To Peak or Not to Peak? That is the question.

By Mike Jonas,

A lot has been written about Peak Oil recently – perhaps more in comments than in WUWT articles themselves – and the “Not to Peak”-ers seem to be in the ascendancy. In other words, the opinions that “Peak Oil” is a fantasy and/or oil production will keep increasing for a century or more seem to be dominant.

But just how realistic are the “Not to Peak”-ers?

I had a look back at my article of 4 years ago (Peak Oil Re-visited), and I’m pretty comfortable with what I said back then. NB. I defined “Peak Oil” as When the rate of oil production reaches its maximum. With this definition, Peak Oil is not when we run out of oil, and it is not when we can’t increase the rate of oil production. If you want to use one of those other definitions then different rules apply. And I’m only talking about oil, not about oil and gas, and not about fossil fuels generally.

What I said in 2015 was:

  • The reason for oil production reaching its maximum is not specified.
  • Peak Oil is not necessarily a disaster, it could even be a positive.
  • One idea which surely is not open to argument is the fact that oil production will peak.
  • Predicting Peak Oil has always been an unrewarding exercise. People have predicted Peak Oil for over a century and have been wrong every time.
  • The principal factors affecting oil supply are: Geology, Politics, Demand, Price, Technology.
  • In spite of economic booms and busts, oil demand has been relatively inelastic.
  • Although Peak Oil may occur after say 2040, it could well be much earlier.

The third bullet above (oil production will peak) was justified by this graph, which looked at past and likely future oil production on a scale of thousands of years:

The shale revolution (as BP calls it) has made a difference, but it still can't dramatically alter the shape of the graph in Figure 1. Basically, it can push the peak up, and it can elongate the tail, but it can't move the peak very far to the right.

The shale revolution (as BP calls it) has made a difference, but it still can’t dramatically alter the shape of the graph in Figure 1. Basically, it can push the peak up, and it can elongate the tail, but it can’t move the peak very far to the right.

Figure 1. World Total Fossil Fuel Consumption, past and predicted – the long view.

The BP Energy Outlook 2019, produced 4 years on from my 2015 article, has a chart on page 80 which shows (their forecast of) oil demand peaking around 2035, maybe a bit later but before 2040.

Unfortunately, the BP report is corrupted by various bits of political correctness (“PC”). Could they really seriously believe for example that the PC attack on single-use plastics (“Single-use plastics refers to plastic packaging and other single uses, such as plastic straws and cups“) can ever have any noticeable effect on oil demand?? I suppose it’s in line with the grovelling in their June 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy: “At first blush, some of last year’s data might seem a little disappointing. Growth in overall energy demand is up; gains in energy intensity are down. Coal consumption grew for the first time in four years. And, perhaps most striking of all, carbon emissions are up after three consecutive years of little or no growth.“. Who the h*ll do they think they are, thinking that improvements in one of the main foundations of prosperity are “disappointing“?

But I digress. Their opinion is clear: they expect oil demand to peak by 2040.

Well, I confess it’s quite encouraging when someone as big as BP seems to agree now with something I wrote 4 years ago, but just how realistic is it? BP themselves say that the value of their Outlook is not in trying to predict the future – any such attempt is doomed to fail.

BP’s definition of oil includes gas liquids: Oil unless noted otherwise includes: crude; natural gas liquids (NGLs); gas-to-liquids (GTLs); coal-to-liquids (CTLs); condensates; and refinery gains. I’m happy to use that definition.

BP refer to …

  • expanding middle classes in Asia accounting for much of the growth in global GDP and energy consumption (world GDP more than doubles by 2040 driven by increasing prosperity in fast-growing developing economies; this improvement in living standards causes energy demand to increase by around a third over the Outlook, driven by India, China and Other Asia which together account for two-thirds of the increase.)
  • the shale revolution catapulting the US to pole position as the world’s largest producer of oil and gas
  • the way in which energy is consumed is changing, as the world electrifies

… which suggests that oil demand will continue increasing quite strongly, and therefore oil supply will too for as long as it is cost-effective. [BTW, I’m not convinced that the world will electrify enough to change the oil picture much]. But BP also say …

  • US liquids supply will likely peak around 2030 [chart p.87]
  • significant levels of investment are required for there to be sufficient supplies of oil to meet demand in 2040
  • closing the gap between supply and demand would require many trillions of dollars of investment over the next 20 years

… which suggests that it really is going to be challenging to keep oil supply increasing past 2040.

In my 2015 article, I pointed out that M King Hubbert’s prediction for US oil production was remarkably accurate for 50 years after he made it …

Figure 2. Hubbert 1956 prediction vs US Oil Production.

Figure 2. Hubbert 1956 prediction vs US Oil Production.

… and that predictions that are that accurate over 50 years are quite rare. [A severe understatement?]. So it’s reasonable to suppose that Hubbert was getting something right. The big mistake he made was to assume that the US’s tight oil deposits [I think that’s what he called them], which he did know about, were so difficult to produce that they would stay in the ground. Given that he himself had acknowledged the role that technological advance could play, that was a serious and rather surprising error.

But if we update the oil resource with what we know now, and re-apply Hubbert’s rule of thumb that oil production would peak when about half of the resource had been extracted, we can get some sort of check on BP’s forecast. I did a swift calculation, and with the numbers I used, the halfway mark occurs in 2042. There are so many different ways of doing it that if you wanted to get the peak further out I’m sure you could do it, but the further out you try for, the harder it gets. The numbers I used were:

  • Past oil production: 1600 Bbbl
  • Initial total resource: 5000 Bbbl
  • 2019 oil production: 34.5 Bbbl
  • Avg annual prodn increase until peak: 1%

Maybe the initial total resource number is far too low? (Another trillion barrels would push the peak past 2050). Maybe peak will be way after the half-way mark? (2/3 would take it to nearly 2060). Your guess is as good as mine. Try your own numbers and see what you get.

The takeaway message from all of this, to my mind, is that yes there will be a peak in oil production, maybe a bit after 2040, but it depends on how things actually happen. It should feel more like a plateau than a peak, and there certainly won’t be a sudden end to all oil production (unless a Nicolás Maduro or an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez takes over the world).

As I said above, Peak Oil is not necessarily a bad thing. It could be something to celebrate. By that I mean that if oil demand stops increasing because something better and cheaper comes along to replace it, or some of it, then that would be truly positive.

If, on the other hand, some nutcase tries to force the end of oil usage, or to replace it with wind, say, then … Venezuela, here we come.

205 thoughts on “To Peak or Not to Peak? That is the question.

  1. Crude oil production peaks is called reality. Then the price of oil goes up and another technology becomes economical. Then another peak starts. There isn’t one peak, there is a succession. The peaks oil.

    • The US production may have a peak but worldwide production just keeps going up, we hit 100Million barrels a day this year.

      • The US also has the largest untapped oil reserve on the planet estimated at somewhere between 3-9 trillion barrels of oil with an estimated 30-40% of it being recoverable. That entire deposit has and remains untouched today and will probably stay that way forever unless Fusion power production proves to be beyond our technological ability in the next 20 years. Then I think you will see oil companies start to take an interest in that oil even though it will be exceptionally difficult for them to tap, which is the very reason it hasn’t been tapped yet.

        If commercial fusion power actually makes it to market in the next 20 years, oil no longer matters. Why? Because fusion power is so cheap that we will be able to afford to run the chemical process of burning that fossil fuel backwards. Which means that all we have to do is extract CO2 from the atmosphere and voila, a little chemistry and we have carbon neutral fuel. The reason we don’t do that now is because of how energy intensive it is, and electricity costs lots of money to make right now. With fusion power production that all changes as a single supertanker of fusion power plant fuel is enough to power the entire USA for 1000 years. Which means that it will cost $0.001 to make $1,000,000 worth of electricity. Which also means that we can afford to waste electricity on things like running the chemical process of burning fossil fuels backward and remake that fuel all over again.

        So peak oil, isn’t a real thing at the moment and may never be a real thing, it all depends on fusion power and where that goes in the next 20 years…

        • Fusion power may be cheap once the power stations are built, however the cost of building thousands or tens of thousands of fusion reactors would be huge, so I imagine it would take decades to replace existing generating capacity let alone add enough additional capacity to replace fossil fuels in transport, heating etc. Therefore I think it’s safe to assume that demand for oil will continue to be high long after fusion power is perfected (if it ever is).

        • No one knows the capital cost nor the depreciation cost of fusion.

          Your calculations simply have no foundation. The cost of the fuel is almost irrelevant in determining the LCOE for fusion.

