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Peak Oil

  1. Mar 17, 2006 #1
    In the last couple of days I have been searching for information concerning the Hubbert Peak Theory.

    Most of the information about peak oil seems to be alarmist and/or conspitacy theorist make-preparations-now-or-you're-gonna-die stuff.

    I have read that most oil companies and the US Department of Energy say it will not happen.

    Whom should I believe?

    What information is out there?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 17, 2006 #2
    The only thing that can invalidate peak oil would be confirmation that oil is abiotic in origin, with a generation rate that could replenish reservoirs over a human time scale. The Russians, and some in the West (notably Tommy Gold), have argued for this, but they find few supporters amongst most petroleum geologists.

    As you have noted, the underlying concept has been hijacked by alarmists, conspiracy nuts, and those who take a psychotic delight in envisaging the end of civilisation as we know it. That does not invalidate the underlying concept, which is nothing less than the application of common sense.

    The theory was originally proposed in relation to the US. The 'experts' decried it. Production in the US peaked as predicted by the theory. That is quite good validation, in my view.

    The problem is that having been usurped by doom and gloom merchants the worst case scenario is painted. Equally, sensible lobbyists will note that since we are uncertain of just when production will peak it would be prudent to look towards the worst case situation. Worst case is that we are now essentially at peak oil. Best case is that it is twenty to forty years away.

    That range is partly due to uncertainty of reserves, and to improvements in production efficiencies, but also to the extent to which we can introduce alternative energy sources and contain the growth in energy demand.
  4. Mar 17, 2006 #3


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    Yeah, I really think so.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/2e/World_energy_consumption%2C_1970-2025%2C_EIA.png [Broken]
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/4e/Hubbert-fig-20.png [Broken]

    This reminds me of the Malthusian catastrophe, over and over through history raised up as a concern.

    This Principle of Population was based on the idea that population if unchecked increases at an exponential rate (i.e. 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, etc.) whereas the food supply grows at a linear rate (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, etc.). He would possibly have been right, and forecasted mass starvation, but he made two incorrect assumptions. Population didn't increase at an exponential rate, and the food supply didn't increase at a linear rate.

    World population growth rate
    World population history
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/09/World_production_of_coarse_grain%2C_1961-2004.png [Broken]

    I know the media may present this as a fact, like
    Notice in each situation, it is always some threat to everybody, whether it be America, the world, or all life. It is always an inevitable threat, and cannot be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and you don't know when it'll hit.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  5. Mar 18, 2006 #4
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  6. Mar 18, 2006 #5


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    Good observation, that is precisely the point I was trying to make. The first shows Hubbert's estimation of future oil consumption, made in 1956. The second contains the estimation of future oil consumption, made in 2004. Did you read what I wrote about the Malthusian catastrophe?
    I'm not saying peak oil is not real, the US already hit peak oil in 1971. http://www.peakoil.ie/downloads/newsletters/newsletter23_200211.pdf" [Broken]. I'm saying peak oil is not
    USGS finds that peak oil may not be hit for 50-100 years [2]
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  7. Mar 20, 2006 #6
    In my understanding, peak oil means that the eroei (energy returned over energy invested) has reached a point where other types of energy are more cost effective.

    At one point, the eroei was around 20:1. That was when we got oil from "gushers." At present, we are more in the ballpark of eroei=5:1 approaching 2:1. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.) Think "squeezing oil from oil-soaked sand in Canada." Not gushers.

    When solar/wind/nuclear is more cost effective than oil, we'll switch. (Husband and I already switched, to photovoltaics. We will pay about 1/4 for home energy than non-solar houses will, over the next 25 years. Thus, by this argument, we have reached "peak oil.")

    I've not noticed a scare-mongering tactic about peak oil, only allusions to scare-mongering, on message boards. Maybe I read more balanced media. This is not a passive aggressive comment, only a statement of my personal experience wrt media.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2006
  8. Mar 20, 2006 #7


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    Well, I remember being told in elementary school in the late 80's that the earth would run out of oil by either 2008 or 2015 (depending upon when I was told, those are the two dates I remember). It didn't particularly scare me, as I just assumed if that was true, we'd have other options by then, but it was quite obviously false.

