New research out of Kuwait, using a new method of calculating the crude oil production potential of 47 of the world’s largest oil producing countries, has found that peak oil — the period in time when oil production reaches a maximum and then begins to decline — will come much sooner than expected… 2014 to be exact.
Peak oil is an important concept to fully understand in our modern world, given that we are so heavily dependent on petroleum products for everything from transportation to plastic. With the onset of peak oil, many expect that governments, economies, and cultures will start systematically collapsing as demand for crude oil overwhelms supply — unless we can do something to wean ourselves off of it before then.
Over the last few decades, much has been debated about peak oil and when it will come. However the majority of petroleum scientists in this area of research have consistently said that it will arrive some time past 2020, perhaps even as far away as 2050. Although 2050 sounds like some far off date, those 40 years may be just barely enough to reduce our petroleum dependence enough to avoid catastrophe. So, when scientists from one of the most oil rich nations on earth start saying that peak oil will come in 2014… it causes a bit of alarm.
The scientists’ new method for evaluating world peak oil timing stems from the well-tested, popular and generally accurate Hubbert method — which was the first model to accurately predict when oil supply would peak from United States oil fields in the 1970’s. However, the Hubbert model has been scrutinized as not accurately depicting individual, widely-varying, country-specific items such as changing technology and politics. To address these criticisms, the researchers modified the Hubbert model to calculate oil production trends that also include individual variations from country to country, and then applied it to the 47 largest oil producing countries in the world.
Not only did the researchers find that world crude oil production would peak in 2014, they discovered that the world is already depleting its oil reserves at a rate of 2.1% per year. Although these findings are alarming, the researchers are clear to point out that their conclusions are only made with the best available information:
“Forecasting is not accomplished by consulting a crystal ball or a mystic of some sort, but by appraising the past, inspecting present conditions, and projecting these into the future based on the best available information. It is well-known that the ultimate oil recovery of any field in the world is only determined when the production management decides to abandon the field for good. This does not occur until the projected oil revenues fall below expected costs and human ingenuity is unable to reverse this relationship.”
“Therefore, it is not a sin to acknowledge that the economic production life of any field is almost impossible to predict efficiently. Hence, forecasts should be flexible to adjustment whenever additional information becomes available or as conditions change. Even though it is inevitable to preclude the possibility of minor inaccurate forecasting results, still it is of paramount importance that the forecast be conducted. Without the forecast, a valid decision or public policy debate on a national or global scale cannot be made.” —Nashawi et. al, 2009
If you are of the scientific type, and have the interest, you can read the whole paper for yourself on the next page.
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