        • Fusion Power WILL NOT be available in the next 20 years. Not a chance. Maybe by the year 2100. IF it is actually possible on Earth. In 1974, KNX News (Los Angeles) reported that fusion power (really steam turbine/generator electricity) would be available in 25 years. I worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory for 20 years. In 2001 my son’s Boy Scout Troop Leader took the Troop to view some of the laser and containment equipment they were developing at. I asked him how much longer, he said “50 more years”. I saw him (retired) at the Post Office the other day and asked him how much longer, he said “Maybe Never” Vaclav Smil (search him, the best technical/energy writer on Earth) not before 2100 if ever. Don’t hold your breath on fusion, let’s go with fission reactors (PS There is and never will be a uranium shortage).

          • Fusion Power WILL NOT be available in the next 20 years

            Mostly likely it won’t but all it takes is a major breakthrough to change the game. (though I wouldn’t bet the farm on such a breakthrough happening).

            Don’t hold your breath on fusion

            Indeed. If it ever happens, then great but you can’t count on currently non-existent technologies appearing when you want/need them to. They’ll happen when and if they happen and not before.

            let’s go with fission reactors

            Agree. fission energy production exists and works today, so there’s no real reason not to use it when and where appropriate.

    • “There isn’t one peak, there is a succession”. Yes, that is more or less the general impression that I get from this article (and other things I’ve read) about “peak oil”. However, wasn’t the original idea of “peak oil” (as opposed to later “limits to growth” ideas) even more restrictive than that? Originally the idea was just that a particular oil *field* would reach its peak. No limitation on advancing technology finding more and more oil was necessarily implied!

      Instead of trying to forecast a world level “peak” for oil production, or for coal or anything else, wouldn’t it be more reasonable to make an effort to forecast whether new tech will keep the price of fossil fuels so low that some forms of fossil fuel will continue to be the favored source of reliable energy? To me, this “go go fossil” future still seems possible, maybe far beyond the 2040 “world peak” year that this article keeps referring to?

      The *other* scenario is for the easiest to access oil (or even coal) sources to get used up so much that some non-fossil fuel alternative is sure to more or less take over for most energy uses. We’d most likely then be talking about some form of nuclear as the “base load” energy source here, presumably with the price of things like plastic going up somewhat along with an increased fuel price — maybe cheap nuclear generated electrical power would even help with fuel production in some way?

      As someone said “prediction is difficult, especially if you mean trying to predict the future”.

      • as long as there is still oil in the ground that has not been tapped then we have not reached the peak.

    • Fossil fuels have abiotic origin. The earth keeps cooking more hydrocarbons. And there are so many more places to drill.

        • The theory of abiotic origin is intriguing, mostly because it does explain a few things that we don’t have strong answers to. It might just be wishful thinking too. What are some of the arguments you are referring to where the real world keeps refuting the theory?

        • MarkW. please show us an example “the real world keeps refuting the theory” last I checked, we keep finding more and more oil reserves, and they keep getting bigger (Permian). I have yet to see any proof of what you claim.

          • There are no oilfields in Precambrian sedimentary basins. Isn’t that enough for you?

            Gas is something else, and there probably is abiotic gas around. We occasionally drill into pockets of gas in the Canadian Shield. OTOH there are bacteria living in cracks in metamorphic rocks, thousands of metres below the surface, so their death and decay could have produced some of that gas, which would make it biogenic, so who knows?

        • To both Cool and Dave.
          We keep finding oil precisely where the biotic origin theory says we should find oil.
          We have never found more than miniscule amounts of oil anywhere the biotic origin theory says we shouldn’t find oil.

          If the abiotic theory was correct, we would find oil every place where there is a non-permeable cap.

          • Oil without containing biomarkers might be found as well. So far, this hasn’t happened.

          • If the abiotic theory was correct, we would find oil every place where there is a non-permeable cap.

            Well, yes and no. You are assuming that abiotic oil formation occurs in a rapid enough time frame to be noticeable. If it’s an extremely slow process, then “miniscule amounts of oil anywhere the biotic origin theory says we shouldn’t find oil” may well be the best you’ll find. Of course if that’s the case, abiotic oil would be rather a moot point as far as fuel sources go.

    • Exactly. Should extraction from ground stored hydrocarbons truly run out, the world will just switch over to manufacturing them using thorium or some other form of power generation. Maybe even the odd windmill.

      • Wind mills did not last for water wells and will not last for electricity – the cost is just to high and not a 24/7/365 grid power source. Solar is the same.

    • Not mentioned, the vast areas where access to immense seas of oil is banned by increasingly communist governments.
      Open those up and all guestimates go out the window.
      And then there are places like Antarctica.

      It’s also not surprising that oil companies recite so much PC BS.
      They realize that in spite of all the leftist rhetoric, oil will be king for a long time to come.
      They lose little by playing the game.

      World energy consumption graph.

      AOC’s IQ test came back negative

      • If AOC is correct, the world is going to end in 12 years. In that case, all of the talk about running out of oil is moot /Sarc

    • “Crude oil production peaks is called reality. Then the price of oil goes up and another technology becomes economical. Then another peak starts. “

      But there is a problem with your narrative. For you to be right you need market price signals that encourage people to look at economic alternatives. But as the Fed has flooded the markets with free money, uneconomic activities like shale oil, wind or solar production have filled in some of the demand and kept prices for oil and gas lower than the market would have. As time progresses and the gap between reality and hope gets wider we may have a very difficult time trying to come up with an alternative quickly enough to minimize the damage.

  2. I wonder why BP created figure 1 with such a wide time scale (-6000 to +10000 years!)? To create the impression that in the scheme of things oil is a passing fad, or what?

      • Is is not a concern that BioFuels were a gateway to mass coal extraction, and ditto oil gateway (and energy system backbone) to other more recent fuels?
        This is a bottleneck that should be causing some multination dialogue rather than more invasion plans.

  3. So what happens in the long run? Given that the rough shape of the curve in Fig. 1 is correct in about 200
    hundred years the earth is going to be powered by “?” according to the graph. So we are going to using
    renewables whether you like it or not.

      • I care but believe in capitalism.
        When oil gets rare and expensive we will see a lot of replacements.

          • The sun is the source of most of all energy.
            Nuclear is an exception.
            Thin air containing CO2 can be transformed to fuel.
            But we will see when or if the oil gets expensive enough.

          • Nuclear’s energy density is 2,000,000 TIMES that of fossil fuels.

            It’s ludicrous to think nuclear won’t be what replaces fossil fuels in the future.

            There simply is no other viable alternative as wind and solar are insanely expensive and inefficient ways to generate power.

          • Samurai,
            Nuclear fission is very efficient but that doesn’t mean there are large supplies
            of suitable fuel. And once you try and run the entire world on nuclear energy
            you run out very quickly.

          • 150 years ago, Peak Whale Oil was reached. The supply shortage drove up prices and it made distillation of Kerosene profitable. And thus the oil industry was born.
            Nobody at that time could foresee that it also would prevent the inner cities from being buried in meters of horse manure, like some doomsayers predicted.

            We don’t know yet, what will replace gasoline. Will we go back to African-American powered farm equipment or will there be a breakthrough in Lithium mining or something new?

          • Izaak, we apparently have so much uranium that we can afford to let Hillary sell it to Putin for peanuts… oh, and a ‘small’ donation to the Clinton Fund.

            Srsly, there’s still plenty of uranium, especially in Australia. And we haven’t even scratched the surface on thorium.


          • Capitalism has done a pretty good job of creating new sources of energy out of thin air for the last few hundred years.
            Why do you feel that this is going to stop?

          • Please let’s use terminology correctly. The term “Capitalism” is the label Karl Marx applied to the British political economy of the mid 19th Century. Whether it can still be used in a meaningful way is highly debatable.

            In any event, as a label for a phenomenon of political economy, it is inappropriate to reify it and say it invents things. Inventions are produced by men, not social abstractions.

            Second, making fuel out of thin air is trivially easy in in terms of chemistry. Although, it is economically wasteful the way things are now.

            Thin air at sea level and average temperatures contains water vapor. Run an air conditioner and you can collect it. Thin air also contains CO2. Use NaOH or KOH to collect CO2. From those two compounds together with energy, you can make fuel. mH2O + n CO2 = CxHy + O2.

          • I firmly believe that nuclear energy will power the future. However, hydrocarbon fuels will still be very useful. Battery powered vehicles will continue to be golf carts. And airplanes can never be be run by batteries. Water transport will continue to be mostly fossil fueled. CVNs and Boomers excepted.

          • Izaak, there is no indication that nuclear fuel source materials are going to run out very quickly.

            Uranium has been producing about 20% of the power production for electricity for decades, and we are very very far from running out. Thorium is just as easy to use as uranium, and there is approximately four times the amount of Thoriun in the earth’s crust as their is uranium.

            And molten salt reactors can be fueled with a combination of various fuels, including depleted uranium, low enriched uranium, previously used uranium fuels now sitting in cooling water ponds all over the map at each operating reactor, and thorium too.

            And of course energy efficiency continues to improve rather faster than we are using up nuclear fission fuel.

            We could satisfy all or our energy needs with fission reactors for thousands of years to come.

