Saturday, June 14, 2008

"Oil Shortage a Myth."

I submitted the following letter to The Independent, in response to an article entitled as above. There is an essential difference between the total volume of reserves and the proportion of them that can be recovered as a rate per day: i.e. it doesn't matter how big the reserves are if they can't be tapped-into fast enough to match rising demand. This is true also of potential "abiotic oil" as is believed to be produced in the earth, according mainly to Russian/Ukranian geologists, in contrast to the prevailing view in the West. Even if the latter theory is true, the world still needs to reduce its demand for oil.

"Sir: Richard Pike [CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry is quoted ("Oil Shortage a Myth", The Independent 9-6-08) as saying there is plenty of oil left, and he is right. We should indeed not underestimate proven oil reserves but this is not the problem; the issue is flow rather than the quantity of total reserves and the quality of the oil that will be recovered from them. There may be 1,200 billion barrels worth left, but if it cannot be recovered much faster than is being done now it will not help alleviate the pressing gap between rising demand and supply. Even if Saudi were to increase its output by one million barrels a day (and it is debatable that they could) the product would be a heavy oil for which there is presently insufficient refining capacity in the world.

Producing most of that remaining trillion or so barrels will be far more difficult and expensive than for the sweet, light crude oil, production of which peaked at the end of 2005. It will also be harder to turn it into fuel, requiring new refineries to be built, given its higher sulphur content and higher molecule mass hydrocarbon composition. I agree, we will be producing oil for decades and it is not running out per se, it is the cheap oil that is, and we will never see cheap fuel or chemical feedstocks again, with adverse effects for world transportation, industry and financial markets.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Chris Rhodes."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Articles trying to persuade readers that Peak Oil is a myth are recurrent stuff. The latest I found is this one : The 'Peak Oil' Myth: New Oil Is Plentiful , posted in Seeking Alpha by Jason Schwarz.

Usually, the authors of such articles try to convince us that oil is plentiful, a fact that well-informed readers already know as well as they do (So what is the point of working so hard about it ?).

But of course such readers perceive immediately that those authors generally 1°/ ignore what EROEI means, 2°/ do not make any difference between energy produced at low cost and energy produced at high cost, 3°/ do not seem to know that economic growth feeds itself from energy produced at low cost and therefore 4°/ are unable to understand what will result in the future from the fact that the average cost of producing energy will greatly increase, so that sooner or later our energy production will peak, leading expansion to reverse into contraction.

Comment by Mr André Sautou - 30 Jun, 2008 09:54 pm