News Peak fossil fuels by 2017

apeiron

Gold Member
Steve Mohr of Australia's Newcastle University has modelled the earth's fossil fuel reserves and come up with this massive study (warning: 13mb).

PROJECTION OF WORLD FOSSIL FUEL PRODUCTION WITH SUPPLY AND DEMAND INTERACTIONS

Plenty of gems in the study, like current energy consumption being the equivalent of every person on earth having 90 slaves.

But headlines are that best guess for a production peak in fossil fuel is 2016–18 (at a total production rate of 509–525 EJ/y).

For the fossil fuels individually:

Coal - 2019 (212–214 EJ/y).

Oil - 2011-12 (179–188 EJ/y).

Natural gas - 2019-2062 (143-157 EJ/y).

Unconventional oil and gas will probably create a shoulder to the production curves, which will slow the fall-off the other side of their peaks, but will not change the peak dates themselves.

The most optimistic scenario for oil (p136 - case 2 dynamic) does see a second oil production peak circa 2110 that about matches the conventional oil peak. However this would have to be all shale oil (tar sands would be gone by then).

It is a little surprising that coal has so little time left (as China and India seemed to be rather relying on coal) and that gas will be such a big player in the final wash-up. On the other hand, it is what Mohr's group have learnt about Chinese coal consumption which is accelerating that peak.

On the optimistic side, Mohr notes, it sure puts a concrete limit on the carbon footprint issue .

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Office_Shredder

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Slow internet connection, so it's gonna take me a bit to see the pdf. From your post though:

The most optimistic scenario for oil (p136 - case 2 dynamic) does see a second oil production peak circa 2010 that about matches the conventional oil peak. However this would have to be all shale oil (tar sands would be gone by then).
Unless I missed something tar sands are not gone by 2010

apeiron

Gold Member
Unless I missed something tar sands are not gone by 2010
Peak production means you have burnt half, and still have another half to go. And the peak year is when the transition happens. So that is the year when you use the record amount. After that, production is forever in decline. And priced accordingly.

Tar sand is such an unattractive proposition that it has been left to last. We barely exploit tar sands yet but may have to ramp up fast (just as we are having to move into deep water drilling for conventional oil). However tar sands just plug the gap for a while.

Mohr's "best case" scenario shows no more conventional oil at all by 2100 and then no more useable tar sands by 2150. Shale oil would be pretty much done by 2180 - if you believe it can actually ever get started. Shale oil as a choice makes tar sands look pretty.

Gold Member

mheslep

Gold Member
On the optimistic side, Mohr notes, it sure puts a concrete limit on the carbon footprint issue .
I don't know about 'concrete' since as you stated above this is based on a model. What's optimistic about energy source depletion?

In general, since this posted in the political forum, did you intend this to be a political discussion?

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mheslep

Gold Member
Tar sand is such an unattractive proposition...
Unattractive how? Do you mean something other than the increased CO2 emissions?

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Jack21222

Tar sands and oil shale are much more expensive to extract useful oil from than light sweet crude.

I also wanted to add, whether peak oil happens in 2017 or in 2037 or anything in between, it's still a blink of an eye when looking at civilization. Even if the peak doesn't happen quite that soon, the problem still needs to be addressed immediately.

Office_Shredder

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Peak production means you have burnt half, and still have another half to go. And the peak year is when the transition happens. So that is the year when you use the record amount. After that, production is forever in decline. And priced accordingly.

Tar sand is such an unattractive proposition that it has been left to last. We barely exploit tar sands yet but may have to ramp up fast (just as we are having to move into deep water drilling for conventional oil). However tar sands just plug the gap for a while.
I know what peak production means. The problem was that you had a typo and said 2010 instead of 2100 :tongue2:

mheslep

Gold Member
Tar sands and oil shale are much more expensive to extract useful oil from than light sweet crude.
I know that, but I don't know that tar sand oil reserves are 'unattractive' at a world crude price of $75/bbl. Without checking I though tar sands extraction ran around ~$50/bbl. Furthermore there's no missing geopolitical rogue state external cost with Canadian tar sand oil, as there is with imported Middle Eastern oil.