            Eventually nuclear fusion reactors will become a reality too .. it is just a matter of time and R&D expenditures.

          • If there are financial incentives, what you call “thin air” will indeed create new sources.
            ‘Necessity and incentives are the mothers of invention.’

            And in comparison the heretofore high costs of so called “alternative fuels” will then look attractive.

            But no doubt, government will find a way to tax it to death.

          • Izaak: Yes, capitalism will. Nuclear fuel is a good example. Since fuel costs are a minor fraction of the cost of nuclear electricity, that electricity is relatively insensitive to the cost of fuel. There may be only a few hundred years of nuclear fuel if you maintain current assumptions, but the world doesn’t work that way. First, there is a lot more extractable uranium in the ground if you allow a higher price. Then, there is use of down-blended warhead uranium. Here’s a partial look at these resources: At a high enough but foreseeable price, uranium can be extracted from sea water, as has been demonstrated in laboratory size demonstrations. Then, there is a far greater source if breeder reactors come on line, as they are starting to do in India, where uranium is scarce but thorium is plentiful. Using thorium by itself will more than double the world’s supply of nuclear fuel.

            And that’s only fission. Fusion power will likely become a reality before fission fuel runs out. I’m not referring to the always 20 years in the future big government boondoggles like ITER. There are several small programs, mostly being run by capitalists. We only need one of the following to succeed. Go look up EMC2, Compact Fusion, General Fusion, Helion Energy, Laser Boron UNSW, LPPFusion, TAE Technologies, and Tokamak Energy for starters. Even if all energy use started with fusion powered electricity, there is enough for many thousands of years.

            Renewables? How about breeder reactors that make more fuel than they consume, and burn the spent fuel from the current reactor fleet? It’s not a technical or financial problem. It’s a political and educational problem.

          • As many have already said there is already so many sources of untapped energy why would any sane person worry about it. There is no shortage of energy on Earth there is only a cost difference between getting at different forms of energy.

            You can always spot the stupid layman when they talk of energy shortages, there is no such thing. All they are really saying is there is an overuse of the current form of energy being used.

          • Like what? Capitalism won’t create new fuel sources out of thin air.

            No but it’s very good an incentivizing people to find new fuel sources. When energy is cheap, there’s not much incentive to finding a replacement. as energy gets more expensive (as it will after the cheap stuff “peaks” and gets ever closer to “running out”) existing alternative source that previously were more expensive begin to become economically viable and the incentive to being the one to find the next “cheap source of energy” becomes ever greater. And as each “now cheaper” alternative takes over the market share previously enjoyed by “now more expensive” oil, the time when oil “runs out” entirely will be pushed back (by years, decades or possibly even centuries) due to less of it being used.

            Oil “peaking” and “running out” isn’t a problem, the market will find a replacement (either among existing alternatives or in some as yet undiscovered one) long before it does run out.

        • “I care but believe in capitalism.
          When oil gets rare and expensive we will see a lot of replacements.”

          Capitalism without a free market is not enough. As long as the Fed is free to keep distorting market prices it will be difficult to find funding for economically viable solutions.

          • Governments try to avoid clear paths to suicide. Once energy crunches begin because of govermental distortions, you can expect them to remove all impediments to new power sources before the guillotines are completed.

            Governments need lots of power to stay in power.

      • Nuclear looks the most likely at the moment. A hundred years or so ago, nuclear wasn’t conceivable. In a hundred years or so, something else probably will be. If we can get the wretched miserable destructive luddites out of the way before they destroy us, it can all just happen. Like the transition from wood to coal, open fires to central heating, horses to trains and cars, ships to planes, candles to electric lights, letters to email, encyclopedias and all sorts of other things to the internet, etc, etc.

        • Mike,
          Actually nuclear energy was conceivable 100 years ago. H. G. Wells for example wrote “The world set free” in 1914 which imagined a world where nuclear decay was enhanced producing bombs that lasted for decades. In fact it was obvious to many people once radioactivity was discovered in 1896 that it was a potential source of almost infinite energy. So if there is a new source of energy in the future then we would surely have seen signs of it by now.

          • So if there is a new source of energy in the future then we would surely have seen signs of it by now.


            Said Pharaoh’s energy adviser when he was asked if there was some way to replace human slaves in building projects to speed up the process?

          • sycomputing: The difference between now and 1896 is the early 20th Century revolution in Physics. Nuclear Energy is an outgrowth of that revolution. But, having pushed the frontier of science to levels of size and energy that will in all likelihood remain inaccessible to our tools, we are done. This is all the physics you get.

          • This is all the physics you get.

            Said the physicists prior to the “early 20th Century revolution in Physics,” physicists? What evidence suggests that this particular historical scientific paradigm should be the last?

          • Ha, beat you by 30 seconds.

            Yeah but my eloquent is waxed purtier ‘n yurz . . .


          • @ Izaak Walton
            There are already signs of plenty of them by nanotechnology and Quantum Mechanics are still advancing everyday. Go to any science site the two biggest publications lists are nanotechnology and QM because they make things you can’t even imagine possible.

            Both of those technologies break almost everything law and thing you know as “normal” routinely. They can do things with fuel, solar energy and atomic power that will do your head in. The thing is unless the cost comes down to what the cheap cost of oil is there is no point bringing them out the lab. So those technologies will splutter along until they can either (a) produce energy cheaper than oil (b) you run out of oil.

    • So we are going to using renewables whether you like it or not.

      It really quite sad how many of the Climate Faithful think like this. As if the only thing keeping Unreliables from becoming the dominate energy production method is the disbelief of the deniers. It is magical thinking, unsurprising really since they sure can’t rely on economic or physics to support their beliefs.


      • Schitzree,
        What is the alternative to renewables that can last for the next 1000 years? Physics and simple conservation of mass says that fossil fuels will run out so what is left?

          • tty,
            The evidence suggests that there is not that much available fuel unless you can
            somehow mine Uranium from seawater. Look at “Sustainability without the hot
            air” for more details. It claims that the only viable energy sources are solar,
            duterium-duterium fusion and perhaps uranium mined from sea water. And D-D
            fusion is most likely impossible, nobody knows how to efficiently extract uranium from
            sea water (without using more energy than it would provide) and so the only option is

          • Izaak Walton: “[…] nobody knows how to efficiently extract uranium from
            sea water (without using more energy than it would provide) and so the only option is

            Au contraire, mon frere. Extracting uranium from seawater economically is already a reality. Japanese researchers are leading this technology and they have already done it successfully.

            Based on the first pass efforts of the Japanese, I would have been inclined to agree with you, but their more recent developments make it an economically viable technology.

            Here is just one of many links that can be perused by searching on the combined terms ‘Japanese uranium seawater.


          • What is the alternative to renewables that can last for the next 1000 years?

            I’m going to assume that was a joke. If you honestly think we need to plan out the next Mellenium of progress, or that we even CAN, then you’re beyond helping.

            I’ll have a looks at ‘Sustainability without the hot
            air’ when I get the chance, but just from what I can see from online it looks like more Renewables wishful thinking and nonsense.

            To start with, their is enough uranium siting around in storage casks and cooling ponds right now to provide all our energy needs for a couple decades, it just needs reprocessed. I haven’t seen anything rational that claims there isn’t plenty more still to dig up, and as I said before that doesn’t even touch on thorium.

            Of course, all this is immaterial as despite what the article above might hint at, it’s obvious we are not in any danger of ‘peaking’ in fossil energy any time in the next few decades, UNLESS something better and cheaper shows up.

            Now, if someday Renewables, especially some kind of Solar, DOES improve enough to provide that energy cheaply and reliably, then great. We can phase it in as a replacement then. But not while it is still expensive, unreliable and undispatchable.

            Frankly, if it ever did get there, it’ll probably be as an Orbital Farm. And that should give you an idea of about how long I expect it to take to get there.


          • There’s more energy in the uranium trapped in a ton of coal, then is in the ton of coal.
            To get the uranium out of sea water, all you have to do is evaporate it. They figured out how to do that thousands of years ago. After that separating the uranium from NaCl is easy.

            I don’t know where you got this crazy notion that there isn’t much uranium out there, but you’re wrong.

          • Mr. Walton,

            “So we are going to using renewables whether you like it or not.”

            We are also going to die whether you like it or not ….

            If you want to push ahead with either result, go ahead; just leave me out of it.

          • “Frankly, if it ever did get there, it’ll probably be as an Orbital Farm. And that should give you an idea of about how long I expect it to take to get there.”

            Solar Power Satellites are in humanity’s future.

            Not too long ago astronomers thought they might have found an advanced civiliation around the star named KIC 8462852 (aka Tabby’s Star or Boyajian’s Star). It turned out not to be so but the point here is the Sun is where the energy is at in the Solar System and as our civilizaton advances we will have to start unsing it more and more.


            The Chinese say they are going to build a solar power satellite in orbit by the year 2030.

