Discussion reply: Peak Oil – a fact of reality

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Publication date: 2007-06-01
First published in: Journal Of Petroleum Technology
Authors: Kjell Aleklett


The February 2007 issue of JPT included a Guest Editorial by Peter M. Jackson of CERA. He discussed “peak oil theory” and concluded that “the peak oil lobby”—a group of professionals that forecasts world conventional oil peaking within a decade —“allows fear to replace careful analysis.” Jackson asserts that only CERA has performed a “careful analysis,” and he urges that the world adopt its “market view” forecast. We challenge that position because we believe CERA has failed to explicitly justify its very optimistic conclusions. Too much rides on oil production forecasts to accept an approach of “trust me, not others.”

As a professor in physics at Uppsala University, Sweden, I approach peak oil as a scientist. My interest in energy resources started decades ago and led to the formation of the “Uppsala Hydrocarbon Depletions Study Group” (UHDSG). Recently, we published a peer-reviewed paper titled “Crash Management Program for the Canadian Oil Sands,” and we just released a thesis by Fredrik Robelius based on a 4-year study of giant oil fields and their importance for future oil production. We are also in the process of analyzing other components of the global production of liquid hydrocarbons. Our assumptions, references, and data are explicitly provided, and our work is carefully reviewed before release (i.e., we believe that we produce “careful analysis”).

Peak oil already has occurred in a large number of countries and regions, and the question is when it will happen for the world as a whole. Peak oil for the US Lower 48 states was forecast by M. King Hubbert, using a model that he developed that involved no constraints on extrapolation and future production and assumed oil field production patterns, starting with discovery followed by production rising to a maximum and then a long period of decline. In his original 1956 analysis, Hubbert made two predictions based on 150 and 200 billion bbl of ultimate oil recovery. At the time, few ventured forecasts for ultimate recovery. His 200 billion bbl scenario, which is close to what we believe today, predicted a peak in 1970, which is what occurred. For 2000, Hubbert’s prediction was for production in the Lower 48 states to be 4 million BOPD, which was very close to what it actually was, excluding deep water…

Published in: Journal of Petroleum Technology 59-6 year 2007.


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