coal plays extend the dependence on fossil fuels past peak cheap oil for maybe 20 to 30 years, but why is the world not buying the nuclear play (apart from India perhaps, and those who want to make bombs)? Especially as green house gas emission targets are another reason to go nuclear, if it is in fact economic.

The maths was discussed earlier in this thread. Although I am no enthusiast of nuclear, I think Mheslep made a prima facie case for its viability - certainly enough to make me ask why it is not happening, and instead we have the likely far more environmentally damaging course of the gas and coal plays.

PF Gold
P: 2,432
 Quote by mheslep As we've seen before:
Those are the figures from one study, paid for by the state doing the exploitation. Other studies paint a worse picture for tar sands.

And of course, the "tank to wheels" part of the chart is utterly irrelevant to the point the chart argues. It is a blatant perceptual massaging of the message.

So the chart I would like to see is a metastudy of just the well to tank figures. That would be the start of a fair judgement.
P: 27
 Quote by mheslep Since 2005 the gap has closed significantly as those graphs show, and are continuing to close. US oil imports have dropped ~25% since the peak back then.
The over-riding reason behind those recent drops in consumption/import numbers is the extremely significant recession that we experienced in 2008.

 Sure, please don't overdraw the example, which was to show the amount of slack in the system. I provided it in response to the earlier...so substitute whatever energy infrastructure you care to build.
I could substitute any sort of energy source in there but it doesn't make your point any more valid. All I have to do is expand the picture to global consumption because, as we know, the US is not the only consumer of hydrocarbons in the world and there are at least 2 developing countires that will more than pick up any slack US citizens are willing to give.

 Sure, and falling.
No, not falling. Recovering perhaps, but definitely not falling.

 Again I cited the explosive growth in corn ethanol in response to the query about energy changes being made "quickly enough", not to promote more ethanol. If you don't like corn ethanol (I don't), substitute your favorite biofuel approach (I like this one at 500 bbls/acre-year). I don't know what may or may not work, but once an approach is proven I have little doubt of industrial ability to scale up rapidly - as shown by corn ethanol.
As I've mentioned, land-use issues will inevitably arise with respect to any of these sorts of technologies. Whether they are taking up arable land or otherwise, there will be significant limitations on how large they can grow.

 Ethanol production is somehow fixed at today's levels? What is proven by a "not going to happen" assertion?
The bit where I mention the difficulty in trying to use arable land and food supplies to satisfy energy needs rather than actually putting food on people's table. That has not been and will not be an easy sell.

 Yes I'm aware, though the current technique and scale is little like that of decades ago.
They are different because they are being used to produce from very different geological horizons with very different physical properties that require far more intensive multi-stage fracturing techniques.

 Sure, another reason why success rate is important. Drill (for instance) ~150,000 frac shale wells at 100 bbl/day and domestic supply meets demand (after refinery gains, some NG liquids, and some ethanol)
Since the 1980's the US had drilled about 220,000 gas wells so the 150,000 number equates to about 25 years of drilling (certainly not an overnight fix). Also with gas prices where they are now, it would take a lot of incentive and recovery for anyone to keep pace with historical rates of drilling (especially when drilling techniques are far more expensive).

By 100 bbl/day are you talking "barrel of oil equivalent" (BOE)? If so, average productivity of gas wells peaked in the 70's near 450,000 cubic feet/day/well. 100 BOE/day/well equates to about 600,000 cubic feet/day/well. Thus, you're hoping for a 33% increase in productivity for these wells. This seems optimistic to me.
 P: 1,414 What about the North Dakota oil field(s). Won't this, as well as the exploitation of Canadien oil, push the peak fossil fuel date back a bit?
PF Gold
P: 194
 Quote by apeiron This is one aspect of the story that still really puzzles me. I get that the gas and coal plays extend the dependence on fossil fuels past peak cheap oil for maybe 20 to 30 years, but why is the world not buying the nuclear play (apart from India perhaps, and those who want to make bombs)? Especially as green house gas emission targets are another reason to go nuclear, if it is in fact economic. The maths was discussed earlier in this thread. Although I am no enthusiast of nuclear, I think Mheslep made a prima facie case for its viability - certainly enough to make me ask why it is not happening, and instead we have the likely far more environmentally damaging course of the gas and coal plays. Answers anyone?
The EORI graph I posted should explain it. Compare nuclear to coal....
PF Gold
P: 194
 Quote by ThomasT What about the North Dakota oil field(s). Won't this, as well as the exploitation of Canadien oil, push the peak fossil fuel date back a bit?
No, in fact, those unconventional sources are a sign of peak oil. But understand, peak oil is more of a misnomer for cheap oil.

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