            Here’s a link to the Dyson Sphere:


            I expect that commercial space will develop over the next 25 years to the point where someone is going to put up a commercial SPS as a means of powering the activities in the Earth/Moon system.

            If one has large amounts of solar power availble there are lots of valuable things that can be done like powering spacecraft and powering indstry in orbit and on the Moon and the ability to send high-spped miniature probes to every interesting place in the solar system and even beyond.

            As an aside: I see where NASA is going to waste $17 billion dollars on their new heavy-lift rocket, when they already had a heavy-lift vehicle of about the same capacity in the Space Shuttle launch system. More bureaucratic spinning of the wheels rather than pushing out into space.

            Thank goodness for Free Enterprise! Thank Goodness the NASA administrtor and his boss, President Trump, favor Free Enterprise in the space program. They are keeping us in the game.

        • Coal alone should last for at least 1000 years.
          After that we’ve got enough uranium to last for 10K to 100K years.
          After that there’s thorium.
          By then, perhaps we’ll have fusion working.

          • “Coal alone should last for at least 1000 years.”

            Yes, it will last for millions of years, because we won’t be using any by the end of this century.

            As they say, “The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.” And the age of coal won’t end because we run out of coal.

          • Markw – I love your droll sense of humor. I hope your timeline is too long for fusion, but I suspect it is closer than physicists’ working for funding!

          • Yes, it will last for millions of years, because we won’t be using any by the end of this century.

            That’s what you think. As usual, you think wrongly. We’re still using tons of the stuff right now despite the alarmists war on coal, and once the CAGW scam finally goes tits up sometime in the next decade or two, there’s no reason not to continue using the stuff through out the rest of the century and beyond unless and until something economically cheaper comes along to replace it, and even then some coal will still be in use, just as other fuels have continued to be in use despite not being the cheapest or the one in primary usage. Bottom line: coal will still be in use come the next century (contrary to your baseless assertion that it won’t be used any more) even if the amount used might be a fraction of what it is currently.

          • Or to put it another way Mark: The end of the stone age didn’t end the use of stones.

          • “Yes, it will last for millions of years, because we won’t be using any by the end of this century.

            That’s what you think. As usual, you think wrongly.”

            OK, let’s see what you think. Then I’ll provide details of what I think.

            In 2018, the IEA estimates global consumption of coal at 7585 metric tons:


            Provide your estimates for global consumption for 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050 etc. up to 2100. Then I’ll provide mine.

          • Provide your estimates for global consumption for 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050 etc. up to 2100. Then I’ll provide mine.

            Sure: Greater than ZERO for all years named and beyond.

          • Even though I gave plenty of reasons why coal will still be around by the end of the century, here’s another one: China’s has been building coal plants everywhere they can around the world and plans to build more in the coming decade. Those plants will be around for decades to come. While the average for such plants is 40 years, if well maintained, some of them can and will still be in operations 60 or more years out. So even if the ones china will soon be building between now and 2030 are the last ever coal plants built (they won’t be), some of them may well still be operation come 2100.

          • “Sure: Greater than ZERO for all years named and beyond.”

            Well, that’s brilliant. Come back if or when you’re capable of actually making some serious predictions. (I included “if” because I don’t think you are capable of making serious predictions.)

          • Well, that’s brilliant. Come back if or when you’re capable of actually making some serious predictions

            LOL this from the idiot that “predicited” “because we won’t be using any by the end of this century.” But I accept your admission (via running away when confronted) that you can’t back up your stupid prediction or refute that in 2100 coal use will (seriously) be greater than ZERO. checkmate.

          • I also note you were unable to address *ANY* of the other points made. Instead you set up a strawman challenge and ran away when your strawman got stomped. LMAO.

          • All a moot point, because coal WILL be used before humans would let the world grow cold and dark. In all likelihood, coal will be used because of economics from now until far into the future. But suppose there is a worldwide ban. At some point Man will have to choose between using coal or going without cheap, reliable power. Then the decision will be made that adaptation to climate change from the use of coal, should there be any, is preferable to suffering.

          • exactly jtom. In all of the history of civilization there isn’t a single energy source that we discovered and widely used they we’ve ever completely stopped using. not one. Coal is no exception.

          • We consume more biomass for energy production today that we did when it was our primary energy source. There’s never been an actual energy transition… We just pile new energy sources on top of the old ones.

          • Global coal consumption, millions of metric tons (assuming the IEA value in 2017 is correct):

            Year Coal consumption (millions of MT)
            2017 7585
            2020 7500
            2030 7100
            2040 5900
            2050 4700
            2060 3000
            2070 1800
            2080 800
            2090 0
            2100 0

            Earlier items to watch for: coal consumption in the U.S. will be less than 100 million short tons (i.e., more than a 90 percent reduction from the 2007 peak consumption value of approximately 1.1 billion short tons) by 2050.

        • The chief concern of oil rich countries is that there is so much oil that they might never find a market for their own.

          As new producers, new finds, and new technology increase proven reserves, the owners of oil risk losing the value of the asset in perpetuity.

        • If you have a red granite countertop in your kitchen, it becomes uranium ore ar about 100 bucks a lb yellowcake.

          • And you’re probably receiving a higher dose of radiation than if you worked in a nuclear power plant.

        • The evidence actually suggest there is enough readily available nuke fuel to power the world until the end of times. Thorium is relatively abundant. As for Uranium it is used very inefficiently in the US. Get breeder reactors and allow spent fuel to be reprosessed (currently 90% of nuke fuel is wasted because it is not reprosessed) and Viola! a mere 60 year supply is 600.

    • First you say you have no idea what the world will be using for power in 200 years. Then you proclaim that we will be using renewables.

      What’s the matter, can’t make up your mind?

      Regardless, when fossil fuels start to run out, we’ll go nuclear (perhaps even before). By the time nuclear runs out in a few hundred thousand years, we should have fusion figured out.

    • In reality if we want to do something now to conserve our fossil resources we should make a big push to go nuke. Allow spent rods to be refined develop breeder reactors, move ahead with thorium. Get 90% of the electrical power generated with nuke power and save the coal for vehicle fuel. It isn’t that hard to imagine. However the leftist dingies are all about using windmills and won’t stop until that is all we got. I’d rather each home get a Mr fusion (or fission) than a wind mill.

      • Brian, yes. Breeder reactors, also known as fast neutron reactors generate more fuel than they use, and can run on reactor waste. India is the current world leader in developing this technology, as these reactors will burn Thorium, of which India has a lot. This only looks like a perpetual motion machine, as nuke power plants use only a small fraction of the available fuel. (But it sure would be nice if we could create antimatter and use it all)

        • Antimatter has great energy density, but as an energy sources it has the same basic problem as Hydrogen… that it ISN’T an energy source, because there aren’t any mines or wells you can get them from. Every joule you get out of them used as fuel you had to put in to them producing it in the first place. Assuming there isn’t any energy lost to efficiency, in which case you actually lose energy in the process.

          The benefit of antimatter (and Hydrogen Fuel) is in that they can be produced in a large, immobile factory site, then transfered to a vehicle. The vehicle thus gets the benefits of the production site without having to carry it around with it.

          Examples would be Hydrogen produced by cracking water with a Nuclear power plant being used by Hydrogen powered cars, Antimatter produced by a 2000 Square Mile Solar Farm in orbit around Mercury powering space ships flying around the solar system, or Unicorn Flatulence collected from the Augean Ocasio Cortez stables being used to power DiCaprio’s new carbon neutral private Jet-Yacht.


          • Schitzree: I completely agree with you on hydrogen as a (poor) method to move energy around, but you are missing my point with antimatter. Of course today it takes more energy to create it than you get back from annihilation, but it is theoretically possible to flip the charges on protons and electrons to create antimatter. Thus, a small energy input would yield a large energy output. Just because nobody has the faintest idea on how to do that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Somebody may figure out how to do it in 10 years, or maybe 100 years or maybe never. It sounds to me like one of Heinlein’s projects for the Long Range Foundation. 🙂

    • “Given that the rough shape of the curve in Fig. 1 is correct in about 200 hundred years the earth is going to be powered by ‘?'”

      Could be anything. Thorium. Some flavor of fusion (deuterium-tritium…or even hydrogen-boron). It’s silly to even think beyond the year 2100. In fact, it’s probably silly to think much beyond even 30-40 years into the future.

      To think about 200+ years into the future is like Thomas Jefferson thinking what the U.S. would be like in 2019.

      • +1, Mick
        The supply of natural gas hydrates is far greater than the supply of oil.
        We just have to learn how to recover it without blowing ourselves

        With cat cracking, we can make any other hydrocarbon out of it.

  4. One idea which surely is not open to argument is the fact that oil production will peak.

    Another idea which surely is not open to argument is that Emperor Nazod still sits upon his cosmic Throne.

    What? You don’t agree? Well, too bad. I already said it wasn’t open to argument, so there.