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Office_Shredder

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I know that, but I don't know that tar sands are 'unattractive' at a world crude price of $75/bbl. Without checking I though tar sands extraction ran around ~$50/bbl. Furthermore there's no missing geopolitical rogue state external cost with Canadian tar sand oil, as there is with imported Middle Eastern oil.
Oh, you just wait. Once the Canadians get filthy rich on tar sand money, there's no telling what they'll do

mheslep

Gold Member
Oh, you just wait. Once the Canadians get filthy rich on tar sand money, there's no telling what they'll do
Yes, could be, though I doubt they'll start flying airplanes into buildings containing bunches of Canucks arguing with Yanks about hockey.

apeiron

Gold Member
I know what peak production means. The problem was that you had a typo and said 2010 instead of 2100 :tongue2:
Ahh, thanks. I've corrected that.

apeiron

Gold Member
I know that, but I don't know that tar sand oil reserves are 'unattractive' at a world crude price of $75/bbl. Without checking I though tar sands extraction ran around ~$50/bbl.
Various snippets on tar sands.....

At some point in the foreseeable future Canada's domestic energy needs and U.S. Energy policy are headed for an inevitable clash. Canada's conventional oil production is already in decline and will continue to decline. Natural gas production is barely holding despite an unprecedented amount of drilling in the last couple of years. And Canada's domestic energy needs are growing at 3-4% per year. It is a worrying prospect for Canadians as energy sovereignty was effectively surrendered under the NAFTA agreement. Canada's energy resources must, under the agreement, be open and accessible to corporate energy interests. To date, four of the five oil majors (Royal Dutch/Shell, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, and TotalFina) have invested or committed themselves to invest billions of dollars in tar sands development. National oil companies have also staked their claim, ranging from Norway's Statoil to China's Sinopec.
The Canadian region defined as "the Athabaska tar sands" covers an area over 140,000km2 of once virgin boreal forest, a larger area than the state of Florida. It is estimated to hold an equivalent 1.7 trillion barrels of oil or more. But of that only 150-200 billion barrels (about 10 percent) may be recoverable "with today's technology and under current and anticipated economic conditions".
the tar sands as "Canada's dirty secret." The tar sands mines are each as big as 150 square miles and may be 300 feet deep, each leaving a tremendous scar on the landscape. Depending on the bitumen concentration, 4-6 tons of material must be moved and processed for every barrel of synthetic crude produced. Over 80 per cent of the established tar sands reserves are deeper and must be extracted in situ. Reclaiming and cleaning up the land damaged by tar sands operations will be a monumental task. According to the paper The Harm the Tar Sands Will Do, "after 40 years of mining, not a single operation has received a reclamation certificate from the government of Alberta. Suncor Energy's operation, the longest-operating tar sands mine, says it has reclaimed 858 hectares of land since starting operations in 1967, less than nine per cent of the land its operations have disturbed to date. Syncrude Canada, the largest daily producer of tar sands, says its operations have disturbed 18,653 hectares since 1978, with just 4,055 hectares of land reclaimed.
In conclusion, tar sands are an economically and energetically viable, although hardly ideal, approach to maintaining liquid fuel supplies. The most severe problem is probably their local and global environmental impact, and they are already impacting Canadian CO2 releases significantly. But the tar sands are unlikely to make a large impact on overall supply of liquid fuels because their supply is likely to be rate, rather than total resource limited. If the maximum rate were to grow to about 2 billion barrels a year this would approximately meet Canada’s demand and could leave relatively little for export if Canada’s production of conventional oil continues to decline. Achieving even this rate of production from tar sands is uncertain because of growing concerns about environmental impacts downstream and insufficient hydrogen and water.
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3839 [Broken]
Furthermore there's no missing geopolitical rogue state external cost with Canadian tar sand oil, as there is with imported Middle Eastern oil.
Indeed and here is an estimate of that cost...

