Presentation at the
Technical University of Clausthal
Ladies and Gentlemen
· Thank you for inviting
me to make this presentation.
· To-day, I am going
to talk about the depletion of oil. I am a petroleum geologist and have
been studying the subject directly and indirectly for many years. It is
a very important subject, as is amply confirmed by recent events.
· I compliment the organisers
for raising the subject in Germany. It is a large and strong country, which
can exert its influence both on Europe and the World. Truth has always
proved a powerful weapon. It needs to take action.
The title of my talk is Peak
Oil. It truly is a turning point for Mankind. It will affect us all. It
is a large subject, and it will take us about an hour to work through it.
The purpose of the talk is
to evaluate the resource base and its depletion. Then we can go on to study
the present crisis and try to see how it will evolve. Finally we can think
specifically about Germany's predicament.
4. Main Points
In summary, these are the main
points that we have to grasp:
· Conventional oil -
and I will explain what I mean by that - provides most of the oil produced
today, and is responsible for about 95% all oil that has been produced
· It will continue to
dominate supply for a long time to come. It is what matters most.
· Its discovery peaked
in the 1960s. We now find one barrel for every four we consume.
· Middle East share
of production is set to rise. The rest of the world peaked in 1997, and
is therefore in terminal decline
· World peak comes within
about five years
· Non-conventional oil
delays peak only a few years, but will ameliorate the subsequent decline
· Gas, which is less
depleted than oil, will likely peak around 2020
· As I said, peak oil
is a turning point for Mankind.
· The economic prosperity
of the 20th Century was driven by cheap, oil-based energy
· Everyone had the equivalent
of several unpaid and unfed slaves to do his work for him
· These slaves are now
getting old and wont work much longer
· We need to find how
to live without them
The energy slaves of modern
7. Not a Repeat
I should stress that we are
not facing a re-run of the Oil Shocks of the 1970s
· They were like the
tremors that herald an earthquake, although serious enough, tipping the
World into recession
· Now we face the earthquake
· This shock is very
different. It is driven by resource constraints, not politics - although
of course politics do enter into it.
· It is not a temporary
interruption but the onset of a permanent new condition
· The warning signals
have been flying for a long time. They have been plain to see. But the
world turned a blind eye, and failed to read the message
8 Amazingly unprepared
· Our lack of preparedness
is itself amazing, given the importance of oil to our lives
· The warnings were
rejected and discredited as if they were words of soothsayers and prophets.
· I myself have been
called a Cassandra
· But the warnings were
· It simply recognised
two undeniable facts
· First: you have to
find oil before you can produce it
· Second: production
has to mirror discovery
· Discovery reached
a peak in the 1960s - despite all the technology we hear so much about
and a worldwide search for the best prospects
· It should surprise
no one that we now face the corresponding peak of production. This simple
reasoning has been however rejected by flat-earth economists and others
with a blind faith in technology and markets forces. Worse still, governments
have listened to bad advice.
· There are many vested
interests bent on confusion and denial, which I will touch on later
9 Europe's Revolt
Let is look briefly at what
happened in Europe a few weeks ago.
· The French fishermen
blockaded the Channel Ports because their fuel costs had doubled, even
though their fuel was already tax-free
· The dispute spread
rapidly to England and other countries
· Schools were closed.
Hospitals had a red alert
· Supermarkets started
· Trade and industry
was seriously interrupted: the cost was huge
· People lost confidence
in their government : its popularity fell sharply
· If an interruption
in supply lasting only a few days could cause such havoc, it surely demonstrates
how utterly dependent on oil we have become.
Depletion is an easy concept
· Think of an Irish
pub full of happy people. Think of their pleasure at the first sip from
a full glass
· Think of the frowns
that begin to cross their faces when their glasses are half-empty. They
know they have drunk more than is left. It is the turning point
· Watch them savour
the last drops
· But the evening is
young. When the glasses are empty, they can order another round.
· But eventually closing
time comes when there are no more rounds to be had
· That is the meaning
· We need to know how
big each glass - or oilfield - is, and
· We need to know how
many more rounds there are - that is to say how many more oilfields are
left to find
11. Date of Peak
I stress that we are not about
to run out of oil, but production is about to reach a peak. When peak comes
depends on the issue of Rates
· Discovery Rate - we
now find one barrel of conventional oil for every four we consume
· Extraction Rate is
controlled by the physics of the reservoir
· Demand is driven by
economic growth and price.