    While we’re on the topic of peaks though, can anyone tell me when we peaked on Coal production? I don’t mean when it got passed by Oil or Gas or something, I mean when total global production peaked and started its decline. Or how about wood, surly we harvest far less wood then we once did. Or stone? We aren’t still digging stones out of the ground, are we.

    Well, I’m pretty sure SOMETHING has peaked SOMEWHERE. Whale oil maybe. Although Greenpeace and the other Eviros assure we that Whaling is still going strong and that they need my money or there won’t be single whale in the sea, at least until Kirk and Spock go back to 1986 to get more.


    • Nonsense. Market prices can’t create matter out of nothing no matter how much you
      are willing to pay. When oil runs out market prices will not bring it back.

      • Izaak reminds me of the people who were panicking when whale oil started getting scarce.
        Or who got upset trying to imagine what the cities were going to do with all that horse manure.

        • Well cities are still trying to figure out what to do with all the manure in their streets, only it isn’t the horses that are leaving the stinking piles of pooh. 😉

      • Nonsense. Market prices can’t create matter out of nothing no matter how much you
        are willing to pay. When oil runs out market prices will not bring it back.

        No, but market forces will price it accordingly, long before it runs out. As oil supplies begin dwindle, prices will rise making existing alternatives more economical as well as encourage the search for new alternatives, more efficient ways of using existing supplies, etc. I suggest an Economics 101 course would be greatly beneficial to your understanding of how the market works.

  5. How many airplanes on order worldwide?
    Shipping orders?
    Tanker orders?

    How long do they take to pay for themselves after delivery?

    I know the answers – just asking you to ask yourselves …

    There must be long range planners in all those businesses? Are they all stupid?

  6. Defending Peak Oil at WUWT is akin to defending climate skepticism at a UN climate convention. You don’t get a lot of sympathy.

    In general I find your article overly optimistic. First I would like to point that I only consider oil to be Crude + Condensate (C+C), natural gas liquids aren’t oil, nor are gas to liquids or coal to liquids, and refinery gains is an accounting trick: More volume for the same energy. I also consider Peak Oil when C+C production stops growing, the actual year, month, week, day, when production is maximal is irrelevant. Peak Oil is likely to be an undulating plateau in production.

    The first fact is that Peak Oil must be really close. The rate of increase in oil production has been diminishing since 1983 from almost 2% to around 1% every year.

    During this time there has been no constrain in oil production. If more had been demanded more would have been produced.

    Which brings us to what you said in 2015:

    The principal factors affecting oil supply are: Geology, Politics, Demand, Price, Technology.

    You are missing the main point. What gets the oil out of the ground is the economy. To get more oil extracted per unit of time you need economic growth. If the global economy goes down you will get less oil produced, not more, regardless of any other factor.

    The oil price crash of 2014 was an eye opener to me. Most producing countries responded by increasing oil production to try to maintain income by gaining market share. This ended in late 2015 when the rate of increase in production could not be sustained and lack of investment in Exploration and Production started to affect new projects, that were delayed.

    We then entered the feared undulating plateau in which we are. From late 2015 to late 2018 C+C production has grown at a meager 0.8% yearly increase. And a look at production shows that World less US production has been flat for two years:

    World C+C production is increasing due to the US increase. But in the US shale oil is being produced at a loss and has an astounding decline rate of about 75% in just three years, so tens of thousands of wells have to be drilled every year just to combat decline. An economic hiccup would suffice to send US shale oil production into a tail spin.

    US oil production is expected to peak in the early 2020s. When it does there is a good chance that we might see Peak Oil. In the meantime in my opinion we are already in Peak Oil, as we have entered the undulating plateau in oil production that will be exited only towards lower production some time in the future.

    The future of oil is linked to the future of the economy, and I don’t see many reasons to be very optimistic about the future of the global economy. The level of indebtedness is staggering, and population is aging. A likely way to resolve global debt levels is through a monetary crisis that has the same effect on the economy as chemotherapy has on a cancer patient. The future entitlements are impossible to meet by most governments as the population ages. Most intelligent people know those promises cannot be maintained but democratic governments can’t do anything about it as even talking about it makes you unelectable. So a huge crisis that allows to take very tough decisions is inevitable.

    Oil is peaking now. The Chinese know and have been preparing for it for years, increasing their strategic reserves when oil is cheap, securing their oil rights, decreasing their domestic production, exploring the South China Sea, investing heavily in nuclear and coal, even in renewables and EVs. Western countries meanwhile are worried about the climate.

    • Oil may or may not be peaking now. Peak Oil can only be identified in the rearview mirror.

      We’ve only produced about 17% of the technically recoverable resource. How much of the remaining 83% becomes economically recoverable is a total SWAG.

      Peak Oil and AGW have two things in common:
      1) Both are real.
      2) Both are mostly irrelevant.

      • Oil may or may not be peaking now. Peak Oil can only be identified in the rearview mirror.

        Of course. I have given my opinion based on the facts:
        – Our oil production grows less over time. This is a >30 year trend with current rate at ~0.8%
        – Oil is becoming more costly to extract, as fracking, deep-sea oil, and Arctic oil is more costly than pocking the ground.
        – As a result the overall efficiency of our oil operations is decreasing (higher EROEI).
        – Our economic future looks bleak due to high levels of debt and an ageing population.

        Whether Peak Oil is irrelevant or not is something to be seen. I wouldn’t count on it.

          • EROEI is totally irrelevant.

            1 barrel of crude oil = 5,722,000 Btu
            1,000 cubic feet of natural gas = 1,037,000 Btu

            Current prices:
            WTI = $64.40/bbl = $11.25/million Btu
            Natural gas (Henry Hub) = $2.70/mcf = $2.60/million Btu

            I could “spend” 2 Btu of natural gas to produce 1 Btu of oil and make over a 2:1 return on capital. The bottom line isn’t denominated in joules, watts or Btu… It’s denominated in $$$.

          • EROEI is totally irrelevant.

            It is not. A society might be able to continue decreasingly efficient operations to a certain point. The decrease in efficiency acts as a burden on the society. It is like having ten times more people to get the same amount of energy from solar than from gas. In the long run if you insist on solar the society will be worse off. Same for oil. As EROEI decreases the society becomes less capable of doing other things.

          • I don’t spend energy to fill my gas tank. I don’t give energy back to the gas & electric companies in exchange for them being nice enough to heat and light my home. My company doesn’t drill for oil & gas to make energy.

            I spend money to fill my gas tank. My company drills wells for oil & gas to make money. My gas & electric bills are paid for with money. My pay check, ExxonMobil & Shell credit card statements and checks to the gas & electric companies aren’t denominated in joules, kilowatts or Btu – They are denominated in $.

            I don’t give a rat’s @$$ if 1 barrel of amoeba farts uses less energy to produce than 1 barrel of crude oil… Because the barrel of amoeba farts costs $1,100 and can’t be produced in sufficient quantities to be waiting for me at the Exxon or Shell station when I need it.

            If oil companies (or any businesses) used EROEI to guide their investment decisions, they would go out of business (unless the gov’t was footing the bill).

          • “As EROEI decreases the society becomes less capable of doing other things.”

            “In the long run if you insist on solar the society will be worse off. Same for oil.”

            “What do you think the approximate EROEI is now for photovoltaics (in a reasonable location, such as the U.S. Southwest)? And what do you think the EROEI for photovoltaics is likely to be 2-3 decades from now?

          • What about the AVERAGE break-even? That each type of oil is less costly now than before, ok. This is what your sources show. But if the mix goes towards less conventional, the average could go up despite each of the category going down…
            That’s one thing.
            The other is your graph starting in 2014…of course the break even went down ! It is dependent of the crude price…and you know what happened in 2014…
            Now if you look at the break-even of conventional from a longer perspective, how does it look?

          • Wrong…

            No it is not wrong. To extract a barrel of oil from giant oil fields where the oil flowed from its own pressure costed a few cents. Those days are gone. Now it takes a lot of work, a lot of effort, and a lot of money to bring a new development in line. If we still had giant oil fields to exploit we would not have to fracture rocks to get the oil. Oil is clearly approaching its end as a main source of energy for anybody that has eyes. We will continue to extract oil in the future but we will need something else to power our global transportation system pretty soon.

          • I just showed you the numbers. If oil was getting more expensive to extract, I would have been out of a job decades ago.

          • @Romain

            It’s a matter of improving the efficiency and reducing the cost of finding, drilling and producing it.

            The cost of finding, drilling and producing it is proportional to the price of oil. The shale companies that survived the 2015 crash are more profitable at $60/bbl than they were at $100/bbl.

      • Agree. Every resource on a finite planet, with the possible exception of human ingenuity, has limits and peaks at some point. As a resource declines we find substitutes where possible and let the market decide how best to use the remaining resource–diesel engines and jet fuels will be hard to replace any time soon, for instance. Worry about peak anything is irrelevant. It is like worrying that all humans are mortal.