The energy security cost to the U.S. of maintaining the uninterrupted
flow of oil from this area is approximately $50 billion per year, and depending on various assumptions in several studies, can make the true cost of oil, counting military and energy security expenses, as high as$100-$150 per barrel. A study by the National Defense Council Foundation (NDCF) in 2003 provides the most in-depth examination of this subject since the 1987 study by the General Accounting office, which was prior to the first Gulf War. The NDCF study found that America spends$49.1 billion defending Persian Gulf oil, adding more than one
dollar to the cost of a gallon of gasoline.
The study further concluded that the overall economic toll of this
dependence on foreign oil is staggering. The diversion of capital and
investment resulting from spending nearly $100 billion annually on foreign oil, i.e. money that would otherwise be spent in the U.S., costs the U.S. economy more than 800,000 jobs per year, and costs federal, state and local government treasuries$13.4 billion in lost revenues.
A National Defense Council Foundation study found that when taken
together, the economic losses, the defense costs, and oil supply
distribution costs bring the total cost of imported oil to approximately
$250 billion per year, or close to$4.00 per gallon over the current
purchase prices of gasoline.

http://www.ethanol.org/pdf/contentmgmt/Energy_Security_Issue_Brief.pdf [Broken]
The "good" news for the US is that it is rich in oil shale....

While oil shale is found in many places worldwide, by far the largest deposits in the world are found in the United States in the Green River Formation, which covers portions of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Estimates of the oil resource in place within the Green River Formation range from 1.2 to 1.8 trillion barrels. Not all resources in place are recoverable; however, even a moderate estimate of 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from oil shale in the Green River Formation is three times greater than the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.”

Shale oil is guesstimated as approximately half as efficient to produce as oil from tar sands. American oil shales are also located in arid areas which are more ecologically sensitive than the tar sand areas of Canada.

In conclusion, although shale oils represent a huge potential resource they have a history of “always a bridesmaid and never a bride” because as prices for oil increase the prices for extracting shale oil have increased as well. This history represents the very real problems of generating a useful product from the resource. The main problems include the distance of the shale from both the water and labor needed to extract it, the large environmental impact compared to conventional oil and the relatively low EROI . In addition, with both shale and tar sands there is some disagreement whether the in situ should be charged as an energy opportunity cost, (in the same sense that bagasse could be in sugar cane ethanol). Ultimately, the question is, if conventional oil becomes very scarce whether a resource such as shale oil will be developed regardless of cost.

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3839 [Broken]

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JaWiB

We'll be pretty well screwed if we use up all the coal (unless someone figures out a great carbon sequestration method before then).

The crazy thing is that the US still has subsidies for fossil fuels, and probably quite a bit more subsidies for fossil fuels than for renewables.

apeiron

Gold Member
In general, since this posted in the political forum, did you intend this to be a political discussion?
Of course. What drives politics, economics and world affairs more than energy? It is the fundamental input. The British empire was built on its access to cheap coal, the US empire on its access to cheap oil.

Peak energy consumption will equal peak economic activity and peak global harmony (arguably ). After that, the game changes radically.

If it is to be BAU (business as usual) then we need a new cheap energy source in a very short time it seems. And how many reactors could we build, or turbines erect, in seven years?

Office_Shredder

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
And how many reactors could we build, or turbines erect, in seven years?
As many as we're willing to pay for of course. There were something like 9 million construction workers in 2009; a quarter of them are now unemployed. Assuming the federal government decides it's a no holds barred contest to break our fossil fuel usage, labor and material supplies are the limiting factor

Relying on

http://nextbigfuture.com/2007/07/constructing-lot-of-nuclear-power.html

Materials isn't the problem. If 1000 power plants takes up 10% of the world's annual concreete and steel supplies, over 5 years that's only 2% of the annual supply, which isn't bad. And if it takes 10,000 construction workers to build the thing in that time (a guess) that's 10 million jobs. A quarter of the workers are freely available, and the remaining three quarters can be taken from other sectors (there are some 15 million people unemployed in the US). Maybe that's an unfeasibly large inexperienced workforce, but certainly hundreds of new power plants could be built

mheslep

Gold Member
And how many reactors could we build, or turbines erect, in seven years?
More like 100 years for oil (out to 2110) if we believe Mohr's case 3. Mohr has similar numbers for natural gas case 3. And in any worst case scenario, fossil fuels do not entirely collapse in seven years.

ZQrn

Oh boy, I remember the 'pessimistic' estimates in 1995 still being 2050, and that was near then. The pessimists are always more realistic it seems.

