# Peak fossil fuels by 2017

1. Jul 20, 2010

### apeiron

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 .

Last edited: Jul 21, 2010
2. Jul 20, 2010

### Office_Shredder

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

Unless I missed something tar sands are not gone by 2010

3. Jul 20, 2010

### apeiron

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.

4. Jul 20, 2010

### apeiron

5. Jul 21, 2010

### mheslep

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?

Last edited: Jul 21, 2010
6. Jul 21, 2010

### mheslep

Unattractive how? Do you mean something other than the increased CO2 emissions?

Last edited: Jul 21, 2010
7. Jul 21, 2010

### 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.

8. Jul 21, 2010

### Office_Shredder

Staff Emeritus
I know what peak production means. The problem was that you had a typo and said 2010 instead of 2100 :tongue2:

9. Jul 21, 2010

### mheslep

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.

Last edited: Jul 21, 2010
10. Jul 21, 2010

### Office_Shredder

Staff Emeritus
Oh, you just wait. Once the Canadians get filthy rich on tar sand money, there's no telling what they'll do

11. Jul 21, 2010

### mheslep

Yes, could be, though I doubt they'll start flying airplanes into buildings containing bunches of Canucks arguing with Yanks about hockey.

12. Jul 21, 2010

### apeiron

Ahh, thanks. I've corrected that.

13. Jul 21, 2010

### apeiron

Various snippets on tar sands.....

Indeed and here is an estimate of that cost...

The "good" news for the US is that it is rich in oil shale....

14. Jul 21, 2010

### 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.

15. Jul 21, 2010

### apeiron

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?

16. Jul 21, 2010

### Office_Shredder

Staff Emeritus
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

17. Jul 21, 2010

### mheslep

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.

18. Jul 21, 2010

### 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.

19. Jul 21, 2010

### apeiron

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.

20. Jul 22, 2010

### mheslep

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:
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.

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):