        • ..”Every resource on a finite planet, with the possible exception of human ingenuity, has limits and peaks at some point.”

          I worry less about running out of human ingenuity than being drowned in a rising ocean of human stupidity….but then I come from a generation where higher education taught us how to think not what to think.
          Are there any plots of the social costs of stupidity since, say, the Maginot line? (semi sarc)

    • During this time there has been no constraint in oil production.

      I don’t see how you can say this. At this very moment production is constrained by international cartels (think OPEC), internationl sanctions (think IRAN), and plain incompetent management (think Venezuela). With this level of political constraint, the future course of production defies analysis.

    • It is a fallacy to only consider C+C. NGLs are used in the refinery stream and also displace oil in some uses (heating, cooking).

      • Yep… The only thing that matters is meeting the demand for refinery and petrochemical feedstock.

    • Javier – Thanks for your thoughtful comment. re the economy being a or the main factor: In a way you are right, but to my mind the economy and politics are intertwined. Actually, all factors are intertwined to some extent. So for example, when you say “If the global economy goes down you will get less oil produced, not more“, that’s true. But it’s also true that more production and use of oil (or any cheap plentiful power) will lift the economy – just look at what the shale oil revolution has done for the USA. And that’s why the political push for expensive unreliable renewables deserves nothing but contempt.

  7. At some point, we will have recovered about half of the petroleum liquids we will ever recover. That’s approximately when peak oil production will occur.

    It won’t be a symmetrical bell curve. It will look more like this:

    We won’t know that we’ve hit “peak oil” until we are well-past it because economics, technology and ingenuity will likely unlock resources that are currently technically and/or economically unrecoverable. The “shale revolution” is an example of this phenomenon.

    Absent the “shale revolution, the Williston Basin peaked in 1984.

    Unless politicians and Enviromarxist terrorists get out of the way, the Alaska North Slope will have peaked in 1988. If they get the Hell out of the way, it won’t peak unril the mid-21st century.

    All petroleum reservoirs reach peak production at some point in their life cycles. In aggregate, this generally occurs when half of the recoverable resource has been produced. Hubbert’s Peak Oil is just a function of reservoir depletion.

    • I am a climate skeptic because the official story is full of unwarranted assumptions.


      At some point, we will have recovered about half of the petroleum liquids we will ever recover. That’s approximately when peak oil production will occur.

      …is an assumption. Nothing says that peak oil production should occur at half total ever recovered oil. Have you ever heard of a Seneca cliff? It is impossible to know how oil production is going to be at the other side of the peak. However, as whatever is left is increasingly more costly/difficult to obtain chances are that the decline in production will be steeper than the increase, and therefore peak oil might take place when significantly more than half total ever recovered oil is produced.

      • Javier,

        There’s no assumption involved. That’s how oil reservoirs work. In aggregate, they work the same way they do as individual reservoirs.

        Eldfisk should be Ecofisk…

        The decline is almost never steeper than the rise. It is almost always exponential.

        (Lots of typos on the Ghawar plot… it’s a preliminary plot of something I’m working on.)

        Hubbert’s approximation isn’t exact. Peak production doesn’t occur exactly at the point half of the resource is recovered. On average, that’s about when it occurs. When you have multiple peaks, like the Williston or North Slope, it’s not due to resource constraints. It’s due to political, economic, technological and/or ingenuity constraints.

        • I notice that the data mostly stops at 2005, presumably you downloaded the graphs from Jean Laherrere. He claims that you can extrapolate a declining production trend to zero, that it can’t be altered. That is factually incorrect.

          • The plots of Ecofisk, Prudhoe Bay, Jones Creek and Thistle are from:

            Höök, Mikael & Hirsch, Robert & Aleklett, Kjell. (2009). Giant oil field decline rates and their influence on world oil production. Energy Policy. 37. 2262-2272. 10.1016/j.enpol.2009.02.020.

            Almost all oil fields will exhibit similar production curves.

        • There’s no assumption involved.

          There are huge assumptions involved of which you are not even aware. After peak oil your ability to use oil from other places to pull out oil all the way out disappears. You can’t compare how oil extraction before peak oil works with how it will work after peak oil. We might have strong energy and transportation constrains.

          By the way, I find it extremely annoying that you will use your ability to post images in comments while the rest of us can’t. I have the same problem with Willis who does the same. It is very unfair, so I won’t discuss the issue further.

          • Right, Dave. I actually approved publication of that article though I had concerns. They only used 4 fields for some reason, but have also argued that production trends are determined by the percent of the recoverable resource produced, which is not a fixed number. (Also, it is Eldfisk, not Ecofisk.)
            Field production data is rarely available (Norway a prominent exception) but production curves vary quite a bit, although early peak then decline is common. But the argument that fields like Thistle MUST continue past trends is wrong, it actually went flat in the years since.

          • The point I was trying to make to Javier is that almost all oil reservoirs exhibit exponential decline curves; they don’t fall off “Seneca cliffs” into “Olduvai Gorges” or any of the other Peak Oil fantasies. The average decline rate for mature fields is about 5%. Giant fields tend to have ~2% decline rates.

  8. Thank you Javier and Jonas – guys who share my sort of thinking..
    How’s anyone’s memory of recent ‘news’ on here?

    Didn’t we see recently that 1 billion barrels of oil were gonna be stranded in Alaska because of something to do with the pipeline
    Why even mention that?
    Yes 1 billion is a very big number but as we read here, it is ten days of supply.
    One Billion Barrels = Nothing
    Yet it was almost Headline News on these pages..

    Also recently we were told about the Biggest Oil Discovery In Ten Years
    Hallelujah – we are saved!
    Yes fine, very nice. 5 billion barrels. Biiiiiiiig number again. Plenty enough for me to see out my days anyway
    Or is it? Fifty days of supply?
    Have you chosen some nice music & flowers yet and sorted that epitaph yet?
    Assuming your doctor got the diagnosis wrong and you live past 50 days, what are gonna drive your car on for the remaining 3,600 days of that decade?

    iow =blinkered thinking, cherry picking, bloated self importance = Magical Thinking.

    • “Assuming your doctor got the diagnosis wrong and you live past 50 days, what are gonna drive your car on for the remaining 3,600 days of that decade?”

      I’m a prolific producer of my own gas, if you know what I mean.

    • I have been reading and listening to people talk about how piddling all the new discoveries are for pretty much my whole life. and yet, decade after decade, we are using more than ever, it is being pumped faster than ever, and more than ever has been produced and used.
      And today, the amount we have left is more than it has ever been, by far.
      The Earth is very big and very old, and numbers that seem big to people are tiny in comparison.
      I will bet all the tea in China that in 100s of years, people are still arguing about when we will run out of various materials.
      Just like people have been doing for the past hundreds of years.

      • Part of the problem is that “proved reserves” has a very specific legal definition, at least for publicly traded oil companies.

  9. My book “The Peak Oil Scare” has a number of chapters explaining that the math behind the early peak oil work (Campbell, Laherrere and Deffeyes) was simply wrong. Later writers simply pointed to problems in the industry and assumed they couldn’t be overcome. Roberts was stunned to learn that Ghawar had a 35% water cut, for example, but didn’t realize that was quite normal. Simmons thought the Saudi use of fuzzy logic, which he had never heard of, meant they were having production problems.
    Etc. ad nauseum.

    • In fairness to Simmons, I think he was mostly trying to make the case that Aramco should be more transparent. Based on the market’s reaction to their bond offering, transparency is good.

      Ghawar is an awesome field and will remain an awesome field for a long time to come. Sure, there are problems with it. An oil field that big will have big problems that are worth solving. With nearly 50 billion bbl of proved reserves and over 60 billion bbl of cumulative production, it almost has to be in decline. But, it will be a slow graceful decline.

      I had a recent post on Ghawar here:

      I have one publishing this evening on the market’s record breaking response to Aramco’s bond issue and one later this week on Ghawar.

      I just realized you are *the* Michael Lynch… (the anti-Art Berman). I’m a big fan.

      • I give Saudi Aramco a lot of credit for sponsoring new engine development. My favorite is the F-150 truck that is getting 37 MPG on the EPA combined test. The engine is an opposed piston design from Achates. With no head to conduct heat out it has higher thermal efficiency, no valvetrain to make it more cost competitive, and no poppet valves to limit the combustion chamber shape optimization for lowest emissions.

        Inherent poor combustion chamber shape is partially what hurt the Wankel design.

  10. The question is meaningless – the world will NOT be producing and few will still be driving oil powered vehicles by 2030.

    • How much will you bet Kent?
      You are not just wrong, and not just not even wrong.
      You are laughably wrong, and the assertion is bizarre.
      You are either a child, delusional, or incredibly ignorant.

      • Nicholas, that’s the last you’ll read from beuchert. Typical drive-by pot shot, a snippet from some GND manifesto, and so indefensible. A form of passive/ aggressive behavior.