I also read the other day that IPv4 is expected to be saturated in 2010, that's also quite near.

apeiron

Gold Member
More like 100 years for oil (out to 2110) if we believe Mohr's case 3. Mohr has similar numbers for natural gas case 3. And in any worst case scenario, fossil fuels do not entirely collapse in seven years.
Is this a rational summary of his findings?

Again, making the energy/economy link, we are really saying that unless we can find some other energy source, world GDP will peak in 2017 and smoothly decline for ever after. And this transition point looms in seven years on middle-ground assumptions.

The actual range of his worst and best case scenarios for peak fossil fuels is suprisingly narrow - 2012 to 2029.

Fossil fuel productions for CASE 1, CASE 2 and CASE 3 is projected to peak between 2012 and 2029 at 433 – 581 EJ/y.

mheslep

Gold Member
Is this a rational summary of his findings?
I'm only attempting above to cite Mohr not make deductions (so far). As far as I can tell those are roughly the empirical numbers for case 3 out to the point of depletion/ collapse in production, not a peak (Mohr's figure attached below) I thought near depletion was what you had in mind when you said:
apeiron said:
And how many reactors could we build, or turbines erect, in seven years?
by which I assumed you meant at least a large fraction, if not most, of the existing secondary power plants had to be replaced. Such a case would not come about from a mild transition to post peak production, but only from a collapse in production.

apeiron said:
...Again, making the energy/economy link, we are really saying that unless we can find some other energy source, world GDP will peak in 2017 and smoothly decline for ever after. And this transition point looms in seven years on middle-ground assumptions.
We? At least in the US, energy consumption per capita peaked back in the late seventies yet GDP has managed to increase substantially (per the World Bank):
It may be that energy production and GDP is more closely correlated in developing countries like China, which strikes me as intuitive, but I doubt the correlation holds very tightly in developed countries (i.e. how many yachts can one water ski behind?).

Mohr said:
Fossil fuel productions for CASE 1, CASE 2 and CASE 3 is projected to peak between 2012 and 2029 at 433 – 581 EJ/y.
Yes. Note that per Mohr 2100 production is still ~450 EJ/y in case 3.

Given one EJ/yr is produced by ~32 GW(e) plants/reactors running at 100% capacity factor, the 131 EJ/yr energy deficit by 2100 would covered by building 45 GW(e) 100% capacity factor non-fossil replacement units (nuclear/solar/wind/geothermal/efficiency improvements/etc.) per year, worldwide, for ninety years. For comparison, China alone has been adding new electric capacity at a rate of ~62 GW(e) per year (fossil and other)
http://www.eia.doe.gov/cabs/China/images/china-elec_by_type2.gif [Broken]

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apeiron

Gold Member
I'm only attempting above to cite Mohr not make deductions (so far). As far as I can tell those are roughly the empirical numbers for case 3 out to the point of depletion/ collapse in production, not a peak (Mohr's figure attached below) I thought near depletion was what you had in mind when you said:
Case 2 is Mohr's best guess choice, case 3 is the optimistic outlier. So long as you are clear about the difference. And again, what is striking is that all three cases are quite narrowly grouped.

On the meaning of a peak, of course I understand that we are roughly saying half gone, so half still left. But we are also saying all the cheap, high EROEI, is gone, now we are left with the expensive low EROEI. Which has obvious direct consequences for economics and politics.

I realise no-one really wants to believe the situation can be as dire as these kinds of studies suggest. So it would cheer me up if you actually had convincing arguments about why there is no reason to worry.

I had a chance to chat with one of your undersecretaries for energy earlier this year. She was quite optimistic about how the US would cope. She cited the figures for how much wind is just waiting to be harnessed in the mid-west. She said Obama's 20 year goals to shift to alternatives would be achieved in 10, because the need was so urgent. It was all very "can do". Yet I still went away feeling I had heard nothing of substance. There was no sense of concrete detail that would actually make any of this happen.

