The debate continues and we will not know the answer to the question of when peak oil will arrive until it does exactly that. Nor will we know it at the time, but only by looking at production some years beyond it, which will show a fall in output from the maximum (peak). It is estimated by the World Energy Council (WEC) that proven recoverable reserves of oil stood at 1.215 trillion barrels (160 billion tonnes), at the end of 2005, which is somewhat higher by 117 billion barrels than were costed at the end of 2002 which amounts to an extra 4 years supply given that we get through 30 billion barrels a year and rising, worldwide.
Most of the world's oil lies under the Middle East to the tune of 61% of the total; 11% lies under Africa; South America and Europe - including the whole of the Former USSR - have 8% each; while North America holds less than 5% of the total. WEC concludes that oil will not run-out as such for many years but that we were likely to see peak oil within 10 - 20 years; a figure to be compared with the Norwegian Statoil's recent prediction that it will come somewhere between 2010 and 2015. To be fair, the peak is imminent. It is debatable just how much oil Saudi has amid concerns that the regime has revised upward its estimates of its oil holdings, and this is true across the Middle East in general.
Cheap oil will run-out first - world light crude production peaked at the end of 2005 - and following the peak the commodity itself, and everything that depends on it, which is everything, will rise inexorably in price. The price of a barrel of oil is now around $84, which is a short throw from the putative $100 barrel that seemed outlandish as a prospect only a few years ago, but now appears an inevitability, and then $150, $200 or who knows how much? Transportation will be hit hard and as I have predicted throughout these postings, I see no alternative but to curb the use of cars, trucks and planes on a massive scale, resulting in the localisation of communities based on local economies, not strawberries and all manner of consumer products flown thousands of miles to us. I sometimes speculate that the economic miracle in China and India may prove a flash in the pan, since it is largely those of us in the West who buy their goods from them, and if we cannot readily ship and fly them over, then where is the incentive to make them in the first place?
Reserves of natural gas are, in contrast, reasonably healthy. The volume of proven gas reserves have doubled since 1980, as a result of new technologies for exploration and more encouraging estimates of the reserves held in existing fields. It is thought there is sufficient gas to last another 56 years. However, it is the Middle East which holds the trump card, and for example, 44% of the world's gas is contained in about 20 mega and supergiant fields, and nearly half of that is the North Field/South Pars which lies under the waters of Qatar and Iran.
WEC acknowledge that gas exploration is a younger technology than oil exploration, and through its further developments, gas might be brought out from deeper and more complex geologies. For example, coal-bed methane is already a significant contribution to the amount of gas used worldwide, and non-conventional sources such as tight gas sands and methane-hydrates could be harvested in the future. Gas can of course be converted into synthetic crude oil, as I have described before, by steam-reforming it into syngas and catalytic transformation of the latter into liquid hydrocarbons using Fischer-Tropsh methods.
"Peak Oil 10-20 years away, claims world energy council," http://www.thisisnorthscotland.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=149212&command=