Remember price is not the same
as cost. It depends on cost but also tax and scarcity
12. What to Measure
Before measuring something,
the first step is to decide what exactly to measure. It is a question every
butcher asks. Does he weigh the meat or the bones as well?
· There are many different
kinds of oil
· Each has its own endowment
in Nature, characteristics, costs, and rate of extraction.
· Production of each
type starts and ends at zero reaching a peak in between,
· Some rise to peak
slowly, others quickly
· We need to identify
and measure each type : we need to separate the meat from the bones
13 Conventional Oil
It is convenient to identify
so-called Conventional Oil. It is the meat not the bones. It has contributed
most oil to-date and will dominate all supply long into the future. We
may concentrate on it, as it controls the date of peak.
But there is no universal agreement
on how to define it. Here I will exclude
· Oil from coal and
· Bitumen and Extra-Heavy
· Heavy Oil
· Deepwater Oil
· Polar Oil
Natural Gas liquids are also
excluded because they belong to the gas domain.
The database is not up to clearly
distinguishing all these categories but we should at least know what we
aim to do.
14. Simple Questions
We may start by asking two
· How much oil has been
· When was it found?
They sound simple, but they
are difficult to answer because the data are weak.
15. Ambiguity & Bad Data
There is no consistency in
what is reported.
· There is a large range
even for production, which is simply reading the meter
· Reserve estimates
are still less reliable
· The treatment of gas
liquids ranges widely
There are two main sources
of public data.
· The Oil & Gas
Journal and World Oil are trade journals that compile information given
to them by governments. They are not qualified to assess the validity of
· Another widely used
source is the BP Statistical Review. BP is in a position to evaluate the
data, but it declines to do so, and instead just reproduces the Oil and
· Lastly is the industry
database, which is relatively reliable but too expensive for most analysts
· All these sources
are different. None of them are very intelligently compiled.
16 Reserve Reporting
· The industry has systematically
under-reported the size of discovery for a host of good commercial and
regulatory reasons. It understandably prefers to revise the reserves upwards
over time than book them all up front. It is not its job to forecast the
· For most purposes,
it does not matter, but we need to know the real record of the past if
we are to use the trend to forecast the future.
· Governments variously
under-report or over-report, or simply fail to update their estimates.
As many as 70 countries reported unchanged numbers in 1999, which is utterly
· We need the "best
estimate". It is often called Proved & Probable, such that any revisions
are statistically neutral
17 Dating Revisions
· An oilfield contains
what it contains because it was filled in the geological past, but knowledge
of how much it contains evolves over time.
· If we want a genuine
discovery trend, we need to backdate revisions to the discovery of the
· Failure to backdate
gives the illusion that more is being found than is the case. It is a cause
of great misunderstanding
18 BP Reserves
This demonstrates how BP reports
reserves, failing to backdate the revisions. It has misled many analysts.
The large increases in the late 1980s were simply due to the OPEC quota
wars. Nothing was actually added, as I will explain.
19 Spurious Revisions
I should explain this large
increase in greater detail.
· Kuwait added 50% in
1985 to increase its OPEC quota, which was based partly on reserves. No
corresponding new discoveries had been made. Nothing particular changed
in the reservoir.
· Venezuela doubled
its reserves in 1987 by the inclusion of large deposits of heavy oil that
had been known for years.
· It forced the other
OPEC countries to retaliate with huge increases
· Note too how the numbers
have changed little since despite production..
But it is not quite as simple
as that, because the early numbers were too low, having been inherited
from the companies before they were expropriated. Some of the increase
was justified but it has to be backdated to the discovery of the fields
concerned that had been found up to 50 years before.
20 Popular Image
The failure to backdate gives
this misleading popular image of growing reserves. It is widely used by
flat-earth economists in support of classical economic theories of supply
I hasten to add that by no means
all economists believe in a flat-earth. There are enlightened economists
who now relate economics with resources, and they are coming to the fore.
21 Reality & Illusion
This shows the effect of proper
backdating. The discovery trend shown in yellow is falling not rising.
22 Impact of Technology
You will hear many claims for
technology. No one disputes the huge technological advances of the industry.
