Better understanding urged for rapidly depleting reserves

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Publication date: 1997-04-07
First published in: Oil & Gas Journal
Authors: Colin J. Campbell


In the worst days of the Battle of Britain, military commanders had to balance the need to commit fighter planes to defend the capital against having enough in reserve for later attacks. They had to have accurate information on the resources available, but it was easily obtained by a count that could be checked and double checked.

It is equally important that the world should know what its reserves of oil are because its economy depends heavily on oil-based energy, especially for transport and agriculture, which means food. It also needs to know where the reserves are. But unlike in the Battle of Britain, no one can go out to count the reserves because they lie far underground in geological traps whose precise nature can only be estimated.

The exact size of the reserves of a field will be known only on the day when it is finally abandoned; until then, some measure of uncertainty will always surround the number. We need to understand that uncertainty better, in the same way as we assess the probability of a hurricane striking a particular place at a given time.

For more than 60 years, the Oil & Gas Journal has put out an annual report of the world’s reserves based on information provided to it by governments and industry. It has been a valiant effort, having the great merit of consistency. The numbers are widely accepted as a firm basis of what the reserve position is, being reproduced, for example, by British Petroleum Co. plc in its Statistical Review of World Energy…

Published in: Oil and Gas Journal, Volume 95, Issue 14, 7 Apr 1997
Available from: Oil & Gas Journal

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