Monday, 27 June 2011

The Myth of Peak Oil

Peak Oil is a myth that has been around at least since the 1950’s.
Every time there is a prediction that oil will run out, there are major new discoveries of reserves, or new technologies are introduced that improve recovery from existing fields.
A recent example of  new discoveries are the pre-salt oil reserves off the coast of Brazil in 2009. These are truly vast oil reservoirs below a layer of salt that is up to  6000 ft thick in places. The salt layer absorbs seismic energy so that traditional seismic surveys cannot “see” the oil below the salt layer. This oil was discovered by the very old fashioned method of drilling a wildcat well through the salt to have a look at what was underneath. Almost the entire deepwater area off the coast of Africa, and the whole of the Mediterranean Sea has a similar layer of salt, just waiting to be drilled. The Brazilian fields will come into production in the next couple of years. In 15 years time, Brazilian oil exports will eclipse Saudi exports.
An example of new technology is the discovery of how to release gas trapped in shallow layers of shale. The gas has been known to be in place for many years, but only recent has rock fracturing technology advanced to the point that the gas can be tapped economically. This has resulted in the USA now producing more gas domestically than Saudi Arabia, and this is just the start of the shale gas revolution.
There is enough Shale gas resources in the USA to supply all their energy requirements, including transportation (LPG fuel) for 200 years at the present rate of consumption!
On top of this, recovery factors for oil have continuously increased from just being able to recover 20% of reserves back in the 1950’s to being able to recover about 55% at present- we haven’t worked it out yet, but there is no reason to suppose we cannot continue to improve recovery of known oil in place up to 80% or even more. Many North Sea platforms were due to be scrapped back in the 80’s, yet they are still economically producing oil due to enhanced recovery technology...