        • Indeed. Usually kent’s drive-by’s involve hawking MSR as the inevitable “future” of energy, nice to see him branch out to other hobby horses every once in a while.

    • What’s going to replace oil powered vehicles?
      If you say electrics, then you simply haven’t been paying attention.

      • He visits the same smoke shop as Elon. But Elon doesn’t actually believe his own drivel, he’s just a rent-seeking huckster, and why not?

      • What’s going to replace oil powered vehicles?

        Since it’s kent we’re talking about, the answer is probably MSR powered vehicles. They’re just around the corner apparently. the MSR revolution is inevitable don’t you know.

    • And the above scenario won’t happen because of this…

      If UBS’s global EV production forecast is accurate, lithium and cobalt production will have to roughly double relative to 2014.  The cumulative consumption of lithium from 2014-2015 will be equivalent to 69% of 2015 proved reserves.  Cobalt consumption will be equivalent to 47% of proved reserves.  This sort of production is not impossible; but it will be highly disruptive, particularly since most cobalt production is a byproduct of copper and nickel mining.  According to the IEA…

      “In order to limit temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the number of electric cars will need to reach 600 million by 2040”.

      600 million EV’s would consume 907% of the 2015 proved lithium reserves and 615% of the 2015 proved cobalt reserves.  That’s a lot.  That’s disruptive.

       Historical Mineral Production + EV Consumption
      Lithium Cobalt Rare Earths
      2015-2025 Totals (metric tons)      9,643,510                3,266,267        1,672,179
      2015 Proved Reserves (metric tons)    14,000,000                7,000,000    120,000,000
       % Consumed @ 45.6 million EV 69% 47% 1%
       % Consumed @ 90 million EV 136% 92% 3%
       % Consumed @160 million EV 242% 164% 5%
       % Consumed @ 600 million EV 907% 615% 18%
       % Consumed @ 1,000 million EV 1512% 1024% 31%

      615% of 7,000,000 metric tons is over 43,000,000 metric tons.  This not only exceeds the 2015 proved reserves of cobalt, it exceeds the identified terrestrial resource potential…

      Identified world terrestrial cobalt resources are about 25 million tons. The vast majority of these resources are in sediment-hosted stratiform copper deposits in Congo (Kinshasa) and Zambia; nickel-bearing laterite deposits in Australia and nearby island countries and Cuba; and magmatic nickel-copper sulfide deposits hosted in mafic and ultramafic rocks in Australia, Canada, Russia, and the United States. More than 120 million tons of cobalt resources have been identified in manganese nodules and crusts on the floor of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.


      • “This sort of production is not impossible; but it will be highly disruptive, particularly since most cobalt production is a byproduct of copper and nickel mining.”

        Panasonic is aiming to be cobalt-free in the “near future” (article from 2018):

        “We have already cut down cobalt usage substantially,” Kenji Tamura, who is in charge of Panasonic’s automotive battery business, confirmed. “We are aiming to achieve zero usage in the near future, and development is underway.”

        The race to cobalt-free batteries

      • David: I could be wrong, but I believe there is no cobalt used in manufacturing the LiFePo4 batteries. They also have better thermal runaway characteristics. They are not currently used in cars because the energy density is less than Li Ion and the car makers are all looking for maximum range. Also, wound induction motors (as Nicola Tesla himself promoted) do not use rare earth elements. Therefore, it is POSSIBLE to build electric cars that use neither Cobalt nor Neodymium. They just wouldn’t be as light (and they are already quite heavy).

        • They are not currently used in cars because the energy density is less than Li Ion and the car makers are all looking for maximum range

          And there’s the rub. In order to have a hope of competing with and replacing ICE cars, EVs need long ranges that are comparable with ICE cars. Which, until something better comes along, means using Cobalt and other rare earth elements.

    • Doesn’t matter to AOC, the world ends about then, but you kent are full of it if you are serious.

  11. When I read Hubbert’s 1954 presentation paper, I see he states a number of proviso’s and infers others:

    – you can’t predict a peak if you don’t know the size of the resource. The size of the oil resource has been consistently increased over the past 65 years, add to this the amount we can recover is being increased by technology and varies with price, and peak predictions are going to be wrong. As Matt Simmons wrote we won’t know the peak has been reached until 20 years later.

    – separating oil from other fossil fuels is a fundamental mistake in the doom predictions of peak Oilers. Hubbert’s paper was about the Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Energy. This is recognition of our ability to substitute between energy sources, we have more technology today that makes substitution more possible than ever before, oil is energy, energy is oil! Peak oil becomes moot when we can change energy sources (LNG, CNG, battery electric) to fuel transportation. We should understand short term oil shocks (2-5 years) are still a possibility, but those events accelerate long term (10-15 year) energy substitution.

    – Hubble did not “get it wrong” on shale and oil sands, he states the technology to recover these resources was unlikely to be made available in the 15 years to his peak production.

    – implicit in Hubble’s paper Is the thought nuclear energy “to cheap to meter” would supplant fossil fuel use in the near future. He got the timing wrong on that one but the premise or promise of nuclear energy is still valid, just pushed 60-70 years down the road?

    • Gord in Calgary – Thanks for the correction on Hubbert (not) getting it wrong. When you see how quickly all predictions fail nowadays, for him to be that accurate for that long is truly impressive.

      • The only thing Hubbert “got wrong” was the recoverable resource, because in 1956, he couldn’t even begin to imagine how the technology would evolve… Otherwise, Hubbert math is quite reasonable.

  12. We have never known how much oil there is to get and we still don’t know. All this hot air over “peak oil” is a waste of time. What we do know is that we are consuming oil and one day, 50 or 100 years in the future, it may be too expensive to use. So we need to develop alternatives. The best alternative is nuclear power. You don’t see electricity prices spike up like South Australia with nuclear power, so I would say it’s already cost effective. But we still need to revisit regulations in the US to get rid of any that are overboard or otherwise misplaced. We should also be researching molten salt reactors. What we should not do is more of what doesn’t work – wind and solar.

  13. As the comment is say we seem to be finding more oil all of he time.
    For example the Argentineans wanted the Falkland Islands s for far more than National Pride. They knew that there is probably oil South of the Beagle Passage, towards the Falklands. Chile has found oil there .


  14. When you have to lie about what your opponents believe in the first paragraph, is there any reason to read past that point?

  15. Lost in all this hubbub is one simple mathematical fact. Peak oil is a mathematical necessity. The earth has a finite volume and a tiny proportion of the earth’s volume is occupied by petroleum. Unless you think there is an infinite volume of oil inside the finite volume of the earth, the peak oil WILL happen sometime. We can all argue about when it will happen. Those who think peak oil is nonsense need to figure out how to place an infinite volume of oil inside the finite volume of the earth.

    • The fuel of the sun is finite, so should we not use solar power? That is a specious argument. The petroleum resource will last a long time given that the conventional oil in place is upwards of 10 trillion barrels, and unconventional probably 3 times that.

      • Hello Michael. It has been a long time since we crossed debate arguments. As usual, you change the subject here. I wasn’t speaking of peak solar energy. I was addressing the topic of peak oil. You have long argued that peak oil is silly. Have you figured out how to put an infinite volume of oil into the finite volume of the earth? Maybe MIT can help you with this problem. I am all ears as to your solution to peak oil.

        Also, oil in place, Michael, is not reserves. Capillary pressure restricts us from getting all that oil. Reserves are the oil we can get, usually around half of that 10 trillion bbl. Furthermore, 10 trillion is not an infinite supply of oil either. Again, you dance away from the mathematics here. Even if the world can be supplied for another 100 years with oil, peak oil will happen when we use up the vast majority of the 10 trillion bbl in place that is moveable to the stock tanks. The earth is finite in volume and you seem to act as if it can contain an infinite volume of oil. show me how.

        • No Glenn, he just isn’t going after the strawman you created. How about instead of playing with straw, you tackle the arguments that your opponents actually make. Do you think you can handle that?

        • Maybe with waterfloods and CO2 injection, we might coax 60-80% of the oil out of some reservoirs… But I’ve never seen much more than 50% primary recovery from strong water-drive, >30% phi and >1 Darcy k rocks.

          • Agreed Dave, and recovery of the oip in shale will be much less than that. In my opinion, the real issue on peak oil is how long will Wall Street continue to fund the shale with new stock issues (diluting present share holders) and debt (digging a bigger Free Cash Flow hole. For example, I looked up the Free Cash Flow from EOG resources. Since 2006 they have dug a free cash flow hole of 8.8 billion dollars. That means, they really are not making money. When banks and Wall street turn the money taps off, shale ends for most small companies.

          • Actually, if you look at their cash flow statements since 2016, most of the big shale players are generating free cash flow. They’re more profitable at $60/bbl than at $100/bbl because it’s easier to control costs.