    But yeah, peak oil is an inevitability. My understanding of what it is involves nothing more complicated than a decrease in the rate at which we can extract oil from the ground, a permanent downturn in oil production (which is somewhat of a misnomer, since oil isn't produced, but you know what I mean). Obviously, with any non-renewable resource (or one that takes millions of years to renew), this has to happen at some point. It happened with gold and it'll happen with oil. Of course, gold isn't combusted once it's taken out of the ground so peak hold hasn't meant much, but peak oil will mean something.

    Likely, though, it won't mean the end of western civilization. If you want to see the scare-mongering these people are talking about, patty, just run a google search on peak oil. Some quotes from the first couple of hits:

    The second site seems pretty even-handed.

    The fourth site seems even-handed, though I didn't look through their forum.

    Anyway, I don't agree with the first poster that all of the information out there is alarmist or conspiracy theorist. Some of it is useful and some of it is fear-mongering bunk. You take the good with the bad.
  9. Mar 20, 2006 #8


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    I know I've seen on the news, that we're almost out of oil, the end of plastics may be near because of its need of petroleum, and we need to do hydrogen now.
  10. Mar 20, 2006 #9
    MK: Well... maybe it's me. I just don't see how getting rid of plastic is that bad. What plastic do you feel you can't live without? I'd miss cotton sooner.

    LYN, I tried your recommended google, and I suppose I see what you mean, but again, the topic doesn't strike me as particularly alarmist. (I mean, a person could say that our civilisation is radically different since 9/11, but that doesn't really mean anything to Americans, in terms of day to day life. The overwhelming majority of us have essentially the same lifestyle we had five years ago, despite living in a "post 9/11 world." )

    I've never been accused of being overly normal, so if my comments seem bizarre to you, that's probably par for the course.

    I'm not looking for a fight, if it sounds that way. I'm just calling it as I see it, and making small talk.
  11. Mar 20, 2006 #10


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    Could you list, please, everything in arms-reach that is made of plastic?

    There is a good commercial where a person is standing in a room and everything made of plastic disappears - it's enlightening to see how ubiquitous it is. Plastic is incalculably important to modern civilization.
  12. Mar 21, 2006 #11
    the computer stuff, cd cases, ... printer....

    Thats it.

    I'm wearing cotton, the floor is wood, the chair is wood, the computer desk is wood, the window is glass, the file cabinet is metal, the bills are paper, the knickknacks are fossils, etc...

    My enjoyment in life does not come from things made of plastic. It's not like I haven't thought about this, Russ.

    The amount of unnecessary plastic that comes into our house is depressing. Styrofoam packing peanuts, (perhaps not a plastic), packaging, plastic bags, most cheap kid toys from parties, .... etc.....

    What plastic item do you feel you can't live without, Russ? It's not rhetorical, and as I answered your question I'd request that you show the same courtesy.
  13. Mar 21, 2006 #12


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    The commercial that I've seen takes place in a hospital. The biggest thing with plastics is their medical application.

    With respect to the alarmism, come on, patty. The two sites I posted aren't talking about things changing, or a shift in viewpoint a la the "post 9/11" world. They're saying quite explicitly that civilization will be destroyed, that humans need to "wake up or die." (direct quote) That isn't to say there is nothing of value on these sites. I'm not looking for a fight either (nor am I sure why you seem so apprehensive with your comments - there is nothing wrong with seeing things differently). "Alarmism," however, isn't entirely just a matter of personal opinion. When people use fear of extinction to enact an agenda (even a good agenda, as getting off of oil certainly is), that pretty much defines the word.

