Time Glas Peeking at Peak oil

What is Peak Oil?

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Understanding Peak Oil

Oil was formed in the geological past under well-understood processes. In fact, the bulk of current production comes from just two epochs of extreme global warming, 90 and 150 million years ago, when algae proliferated in the warm sunlit waters, and the organic remains were preserved in the stagnant depths to be converted to oil by chemical reactions. Natural gas was formed in a similar way save that it was derived from the vegetal material. It follows that these are finite natural resources subject to depletion, which in turn means that production in any country or region starts following the initial discovery and ends when the resources are exhausted. The peak of production is typically passed when approximately half the total has been taken, termed the midpoint of depletion.

Oil has been known since antiquity, but the first wells were drilled for it in the mid 19th Century in Pennsylvania and the on the shores of the Caspian. The Industrial Revolution was already in progress being driven by the steam engine, fuelled by coal. But then in the 1860s, a German engineer found a way to insert the fuel directly into the cylinder inventing the Internal Combustion Engine, which was much more efficient. At first, it used benzene distilled from coal, before turning to petroleum refined from crude oil, for which it developed an unquenchable thirst. The first automobile took to the road in 1882, and the first tractor plowed its furrow in 1907. This cheap and abundant supply of energy changed the world in then unimaginable ways, leading to the rapid expansion of industry, transport, trade and agriculture, which has allowed the population to expand six-fold in parallel. These remarkable changes were in turn accompanied by the rapid growth of financial capital, as banks lent more than they had on deposit, confident that Tomorrow’s Economic Expansion was collateral for To-day’s Debt, without necessarily recognizing that the expansion was driven by an abundant supply of cheap, mainly oil-based energy.

The peak of oil discovery was passed in the 1960s, and the world started using more than was found in new fields in 1981. The gap between discovery and production has widened since. Many countries, including some important producers, have already passed their peak, suggesting that the world peak of production is now imminent. Where valid data were available in the public domain, it would be a simple matter to determine both the date of peak and the rate of subsequent decline, but as it is, we find the maze of conflicting information, ambiguous definitions, and lax reporting procedures. In short, the oil companies tended to report cautiously, being subject to strict Stock Exchange rules, whereas certain OPEC countries exaggerated during the 1980s when they were competing for quota based on reported reserves. Despite the uncertainties of detail, it is now evident that the world faces the dawn of the Second Half of the Age of Oil, when this critical commodity, which plays such a fundamental part in the modern economy, heads into decline due to natural depletion. A debate rages over the precise date of peak, but rather misses the point when what matters — and matters greatly — is the vision of the long remorseless decline that comes into sight on the other side of it. The transition to decline threatens to be a time of great international tension. Petroleum Man will be virtually extinct this Century, and Homo sapiens faces a major challenge in adapting to his loss. Peak Oil is, by all means, an important subject.

Colin Campbell has over 40 years of experience in the oil industry. He earned a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Oxford in 1957, and has worked as a petroleum geologist in the field, as a manager, and as a consultant.

1 Comment

  1. The Truth about Peak Oil!
    Methane on Earth is not made by microbes, at least in any quantity. Like petroleum, methane (aka “natural gas”) has been determined to have been generated deep in the planet’s crust through the extremely high pressures that are present there. They call that process “abiotic”, meaning without biology.

    Peak Oil?
    Big Oil is supporting some they call the Peak Oil hypothesis that is being spread by oil company trained geologists. In their opinion, the supply of oil and gas is finite and will, one day, run out completely. (Obviously this limits supply and, thus, raises prices.) So far Peaksters have predicted several dates firm that have come and gone for the Peak Oil apocalypse. Like the Global Warming myth, dates come and go without any of the disasters predicted ever coming to pass. Instead, people seem to keep finding more oil and gas.

    Space Dinosaurs
    If it was true that all oil and natural gas is created from “fossils”, deeply buried dinosaurs and Cretaceous vegetation, there should be no hydrocarbons in places where we know that there was never any dinosaurs or other plant life with which to create it. Such IS the case on Saturn’s moon, Titan. It has been proven by studies of its atmosphere that Titan is covered with methane. If there was never dinosaurs (or any other life on Titan) as there surely wasn’t, how could so much methane have been produced?

    In fact, scientists have determined through Spectral Analysis that the Universe is lousy with methane. It can be found everywhere using telescopes and a chromatograph. So, where are all the interstellar dinosaurs Big Oil Gealogists need to create all that methane?

    You can see that it is easy enough to dispute the claims of the geological community (whose salaries are completely paid by Big Oil) through very simple analysis of the facts. The Peak Oil theory that the big oil community is propagating via false sources (like Snopes) is quite simply and easily countered. The next time you hear them, remember how much more money Big Oil is making on the Peak Oil theory every time they tell you that oil and gas is created from rotting dinosaurs.

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