        • Sorry, Glenn, but supply comes from reserves, and reserves come from resources. We have about 200 years of recoverable resources now. Saying 100 years isn’t enough is like worrying we won’t have oats for horses.

    • That’s very true… But it’s also true that the “tiny proportion of the earth’s volume [that] is occupied by petroleum”… is a pretty fracking huge volume.

      • The crust is ~1% of the Earth’s volume.
      • Sedimentary rocks comprise ~5% of the volume of the crust.
      • Total world crude production since 1900 has been ~1.3 trillion barrels.
      • If there are ~3.0 trillion barrels remaining to be found and produced, sedimentary rocks contain an average of 0.01 barrels of recoverable crude oil per acre*ft.
      • A typical Gulf of Mexico oil reservoir has a recovery factor of ~300 barrels per acre*ft.
      • This means that only 0.003% of the Earth’s sedimentary rocks would have to be charged with crude oil to explain all of the crude oil ever likely to be produced on Earth.
    • Other than the abiotic crowd, there is a grand total of nobody, who believes that peak oil will never occur.
      The argument is between those who believe we have already hit peak oil (or it is at most a year or two off), and those who point out that we are nowhere close to peak oil.

      As I’ve said before, if you have to lie about what your opponents believe, you have already admitted that you can’t win on the facts.

    • Glenn you are attacking a strawman. How about arguing against what people actually have to say on the subject instead?

      • John, I have long debated Michael Lynch. His position has been that because Hubbert’s curve doesn’t exactly match the production data, therefore peak oil is wrong. No theoretical curve ever matches data exactly. Thus, I thought I would point out that Peak oil is a mathematical necessity. As far as I am concerned, I am addressing what he has said to me over many many years.

        • That’s incorrect, Glenn. My position is that the Hubbert curve is not scientifically based, just represents curve fitting and that it has minimal if any predictive power. Future production doesn’t have to follow a specific pattern but depends on many things, political, economic, technological and geological. Thus, peak oil projections of declining production in Argentina and Colombia, as just two examples, proved incorrect when fiscal changes brought new investment and more production. You are not really addressing what I have said, but what you think I said or claim I said.

        • “Thus, I thought I would point out that Peak oil is a mathematical necessity.”

          Yes, but just because something is a mathematical necessity does not mean it has any real-world relevance.

          For example, current global consumption is about 100 million barrels per day, or 36.5 billion barrels per year. Let’s round it up to 40 billion barrels per year. Let’s say there are indeed 4 trillion barrels that can be recovered at a price (adjusting for inflation) of less than $100 per barrel, adjusted for inflation. That’s 100 years at the current rate of consumption.

          And anyone who thinks that most cars will be running with petroleum 100 years from now (or even 40) isn’t very aware of current trends in automotive battery technology.

  16. Mike Jonas has a problem.
    Its called fundamental research.
    Many in the investment business, or in the mineral extraction industry rely upon supply and demand analysis to estimate price. The problem is that this method does not work
    His article does mention price.
    Since the late 1970s, I’ve headed up a team that provides research to, initially major mining companies that also had petroleum interests, and then out to financial institutions.
    Here is an article about our call on oil prices when WTI was at 105.
    Our point was the technological revolution. The one in learning how to mine low-grade copper in 1910 at Bingham was cited. As was low-grade gold at Carlin in the 1970s.

  17. The world is not even close to running out of oil. A simple way of thinking about it is, Oil production will peak just after there is a peak in demand.
    Here’s why…
    Conventional oil in static buoyant petroleum systems (normally pressured* with water underlying oil and a gas cap) has already peaked. These “conventional” systems are from migrated hydrocarbons from the deeper basins in which hydrocarbons were generated are then extruded into porous rock trapped by the many mechanisms that trap conventional oil. (Fault, Anticline, Stratigraphic pinchout, etc….)
    The difference today is that oil companies are now going to the source of the oil, shale, organic rich siltstone/marlstone, and then create the reservoir through fracking. These are unconventional systems, which are dynamic in nature with gas actively being generated very deep, and oil being generated a little less deep with water updip of that. These reservoir are abnormally pressured** and most of the oil/gas in the world is still down there. Migration efficiency was postulated at 5-10% by Colin Barker in a 1979 paper. Which means 90-95% of all the oil on Earth is still trapped in the “source rocks.” USA and Canada have exploited these resources extensively since 2002, hence the big boost in production numbers, but the rest of the world hasn’t even started.
    *Normally pressured: 10 kPa/m vertically, a water gradient.
    **Abnormally pressured greater than 10 kPa/m indicative of hydrocarbon generation as the pore-space is “over-filled” with generated hydrocarbons, but because the source rocks are not permeable the pressure increases, eventually to fracture gradient (roughly 18 kPa/m depending on overburden.)

  18. Peak oil assumes oil is a finite fossil fuel resource, which the Russians proved it wasn’t over 30 years ago.

    • That has been true of the big government jobs programs, but there are now several small efforts trying novel techniques that the big organizations cannot copy. It only takes one of them being successful to make fusion a reality. Plus, at least three of them are Boron-Proton machines that do not create fast neutrons that transmute the chamber walls into nasty radioactive products like current fission plants do.

      • Freeman Dyson, who packs a little bit more brainpower than the average climate scientist, is of the opinion that the reason that fusion energy has been so slow to take off is that the government(s) who so far have financed it have been trying to pick winners and have been funnelling money to the wrong technology (tokamaks and laser fusion) . This is a problem when you are looking at a Manhattan Project type effort.

  19. Hofmeister opines on consequences if Saudi went off Dollar oil pricing
    Published on Oct 22, 2018
    Former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister on the impact of U.S. tensions with Saudi Arabia on the oil market.

    Saudi Arabia’s handling of Khashoggi fallout
    Saudi Arabia threatens to ditch dollar oil trades to stop ‘NOPEC’ – sources
    Saudi Arabia is threatening to sell its oil in currencies other than the dollar if Washington passes a bill exposing OPEC members to U.S. antitrust lawsuits, three sources familiar with Saudi energy policy said.

    Dollars/Bbl, or Bbls/dollar ? Which is the real unit of value?

    Charles A. S. Hall discusses faults of the “Dismal Science”
    “Economics is not a science because it doesn’t use the scientific method”
    “ Don’t tell me dollars. Tell me energy. Because Dollars are only a lien on energy. That’s all they are”

  20. The Shell Answer Man and peak oil (parts 1 and 2)

    Mr. Hofmeister listed three reasons why Shell executives reject Peak Oil theory:

    Peak Oil deals with conventional oil and does not take into account sources of unconventional oil, such as tar sand, oil shale, and heavy oil.
    Peak Oil assumes that technology is static, when, in reality, there have been “huge strides” in the ability to enhance oil recovery from older oil fields.
    By diversifying energy resources, “People will switch demand to other energy sources” long before conventional oil runs out.

    Here’s a presentation from Shell North America president Hofmeister from some years ago now. Interesting to see how their view/strategy has evolved. (However even in 2007 Shell was in favour of mandatory government regulation wrt CO2 emissions)

    Also from 3min to 4:30 in this presentation Hofmeister admits that “Conventional Easy Oil” has peaked

    View From the Top: Shell Oil President John Hofmeister
    June 27th, 2007
    John Hofmeister, Shell Oil president, sees an important role for his company in supplying the world’s energy in the future. Petroleum (oil and gas) will remain, at least for the near to medium future, the most important energy resource. Shell is also investing, as are many other energy companies, in renewable energy (wind, solar, biofuels) as well as so-called clean coal. Hear John Hofmeister’s views on Shell’s future directions and current energy policies.

  21. “One idea which surely is not open to argument is the fact that oil production will peak.”

    Except…oil being so useful, it is possible (but highly unlikely) that we might start mass producing it from scratch. Not crude oil, but specific products we refine from oil. So unless you exclude synthetic oil from your prediction, there might not be a peak oil like you expect, just a peak fossil fuel extraction.

    It all depends on the value of the products made from crude oil, and whether there are economical alternatives to them. Gasoline makes a fine energy storage medium after all.

    Oh, and Fusion is 50 years away…always will be.

    • Robert of Texas

      Remember that just the known methane hydrate reserves are greater than all of the known coal, gas, and oil reserves put together. As it is, methane (natural gas) is currently used as a source to manufacture massive amounts of ethane compounds for various types of petroleum-chemical products. Synthetic hydro-carbon products could well add on to the existing hydrocarbon abundance and product line in the same way that gas piled onto oil which piled onto coal, which piled onto wood.

      As an example, look at how China is using coal as a chemical feedstock. (Oil or gas would be better, but I guess you use what you have.)

      • As an example, look at how China is using coal as a chemical feedstock. (Oil or gas would be better, but I guess you use what you have.)

        Indeed, and that is just one of the many reasons why coal (and all the other fossil fuels) will not be disappearing from the world energy mix anytime this century.

  22. Common sense says the resource must be finite. History makes it clear that man has not a clue how much there really is.

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