But, what has been the impact?
· In Exploration, it
shows better both where oil is and where it is NOT - thus allowing better
estimates of the potential to be made.
· In Production, it
keeps production rate higher for longer, but has little impact on the reserves
Note that much of the oil in
a reservoir cannot be extracted because it is held there by capillary forces
and natural constrictions. The percentage recovered can be improved in
some cases by injecting steam and such methods, but by no means all fields
are susceptible to treatment. Most modern fields are produced to maximum
efficiency from the outset.
23 Prudhoe Bay
This is well illustrated by
the Prudhoe Bay field. It is the largest field in N. America.
· The Operator internally
estimated its reserves at 12.5 Gb in 1977, but reported 9 Gb.
· Various enhanced recovery
methods were started in 1982
· Decline commenced
in 1988. Enhanced recovery did arrest decline for one year, but then the
decline was steeper.
· The field will barely
make the original estimate. Nothing was added
This is quite typical. I could
show you may similar examples.
Such plots are incidentally
a good way to estimate genuine reserves
Now let's turn to how much
25 North Sea Generation
· A geochemical breakthrough
in the 1980s made it possible to relate the oil in a well with the rock
from which it came.
· It became possible
to identify and map the generating belts. They are few and far between
because prolific oil was formed only under very rare geological circumstances.
In fact, most of it comes from no more that three or four epochs of intense
· This shows where the
oil comes from in the North Sea. It was formed about 145 million years
ago at the end of the Jurassic period.
· There is no possibility
of finding oil outside these generating trends, and we now know where most
of them are.
Great advances in seismic technology
make it possible to see the smallest and most subtle trap.
· In general, this better
knowledge has reduced the perceived potential, because it shows the absence
of large prospects.
· We can find a needle
in a haystack, but it is still a needle. We did not need the resolution
to find the giant fields holding most of the world's oil.
· It means we have a
much better knowledge of the endowment in Nature than we used to have.
27 Creaming Curve
This is the so-called creaming
· It plots discovery
against exploration wildcats. They are the wells that either do - or do
not - find a new field
· The largest fields
are usually found first for obvious reasons, being too large to miss.
· The curve flattens
until new discoveries are too small to be viable. It gives a good idea
of how much is left to find.
· There are other statistical
techniques but there is n't time to cover them here
28 Shell Experience
· The same applies to
an individual oil company
· Shell has found about
60 Gb with almost 4000 exploration wells, drilled over its entire history
since 1895. If it drilled as many again, it could expect to find only 16
· Other companies have
not had such a successful record.
To sum up, these are the main
parameters for conventional oil.
· The numbers are shown
as computed but should be generously rounded
· We have produced almost
half what is there, and we have found about 90%
· We produce 22 Gb a
year but find only 6 Gb. That is to say, we find one for every four we
consume from our inheritance of past discovery
· The current depletion
rate is about 2 % a year
30 Growing Gap
· This shows the growing
gap between discovery and consumption as we move from surplus to deficit
· The yellow curve shows
· Note that the level
of activity barely affects the discovery trend. It destroys the flat earth
heresy that discovery is driven by market forces
But this year, we did have
an exceptional discovery spike.
· The underlying general
trend was down to about 6 Gb
· New deepwater discovery,
here treated as non-conventional, added about 4 Gb. It may well be approaching
a peak too
· And there were two
exceptional large finds in hitherto closed areas in the Caspian and Iran
adding about 12 Gb
But even this exceptional year
did not quite balance consumption
32 Depletion Examples
I would now like to quickly
demonstrate a few examples of depletion
· Remember that the
peak of discovery has to be followed by the peak of production
· Remember too that
peak production generally comes close to the midpoint of depletion when
half the total has been used.
Let us start with the US-48,
the most mature oil country of all.
· It had plenty of money,
every incentive with the oil rights in private hands and soaring imports
· It had a large prospective
· We can be sure that
if more could have been found, it would have been found.
· So what did Nature
34 US-48 Graph
Discovery, shown in green,
peaked in 1930 at the edge of the chart. Production peaked 40 years later
35 N.Sea graph
It is the same pattern in the
North Sea, but advances in technology reduced the time lag to 27 years.
We are getting better at depleting our resources.