We? At least in the US, energy consumption per capita peaked back in the late seventies yet GDP has managed to increase substantially (per the World Bank):
It may be that energy production and GDP is more closely correlated in developing countries like China, which strikes me as intuitive, but I doubt the correlation holds very tightly in developed countries (i.e. how many yachts can one water ski behind?).
In fact I was reading a study the other week that argued real average wealth in the US has stagnated since the 1970s. And the curves matched oil consumption. I'll try to find it again.

Generally, the correlation is good in the research I've read. And it makes sense that energy is the basis of wealth. A more efficient economy would extract more work from the same amount of energy of course. But this is well understood from basic ecology. And ecological economists are the ones to be listening to these days.

On China, energy consumption has soared in line with GDP as the China miracle has recently been driven by infrastructure - construction.

Unfortunately, all the signs are that what they have been mostly building is a property bubble - whole cities of empty apartment blocks funded by crazy finance.

http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2010/07/ponzi-shark-loans-fuel-chinas-housing.html

The miracle may shortly prove to be a mirage. Although people are saying the saving grace for China is that it still holds so many US dollars and keeping the dollar artificially high will have proved a good insurance policy.

A crazy age, don't you agree?

mheslep

Gold Member
[...]I realise no-one really wants to believe the situation can be as dire as these kinds of studies suggest.
I'm interested in discussing a model such as Mohr's based on the actual results he obtains and crunching more numbers to see where that might take us (as I did above). However, I don't see the utility in pursuing arbitrary characterizations about what is or is not 'dire' without some kind of verifiable context. By contrast, and for instance, above I attempted to place Mohr's fossil fuel energy deficit as of 2100 in context by showing the feasibility of replacing it. After all, this is a science & engineering forum and I hope to pursue those lines.

I don't see utility in grouping critiques in with some kind of conjured group who are imagined as refusing to 'believe' in the latest Malthusian predictions, or about hand waiving away energy policy proposals without examination as containing nothing of value. Also, the continued reliance on blogs as a point-maker, while sometimes interesting when identified as such, is not useful to build a discussion on firm ground, as one can quickly find blog 'evidence' from no less than tenured professors showing how on 911 it was actually US officials that directed aircraft into the WTC.

apeiron said:
In fact I was reading a study the other week that argued real average wealth in the US has stagnated since the 1970s. And the curves matched oil consumption. I'll try to find it again.
I imagine that can only refer to some income inequality discussion, a digression I'd not like to pursue here, as there's no question gross US economic output has seen substantial growth since the 1970s. The data, in real terms, is readily available: US GDP has more than tripled since 1970.

apeiron

Gold Member
I'm interested in discussing a model such as Mohr's based on the actual results he obtains and crunching more numbers to see where that might take us (as I did above).
Which still does not explain why your analysis is focused on case 3 rather than case 2, except as a personal prejudice.

You have not provided a reason why his best guess middle path is in fact less likely than his most optimistic one.

But yes, it would certainly be interesting to follow up his study with an estimate of the actual gap for his various scenarios, and thus the number of nuclear reactors, wind turbines, or whatever would be needed to fill it.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member

mheslep

Gold Member
Which still does not explain why your analysis is focused on case 3 rather than case 2, except as a personal prejudice.

You have not provided a reason why his best guess middle path is in fact less likely than his most optimistic one.
Correct I haven't; I picked one. Mohr provided three cases from a model, a non-peer reviewed model (so far); I'm inclined to pick #3 for the moment.

But yes, it would certainly be interesting to follow up his study with an estimate of the actual gap for his various scenarios, and thus the number of nuclear reactors, wind turbines, or whatever would be needed to fill it.
Well I tried to give it a go above. One EJ/yr requires 32 GW, at 100% capacity factor for electric generation. That translates roughly to (worldwide) any of the following (all electrical cases):
o 31 AP1100 nuclear reactors running at the US average 93% capacity factor (or 15 of the common two reactor plants)
o 32 of the one year increases in Texas wind capacity seen in 2007-2008 (2.76 GW peak) at 37% capacity factor ( or 32 * 1850 1.5 MW wind turbines)
o A 3.5% increase in US electrical generation or usage efficiency, or both. (assuming a 900GW(e) average US electrical load)

Again, all of those provide one EJ/year, with Mohr predicting a ~131 EJ/yr deficit by 2100. So the rate of deficit is about 1.5 EJ/year.