Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Peak Oil Struggles for Respectability in Era of New Supplies

The idea of peak oil caught the world’s imagination a decade ago. Peak oil, the point in time when the maximum rate of global oil extraction is reached, after which the rate of production would get into terminal decline, was supposed to be sometime in 2007, 2008 or 2009 — depending on who you were talking to.

The most important fallout of the idea that the world was running out of oil was large investments in companies and technologies trying to make alternative energy sources viable. Oil was all but written off as a vestige of the last century.

Much of this has changed. Spectacular discoveries of conventional oil and gas in Brazil, Angola and Australia, and a huge growth in unconventional oil and gas have changed the equation on reserves. _Forbes
The peak oil mentality is a mentality of doom and defeat in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Peak oil doomers often become collapsitarians and survivalists, having given up on any possiblity that advanced societies can find their way back to prosperity. But a new age of energy supplies is upon us, and peak oilers are sputtering and struggling to talk their way out of their repeated predictions of energy depletion doom that never seem to pan out.
If gas hydrates as well as shale gas, tight oil, oil sands and other unconventional sources can be tapped at reasonable cost, then the global energy picture looks radically different than it did only a few years ago. Suddenly it appears that there may be enough accessible hydrocarbons to power industrial civilization for centuries, if not millennia, to come.

So much for the specter of depletion, as a reason to adopt renewable energy technologies like solar power and wind power. Whatever may be the case with Peak Oil in particular, the date of Peak Fossil Fuels has been pushed indefinitely into the future. _Salon
Depletion has become a balky donkey to ride on, suddenly. But lifers in the peak oil movement are undaunted, and have an entire portfolio of conflicting and contradictory arguments to present, when others fail to persuade.
Negherbon said that he did not believe that the world had reached “peak oil,” but commented that future oil supplies will be harder to find and more expensive to produce.

According to his firm’s projections, Negherbon said that world oil consumption will likely rise from 2.5% to 2.8% per annum. This demand growth will mean future opportunities for deepwater development. _Offshore
Many people -- not just peak oil doomers -- are predicting that future discoveries will involve more difficult to find and expensive to produce oil & gas. But that is not necessarily the case in many of the shale oil & gas fields across North America. The economics of shale oil & gas is driving a huge economic boom across distinct areas of North America -- and soon the same will happen in parts of South America, China, and old Europe.

Similarly, with the development of better undersea oil & gas production technologies, the cost of deepwater oil & gas production is certain to come down far below current levels. The use of robotics and advanced machine intelligence techniques in particular, will reduce the human risk factor and reduce economic costs.

The ongoing celebration of huge and economically producible deposits of shale oil & gas is like a slap in the face to US President Obama's energy starvation agenda. And Obama's government has been perversely trying to shut this economic boom down via the EPA and Interior Department.

A similar celebration over a nuclear renaissance involving abundant, clean, and safe new nuclear reactors could be taking place as well, if not for Obama's US NRC actively blocking and delaying the licensing of promising new nuclear technologies. That celebration will have to await the ejection of Obama from the White House.



Blogger Whirlwind22 said...

But whats the EROEI of the shale oil, methane, and other renewable sources? Thats the peak oil doomers like Ruppert favorite word.

10:02 AM  
Blogger al fin said...

Good point. EROEI is not only their favourite word, it is also one of their largest blind spots.

Here is an interesting look at EROEI from a physicist, looking at energy generally and objectively:

Since EROEI is more of a religious fetish for doomers than a topic of reasonable discussion, it is difficult to hold a level-headed discussion with them on that subject.

If you have ever had a religious or political argument with someone, you understand what a waste of time it is to go against someone's entrenched ideological prejudices.

In market economies, everything comes down to pricing. And virtually everything is priced in currency, rather than energy units. So when you are converting one form of energy into another, the best way of looking at it is in terms of currency.

But those numbers are not always available to the general public, since knowledge is power and money.

But here is my simple answer to your question:


High quality process heat and power from nuclear reactors takes care of most of the EROEI objections for production of trillions of barrels of bitumens, kerogens, gas hydrates, and enhanced oil recovery.

In situ coal gasification -- if it works out -- is another area where EROEI will tend to irrelevancy.

The cure for doomerism is the optimistic and innovative use of one's brain.

10:17 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts