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Peak Oil: The beginning of the end of Oil

Peak Oil: The beginning of the end of Oil

Oil is a non-renewable natural resource, i.e. it is not regenerated as fast as it is consumed. As a result, oil reserves will finish sooner or later. Have you ever wondered how much oil is left? When is it going to run out? During the past few decades some oil industry experts have asked themselves the same questions and they have tried to forecast when the beginning of the end is going to happen: Peak Oil.

What is Peak Oil?

Peak Oil is the moment when the maximum world oil production rate is reached. After the peak, the production rate starts to decrease.

What would be the consequences of Peak Oil?

Nowadays we strongly depend on the use of oil. Around 30% of the energy produced worldwide is generated by oil and oil demand increases every year. Until now, it has always been possible to increase oil production in order to satisfy demand. Consider that oil demand continues growing year by year and we reach the maximum possible production rate. The consequences would be pretty serious: huge increase in oil price, lack of supply, etc. Some experts like Colin J. Campbell think that it could even lead to another world economic crisis.

Is it possible to know when it is going to happen? How could it be forecasted?

Marion King Hubbert, an expert geologist, developed a mathematical model which enabled him to forecast the oil production rates in an oil field. By using this model, he was able to accurately predict that the USA oil production would peak in 1970 and that it would quickly decrease after the peak. Bearing in mind this precedent, it seems reasonable to think that Hubbert’s model could be used to forecast when global Peak oil is going to happen.

Hubbert’s Curve: Production Rate

When is it going to happen?

Different forecasts based on Hubbert’s model say that Peak Oil will happen before 2020. These predictions are considered to be “pessimistic” by the scientific community. Despite the validity of Hubbert’s model to predict the production peak of different countries such as the USA, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) think that forecasting the global Peak oil is a more complex problem. According to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2010, the accomplishment of the energy efficiency and energy diversification policies could prevent the disaster. A more efficient use of oil and the development of other energy resources could lead to a progressive decrease in oil consumption. In that case, the decrease in demand would cause the Peak Oil, i.e. that peak would not be caused by a limit in the production rate but by the fact that an increase in the production rate is not necessary.

Conclusions

Peak oil is impossible to avoid because the available amount of oil is limited. A decrease in oil demand due to a more efficient use of it and the development of alternatives would make possible a controlled decrease in production. However, if the unaccomplishment of the new energy policies leads to a progressive increase in demand, Peak Oil could have disastrous consequences.

More information| ASPOIEAWorld Energy Outlook 2010The Guardian: Peak OilCrisis Energética

Picture| Oil WellHubbert’s Curve

  • Pjtrujillo

    Maybe then its the moment to invest in oil because the price at some point will not stop increasing, isnt it?

    Interested? Check this article where it explains how to do it http://welearntoday.com/do-you-know-how-to-invest-in-oil/

  • Adam

    Man kind is well known for its possibility to adapt different situations, so I believe that maybe it will painfull change, but we will adapt.

    The biggest problem is money, but in different way that you probably think. There are some pretty interesting research on alternative energy resources going on in the world, but almost everyone are hidden from public. It has many reasons. For example, if would be resealed car which is powered from water what would happen? Water is sooooo cheap, every body would want this car and oil consumption would go down. And who would not benefit from this change? Oil companies… And they have sooooooooo much money, so what they will do? Buy that project and put it down…
    It’s just one example… I don’t know if happen something like this, but I’m not optimistic in this way, so I think so. 

  • Manuel

    What happen about The Climate Change ?.

Author Spotlight

Sergio de la Torre

Current Position:

Engineer at BPP-TECH. London, United Kingdom.

Associate Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

Education:

Mechanical Engineer. Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros, University of Sevilla, Spain.

MSc in Advanced Mechanical Engineering. Cranfield University, United Kingdom.

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