Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

World (earth) oil reserves

  1. Nov 13, 2007 #1
    How are they estimated?
    What methodologies experts use for that?
    Some say they will last for up to 50 years,some say for only 15 years.
    The opinions differ.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 13, 2007 #2

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    You can fairly easily and accurately estimate the volume of existing reservoirs from seismic surveys. But you then need to make assumptions about how much of it you can extract and what effect new extraction technolgies would have.
    Then looking for new fields is a bit more specultive, you can do surveys which show there are similair features under the atlantic as under the North Sea and then say - if they contain the same amount of oil and are 10x bigger then there is 10x as much oil as in the North Sea. Do the same for oil sands etc..
    Then there is the question of consumption / extraction technology / extraction cost.
    If consumption goes up we have less oil, but then demand goes up so it is worthwhile expoiting more expensive sources such as oil sands. As price goes up it becomes worth investing in new technology to both find oil and extract it - so supply goes up.

    Then there's politics. If you are a green campainger you pick the most conservative estimates of available reserves and assume the worst estimates of growth in demand to get 15years. If you are a car maker you pick the opposites.
    The oil industry is notorious for overstating it's known reserves - partly this is just human nature, everybody on the exploration teams wants to give good news to his manager, the layers of management all want to give good news to their superiors - so reserves get exagerated. Then the board just flat out lies to the investors.
     
  4. Nov 14, 2007 #3
    It is clear to me why car industry is unethical about
    these issues ,and why Greenpeace advocates the most pesismistic
    prognosis.
    But I was more interested to hear about scientific and
    seizmology methods for evaluating current and potential
    oil reserves of the planet.
    Well the problem is I didn't hear that such studies
    are fairly easily done or accurate !
    Can you provide reliable links or something?
     
  5. Nov 14, 2007 #4

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Don't have any specific links about reserve mapping.
    It wasn't that companies are necessarily unethical - it's just that there are a lot of factors multiplied together and each factor has a wide range of uncertainty.

    Reserves are listed with large number of significant figures for the volume then a designination such as likely/probable/possible. So it's hard to be certain about how much there is - it's one of those areas where you are asked "tell me exactly how much stuff there is out there - that we haven't found yet!"
     
  6. Nov 15, 2007 #5
    I heard on the lecture I attended to,an interesting claim .
    That factual reserves of oil are much bigger than firstly thought.
    Maybe,they should suffice for next 100 years but will
    they ever be commercially exploited is questionable.
    They are located too deep (in earth core) or hard to reach.
    Claim made by an expert.
    He doesn't work for General Motors :-)
     
  7. Nov 15, 2007 #6
    Can you imagine how much exploration has taken place in Uganda and Burundi compared to say Texas and Kuwait? This question is tough to answer considering the pure politics involved and that OPEC mandates its members change their reserves inorder to change their quotas.
     
  8. Nov 16, 2007 #7
    That's one of the reasons the questions regarding estimates are so intriguing.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?