    Worst-case scenarios are nice to enact contingency plans around, but just as when the news tried to tell us that killer bees, fruit flies, weather anomalies, bird flu, e. coli, or what have you, are going to result in almost post-apocalyptic scenarios, it gets tiring to see the fear mongering going on. I like to call it "Stosselism," and it detracts, not to mention distracts, from what otherwise could be a very constructive discussion. (Note that I didn't say debate, because there is no debate. Oil will cease to be a cost-effective energy source at some point, and may even run out entirely at some further point, and we do need to look to other sources.)
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2006
  14. Mar 21, 2006 #13


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    The first one on your list is a biggie to me. Without plastic, the computer revolution would have been extrordinarily difficult, if not impossible. The medical equiment thing is a biggie too (platic is key especially for implantable devices). There are many, many, many things that metal is unsuitable for because of corrosion. Then there's food preservation - most food you buy is contained in plastic.

    As far as being important for civilization - cotton? about the only thing cotton is good for is for clothing. it wouldn't be good to lose it, but it would certainly not change much about how we live life if it were lost, unlike plastic.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2006
  15. Mar 22, 2006 #14
    You might also consider the weight advantages of plastics. If they were replaced on cars and planes with other materials we should find either our fuel consumption had gone up, or our load capacity had gone down.
  16. Sep 20, 2006 #15
    Here's a different angle, possibly worthwhile. It could have bearing on the Peak Oil issue, but it's complicated, as usual, more to it than meets the eye.


    Newly discovered oil source fans offshore drilling debate [Broken]

    This is an interesting development for reasons little noted so far: the Chevron "Jack" discovery is very deep, nearly 30,000 feet down to a 500+ feet of oil column. Many experts attribute this find to greatly improved seismic equipment and data...equipment effectively able to seek through layers of salt. Several years ago, I was told by a lady at the Minerals Management Service in New Orleans...

    http://www.gomr.mms.gov/index.html [Broken]

    ...that they have GOM seismic data to 65,0000 feet deep. I'm sure that isn't the case throughout the GOM, but if Chevron hit a 15 billion bbl field at 30,000 feet and that's the deepest well ever drilled to a large prospect, then the deep stuff is virgin territory so far as drill bits are concerned, meaning there might be as much or more oil at 30,000 feet or more deep as we've found oil above 30,000 feet since the 1800s.

    So the question: if new seismic data is available in the GOM to 65,000 feet, what does that seismic data show? Geologists and petrophysicists look at raw seismic data with some uncertainty that's later resolved if and when a seismic prospect is drilled. In other words, when they look at seismic data, they see stuff down there that may or may not actually be oil. Devon (one of Chevron's Jack partners) has hit oil in 4 of 6 places where they thought they might find it...so the new technology is revealing, to say the least.

    So now the national security issue: who gets to to look at the deep seismic data and make judgments about what kind of oil we have offshore in the deep GOM? I don't suppose any given oil company should have access to all other companies' seismic data, but CIA analysts ought to have access to the whole thing so as be able to judge our future production and dependence on foreign oil.

    This may have bearing on Thomas Gold's Hot Deep Biosphere...the distribution of hydrocarbons from ultradeep primordial methane to less deep methanes degrades by heat and biota to oil. Oil tends to pool in reservoirs that are thin and flat, like pancakes...or, by extension, in layers, like onion skins. How deep do 500 foot think onionskin oil reservoirs go?

    Deep offshore drilling has some considerable technical difficulties, but some obvious advantages too. The drillships can float over their targets and move from one to another with ease compared to land rigs. That matters when the rigs might have to drill 6 miles or more deep; an ultradeep drill rig is necessarily a massive structure. Another advantage: ultradeep wells can be produced into FPSOs / tankers so no costly pipelines. If you have to drill 6 miles or more, the part of that depth that's water is a lot easier to penetrate than the various stones of geological formations.

    Yes, this could be a very big deal for Big Oil, the USA and the World. Whatever Chevron's "Jack" discovery means in the deepwater GOM may be true worldwide to some extent. If so, Colin Campbell's Peak Oil doomsday might need to be revised, since it's unlikely that his Peak Oil models contemplate vast, economically accessible reserves below 25,000 feet. This pattern remains to be seen elsewhere in ultradeep drilling, of course.

    At any rate, Congress should be all over this discovery and related deep seismic data for reasons that haven't been discussed a lot in public.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  17. Sep 21, 2006 #16


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    I remember Jack. There was supposed to be enough oil in there to go for decades only on that one deposit.
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