36 World graph
This is the world as a whole.
· The green bars show
discovery, highlighting a few exceptional spikes in the Middle East.
· The oil shocks of
the 1970s cut demand so that the actual peak came later and lower than
would otherwise have been the case
· It means that the
decline is less steep than it would otherwise have been
· It reminds us that
if we produce less today, there is more left for tomorrow.
· It is a lesson we
need to relearn as a matter of urgency.
This shows the distribution
Note how North America has
consumed most of its oil
Note how the Middle East has
most of what is left
38 Swing Share
That introduces the idea of
· The Five Middle East
countries have been forced into a certain swing role around peak. For a
certain limited period, they can - at least in resource terms - make up
the difference between world demand and what the rest of the world can
· The yellow line shows
their share of world production
· The green bars show
· Share was 38% in 1973
at the time of the first oil shock
· It had fallen to 18%
by 1985 because new provinces in the North Sea, Alaska and elsewhere started
to deliver flush production from giant fields which are usually found first
· I stress that these
new provinces had been found before the shock and were not a consequence
of it as is so often claimed by flat-earth economists
· Share is now at about
30% and set to rise. This time there are no new major provinces waiting
to deliver, or even in sight, save perhaps the Caspian
39 ME Gulf Graph
· This shows the depletion
of the Middle East.
· Actual production
has been far below what was possible
· Note how rapidly production
will have to rise to meet demand even with that being curbed by rising
price. It is optimistic to believe that such an increase can be achieved
I might digress briefly to
explain the impact of expropriation.
· It started with BP
in Iran in 1951 but had spread to the other main producers by the 1970s.
· The major companies
lost their main sources of supply.
· Had they remained
in control, they would have produced the cheap and easy oil before turning
to the expensive and difficult. It would have given a gradual transition
as depletion began to grip
· But when they lost
their main supplies, they moved to the expensive and difficult areas and
they worked flat out.
· The main OPEC governments
were left with the cheap and easy stuff.
· It is contrary to
normal economic practice and one of the causes of the present crisis
This I think is a very compelling
· The red line is discovery
smoothed with a 10 year moving average
· It shows a clear downward
trend, easy to extrapolate, as shown in orange
· The green line is
production, extrapolated at a 2% growth to match the past trend.
· Our inheritance is
the area between the red and green lines.
· We have to eat into
our inheritance of past discovery because future discovery is insufficient
· There just is not
enough to sustain growth, or even hold current production for long
· The blue line shows
the inevitable decline
42 World depletion
This shows a production profile
imposed by these known and easily understood resource constraints.
It is not prophecy. It is reality
43 Two-phased Crisis
We face therefore a two-phased
crisis, the first of which has already arrived, as predicted
· A price shock comes
when Middle East share reaches a critical threshold, and even it cannot
raise production fast enough to meet demand. Non-Middle East production
falls. That is happening now.
· The second phase comes
around 2010 with the onset of chronic long-term shortage, as the Middle
East can no longer meet even current demand, never mind growth. By then,
it will be asked to supply 50% of the world's oil, which will be beyond
44 Peak dates
· Conventional oil peaks
· All hydrocarbons around
· Gas around 2020
· Gas liquids peak a
little after gas, as extraction rates increase
· The decline after
peak is about 3% a year
45 All hydrocarbons Graph
This illustrates the depletion
of all hydrocarbons
46 Denial & Obfuscation
I would now like to ask why
this important subject is not better understood
47 Flat Earth
People once believed the earth
was flat. Scientific observations to the contrary were treated as heresy.
Look at the threatened, suspicious and hostile expressions on the faces
of these mediaeval monks. They were the Establishment of the day. The same
expressions are now to be found in many of the world's governments.
48 Political Reactions
We have several political reactions,
which we might almost call conspiracies
· The United States
seeks to exaggerate the world's oil to reduce OPEC's confidence. It pretends
that it does not depend on Middle East oil. It puts out very flawed studies
by the US Geological Survey and the Department of Energy. I
· OPEC, for its part,
exaggerates its resource base to inhibit non-OPEC investments and moves
to energy savings or renewables. It fears a repetition of the price collapse
that followed the last shocks, not realising that it is a different world.
· Companies conceal
depletion because it sits badly on the investment community
· The USGS has failed
to live up to its scientific reputation
· It has assessed the
Undiscovered Potential of each basin with a range of subjective probabilities.
