Tuesday, October 26, 2010

As Phantoms of Peak Oil Fade into Dawn

Peak oil has taken on the trappings of an apocalyptic religion recently. True believers tout "Hubbert Curves" and "Simmons Depletion Analyses" in circular jerkulars and echo choruses across the webosphere. Oil should be well over $500 a barrel by now, according to not-so-distant predictions of the peakers -- some dead and some alive. But oil is in the $80 range largely due to a combination of the weak Obama dollar, the speculative lemming's rush to a safe investment haven, and a misleading surge in demand from India, China, and Brasil.

But ignoring the doomseekers, what are the actual hydrocarbon resources which we have to deal with? Below are some rather conservative early estimates of hydrocarbon resources -- neglecting the vast terrestrial and sub-sea coal and methane clathrate resources. It may take a while to achieve "peak oil" when you consider how quickly industry is developing means of converting these unconventional hydrocarbons to conventional liquid fuels.

Here is more on the vast hydrocarbon resources remaining:
How fast are we using our oil reserves?

Currently, we are consuming about 31,100,000,000 barrels a year.

How much oil do we have? Or more specifically, how much do we have left, and in what forms?
- Conventional Oil, About 1,750,000,000,000 barrels left.
- Oil Sands Oil, About 3,600,000,000,000 barrels left.
- Oil Shale Oil, About 3,300,000,000,000 barrels left.
- Bio Fuel, Till the sun burns out…

At this burn rate, it’ll take approximately 56 years before we run out of easy to get conventional oil or 278 years till we run out of oil reserves altogether. One of the common misconceptions about our consumption of oil is that we are using it at an ever increasing rate. While in reality, there was a peak in refining capacity which occurred in 1980 and most of the world and has been remarkably steady ever since. _Source
The outlook expressed above is remarkably rosy when viewed from a doomer's perspective. But in reality, the resource estimates are likely to be far too low in the long run.

It is all a moot point, however, because long before conventional oil is exhausted, humans in advanced countries will have begun to shift to resources which are essentially inexhaustible, such as advanced interlocking fuel cycles of nuclear fission, microbial biofuels, and perhaps nuclear fusion.

The world's transportation and chemical industries are far too reliant upon conventional crude oil at this time. But Canadian oil sands are coming on quickly -- as long as the price of oil stays above $70 a barrel. Other unconventional fuels are following along. More will follow as needed.

Microbial biofuels are ten years in the future to price competitiveness, and another ten years to scale up to necessary volumes to truly compete. By that time, development of CTL, GTL, BTL, and oil sands, oil shales, methane clathrates, etc. should be in full bloom. Advanced nuclear fission will also be taking off, as small modular reactors begin to take over from coal generation plants.

History is witness to the scatterings of myriad apocalyptics all the way back to antiquity. It's not a bad scam, if you can keep your self respect and your sanity.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts