Encircling the Peak of World Oil Production


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Abstract

The peak of world oil production, followed by an irreversible decline, will be a watershed in human history. The goal of this paper is to predict the world peak. Production data from 42 countries representing 98% of world oil production, are used rather than reserve estimates. We believe the former is a more reliable indicator of the future for most oil-producing regions, with the exception, to some extent, of the OPEC nations which, at times, observe production quotas. In addition, we recognize that regional and global economic cycles occasionally change demand for oil, so production figures are not always a current indication of oil-field potentials. However, for the longer term, production is a useful measure of true oil-field potential. A judgmental factor also is applied based on the structure, stratigraphy, thermal maturity of oil basins, and volumes of sediments in potential oil basins yet to be fully explored. Combining these factors with the oil production numerical data, we have arrived at 2007 for the time of world oil production peak. Alternative fossil fuel sources which might replace conventional oil (defined as oil from wells using only primary and secondary recovery methods) cannot come on stream early enough or in sufficient quantity to significantly affect the peak time. They will merely augment the far end of the world production curve. Our estimates do include recent technological developments in both exploration and production, but these also seem to be a minor factor in establishing the peak. Replacement of oil, to the degree this can be done, by renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, hydro, or tidal require much time and capital to bring on stream in significant quantity, and only limited world progress has been made in these sources. They likewise do not seem to move the peak significantly. We do recognize, however, given all possible variables, it is likely that our date of 2007 may be wrong. The question is how far wrong? We believe it is reasonably close and on-going studies will narrow whatever error exists. Importantly, the peak of oil production will occur within the lifetimes of most people living today.

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