It has a Low Case for the most sure and a High Case for the least sure.
The High Case itself has little meaning. You might as well say that there
is a 5% chance that I am a frog.
· The Low Case is fairly
good, consistent with the discovery trend, but The Mean value, which is
the one they publicise is meaningless because it is influenced by the High
Case. This has been confirmed by experience in the real world because the
Mean estimate is already 100 Gb short, five years into the study period
· The notion of "reserve
growth" is also flawed. The USGS depicts it as a technological dynamic
when it is simply an artefact of reporting practice, not to be extrapolated
into the future.
· It claims that Greenland
is the most prospective area, which it deems part of North America
· Statoil has now drilled
a dry hole on the prime prospect
The International Energy Agency
was established by the OECD countries in the aftermath of the shocks of
the 1970s. In 1998, it succeeded in delivering a coded message.
· It showed how a "business
as usual scenario" could not be fulfilled without inventing a so-called
balancing item of Unidentified Unconventional, which miraculously rises
from zero in 2010 to 19 Mb/d in 2020, when the identified makes a ceiling
of only 2.4 by 2010. Since the identified deposits are huge, no one needs
to find more. The so-called unidentified unconventional is accordingly
a euphemism for rank shortage.
· Can anybody really
imagine that oil price will still be $25/b when the Middle East supplies
62% of the world's needs
As a political institution
it could only send a coded message and was pleased when journalists decrypted
Most companies have to sing
to the stockmarket, but the Italian national company is less concerned
by stockmarket imagery. Its Chairman was able to tell the truth:
· "New reserves are
failing to keep up with growing output"
· "My forecast is that
between 2000 and 2005 the world will be reaching peak..."
52. BP Prize
British Petroleum certainly
wins the prize for the most oblique reference to depletion when it changes
its logo to a sunflower and says that BP stands for Beyond Petroleum
But its executives sit on the
board of Goldman Sachs, the bankers. They should accordingly know what
BP actually thinks behind the lace curtains of corporate make-believe.
What do the bankers say?
53 Goldman Sachs
"The rig count over the last
12 years has reached bottom. This is not because of low oil price. The
oil companies are not going to keep rigs employed to drill dry holes. They
know it but are unable and unwilling to admit it. The great merger mania
is nothing more than a scaling down of a dying industry in recognition
of the fact that 90% of global conventional oil has already been found."
- Goldmann Sachs, August 1999
Shell says it in other words
"There was a time when oil
and gas reserves seemed endless..." - November 1999 Advertisement
55 Merger Mania
Actions speak louder than words.
· The major companies
and many others in the industry are merging and shedding staff
· They are also buying
their own stock
· These are moves to
downsize because there are no major investment opportunities left
· Their past is worth
more than their future - and they know it.
56 What is all adds up to
I will try now to conclude
with some general comments, starting with a oil price
57 Oil price Plot
· Oil outside the Middle
East peaked in 1997 as easily foreseen.
· It should have heralded
a gradual rise in price from growing Middle East control, shown in green.
But instead there was an anomalous fall.
· It is a volatile unstable
market that has failed to manage this critical resource.
58 Oil Price Collapse
· Price collapsed in
1998 because of the interaction of warm weather, an Asian recession, the
devaluation of the rouble, events in Iraq, false supply estimates by the
IEA that prompted higher OPEC production and perhaps some manipulation
· Now there is a firm
upward trend based on rising demand, the inability to offset natural decline
in giant old fields, and falling discovery
· The market hangs on
Opec's words - but Opec has lost control
59 Oil Price plot repeated
Instead of the gradual increase
starting in 1997, we now face a more dramatic increase, shown in red
60 Spare Capacity
· Spare capacity can
mean many things. A closed flowing well is the only form of spare capacity
that can deliver quickly. All the other elements take investment, work
and, above all, time to deliver.
· OPEC has very little
operational spare capacity. It is working flat out. It has to run faster
to stand still, as it desperately tries to offset the natural decline of
its old fields. It will be hard pressed to meet the demands made upon it
even to maintain current world production, never mind growth
61 Logical Consequences
· The market is now
perceiving that OPEC has lost control. It is a devastating realisation
because it means there is no supply-based ceiling on price. Accordingly,
prices are set to soar. Don't forget that in to-day's money, oil price
went to almost $100 in the 1970 shocks
· Demand must then fall.
