Conventional

There is a considerable debate and disagreement on the estimates of "ultimate recoverable oil reserves." However, there seems to be a good agreement on the amount of "proven oil reserves" in the world. According to British Petroleum (2006), total identified or proven world oil reserves at the end of 2005 were 1200.7 billion barrels. This estimate is close to the reserves of 1266 billion barrels from other sources listed by IEA (IEA 2004). The differences among them lie in their accounting for the Canadian tar sands. Considering the present production rate of over 80 million barrels per day, these reserves will last for about 41 years if there is no increase in production. Of course, there may be additional reserves that may be discovered in the future. A recent analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Agency (2006) estimates the ultimately recoverable world oil reserves (including resources not yet discovered) at between 2.2 X 1012 barrels (bbl) and 3.9 X1012 bbl with a mean estimate of the USGS at 3 X 1012 bbl.

Ever since petroleum geologist M. King Hubbert correctly predicted in l956 that U.S. oil production would reach a peak in l973 and then decline (Hubbert 1974), scientists and engineers have known that worldwide oil production would follow a similar trend. Today, the only question is when the world peak will occur. Bartlett (2002) has developed a predictive model based on a Gaussian curve similar in shape to the data used by Hubbert as shown in Figure 1.6. The predictive peak in world oil production depends on the assumed total amount of recoverable reserves.

4.0E+10 3.5E+10 3.0E+10 2.5E+10 2.0E+10 1.5E+10 1.0E+10 5.0E+09

0.0E+00

1900

: 4000 Bllllc

n b

2030

i 3000 Billic

n b

/>-^2019

\

Î 2000 Billic

n b /

2004

\

:

J-P

\ N

^ \

:

\

\ \

;

\

\ \

:

//

\ \

r World

oil

2050

1950

2000 Date: year

2050

2100

FIGURE 1.6 World oil production vs. time for various amounts of ultimate recoverable resource. (From Bartlett, A. A., Mathematical Geology, 32, 2002. With permission.)

If BP's estimations of oil reserves are correct, we may have already peaked in world oil production. If, however, estimates of the ultimate reserves (discovered and undiscovered) are used, we may expect the oil production to increase a little longer before it peaks. However, changing the total available reserves from 3 X 1012 bbl to 4 X 1012 bbl increases the predicted time of peak production by merely 11 years, from 2019 to 2030. There is no question that after the world peak is reached and oil production begins to drop, either alternative fuels will have to be supplied to make up the difference between demand and supply, or the cost of fuel will increase precipitously and create an unprecedented social and economic crisis for our entire transportation system.

The present trend of yearly increases in oil consumption, especially in China and India, shortens the window of opportunity for a managed transition to alternative fuels even further. Hence, irrespective of the actual amount of oil remaining in the ground, peak production will occur soon. Therefore, the need for starting to supplement oil as the primary transportation fuel is urgent because an orderly transition to develop petroleum substitutes will take time and careful planning.

0 0

Post a comment