Monday, October 27, 2008

U.K. Oil to Run-out in 6 Years.

It is reckoned that the UK's share of the North Sea oil will run-out in six years. The Norwegians have less than nine years before their provision of North Sea oil is used-up. In its heyday, in the latter part of the 1970's, Britain produced around 3 million barrels of oil a day, and now just one million. It is increasingly less meaningful to speak of a world oil peak since peak oil will strike each producing nation and moreover each oil field at different times. Those countries that can hang-on longest will have supreme power within a world so utterly dependent on plentiful cheap crude oil, for fuel and as a raw material for making products ranging from plastics to pharmaceuticals and for modern mechanised agriculture, which is pretty well everything.

Let's see how the broad picture stacks-up. The United States imports around two thirds of its oil but remains the world's third largest producer; however, its fields are expected to fail in just under twelve years.

Canada has 23 years to go before its reserves are gone. Canada and the U.S. have around 2.3% of the world's reserves each but the U.S. pumps out about twice as much as Canada does.

China has enough for 11 years before it needs to rely completely on oil imports (from where, one wonders?).

Russia produces almost as much oil as Saudi Arabia, at 3.6 billion barrels a year, but is expected to deplete its oil reserves in 22 years. Saudi is thought to have three times as much oil as Russia, but there is speculation about this and how much of it can be recovered.

Venezuela's reserves are costed as being enough for 91 years, since it holds 7% of the world's total at 87 billion barrels. However, this is mostly ultra-heavy oil, high in sulphur and other contaminants, and more difficult both to recover and to refine.

Mexico is thought to have 10 years worth left of oil. Oil accounts for 40% of the country's GDP and so once the oil is gone so is the economy.

While commonly quoted, statistics like these are rather simplistic, since oil production does not run steadily and then stop (nor does it for any other resource), but it reaches a peak, and can then fall rapidly or slowly depending on the geology and extraction-technologies employed. It is not a simple matter of draining a well to bottom at a steady rate (unlike a water-well, say), hence "time left" as determined from R/P ratios (Reserve volume/Production rate per annum) is overoptimistic - i.e. the pinch in supply will come before then, followed by a longer tail of ever-diminishing recovery.

Nonetheless, these figures are salient indicators of an imminent shift in world power, and along with the current credit-crunch fallout, the rising cost of social benefits and complete dependence on imported oil in less than six years, the time does seem to be up for Britain.

Related Reading.
"Who will run out first?"


TheFatBigot said...

Thank you for taking the time to contribute to my shabby little blog. Your latest piece has made me think, for which I thank you again.

I suppose it's inevitable that we must agree, I grew up in Sussex and took my first degree at QMC, we seem to be joined at the geographical and educational hip.

Professor Chris Rhodes said...

"Shabby"? Not at all. You point out many deficiencies and urgencies that exist in the current climate... so to speak.

It is indeed a small world, as you say, re. Sussex and QMC! Both seem a long tome ago now!

I almost feel as though we are on the edge of a war. Perhaps not literally or militarily but in terms of a shift of power.

I'm still looking for solutions, but it seems clear enough that ether by design or default the way we live has to change. So, I am aiming at design as default could be pretty painful.



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