The poor countries of the world will bear most of the burden. But the United
States will be in serious difficulties. There is, I think, a strong danger
of some ill-considered military intervention to try to secure oil. A stock
market crash seems inevitable, as some investment managers are now telling
· The global market
may collapse because of high transport costs and global recession.
· Self-sufficiency will
become a priority.
Here some quick thoughts
62 Energy doesn't matter
· Economists say high
oil price does not matter because energy is a smaller percent of GDP
· But you can't eat
63 Geologists, engineers
· Geologists find oil,
engineers exploit it,
... beware of economists
telling you how much is left
64 Political immunity
· Oil is ultimately
controlled by events in the geological past
... which are immune
65 Germany's oil
· Not everyone realises
that Germany has had a long oil history. The earliest field in the database
was found in 1856, before Colonel Drake drilled his famous well in Pennsylvania.
About 600 wildcats have been drilled, about as many as in Norway.
· But they found only
about 2.3 Gb of oil, shown as bars.
· The country has now
been very thoroughly explored
· I assess its ultimate
at about 2.5 Gb.
· Peak production was
in 1967, ten years before the midpoint of depletion, which was in 1977.
· Production is now
declining at about 3%, much less than would be the case offshore.
· Germany, like the
USA, is a good example of a mature oil country whose experience is to be
66 Germany's energy policy
Let us consider for the moment
what Germany's reaction to what I have discussed should be
· Windmills and bicycles
set very good examples, but there are still too many large Mercedes
· It would be a good
idea to start rationing gasoline and heating fuel early to provide minimal
essential needs at moderate price, perhaps by credit card. It will be a
complex task to identify all the special needs of people and evolve a fair
and equitable system
· There should be inverted
tariffs on electricity so that the more you use the more expensive it becomes
· Germany is a large
and powerful country. It should exert its influence on Brussels, which
has so far failed miserably to understand the situation. As recently as
October 4th it issued a report on Europe's oil supply without mentioning
the resource or depletion and suggesting it was just a matter of OPEC politics.
It understands nothing.
· Germany should revitalise
the BGR to resume the excellent studies, which were undertaken under the
previous Director. They were I believe suppressed by the Ministry of Economics,
who did not want to know the truth.
· Germany should resist
Green pressure to give up nuclear power at precisely the moment it needs
more energy, as oil peaks and declines.
· Germany has coal and
possibilities for coalbed methane. This industry needs to be rediscovered.
It may become economic again
· Germany should encourage
its motor manufacturers to move to more efficient engines and hydrogen
fuels, especially those made by solar means. It should provide whatever
fiscal incentives are needed.
· Germany is in a position
to take a lead. It should use its strength to do so.
67 Depletion Protocol
Germany should support the
idea of a Depletion Protocol whereby the consumers as well as the producers
would manage depletion
· It could be easily
added to an existing OECD treaty that established the International Energy
· It would provide that
no country would produce above its present depletion rate
· No country would import
· It would bring order
· And has been welcomed
by the OPEC Secretary General
68 Political Response
An oil crisis is bad for politicians.
· Blaming OPEC or the
oil companies will not wash much longer.
· It would be better
to make a proper analysis of the true position and inform people.
· No one blames the
government for an earthquake. So they would n't blame it for an oil crisis
either if they realised it was a natural phenomenon
"If you don't deal with reality,
reality will deal with you"
69 Sky does not fall in at
· Let us not be too
alarmist. The roof does not fall in at peak. What changes are perceptions,
as people come to realise that the growth of the past becomes the decline
of the future.
· It may herald the
end of the US economic and cultural hegemony - which some people might
think was no bad thing
· Climate concerns recede
· But let us use our
current high oil supply intelligently while it lasts to ease the transition
70 More efficient vehicles
· For example, much
more efficient vehicles have already been designed
· The government should
encourage their use by penalising inefficient vehicles with high tax
· Peak oil is a turning
point for Mankind
· 100 years of easy
· Population peaks too
for not unrelated reasons
· The transition to
decline is a period of great tension
· Priorities shift to
self-sufficiency and sustainability
· It may end up a better