Peak-Oil Limits Horizons


“Peak Oil” [Hubbert (1903-89)] predicted US domestic oil extraction would ‘peak’ by 1970. Oil extraction did peak in 1970, and attempts at predictions for world production were made. But Hubbert left out a few things.


“Peak Oil” did not take into account new finds, new drilling techniques, different sources of oil, or different types of oil (abiotic, oil shale, etc…). Hubbert also didn’t figure new sources of energy like nuclear fission and/or fusion. In fact, all estimates of biogenic oil sources came from antiquated extraction methods and no new large finds. The theory of “Peak Oil” actually leaves out all of the massive oil shale deposits, tar sands and extra heavy oil.


New finds such as the 33 billion barrel find by Petrobas off the coast of Brazil, the Dnieper-Donets Basin in Russia (sixty-one wells drilled—almost 60% success rate), emerging oil-rich regions such as Iraq (by 2040 production rivaling Saudi Arabia),  Exxon/Mobil’s (investment of more than $60 billion before 2010) plans on pumping hydrocarbons to at least 20 more locations, and extensive drilling in the Canadian Arctic by Dome Petroleum and Petro Canada reveal billions of gallons available (WSJ).


OPEC countries such as UAE, Dubai, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela have all had suspicious increases of reserves in the 80’s and 90’s (Colin Campbell/Sun World). The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has stated that there is 1.4 trillion barrels of known unused reserves of oil worldwide. EIA statistics shows that the US alone has 152 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil, enough to last over 50 years with the world’s current rate (85 mbbl/day) of consumption.


Drilling for oil is hampered by many things. Shipment of the oil in Arctic waters is vulnerable to Arctic ice. ANWR and the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) have not been drilled because of environmental laws. Various air pollution reduction plans mandate (US) refiners produce more than 45 blends, and the lack of refining capacity in the US (due to regulations) are a major choke point. Increased gasoline taxes have also resulted in a dampening effect. It’s past time for government to get out of the way.


But enhanced drilling techniques such as 3D seismic imaging; radar; chemical reduction of oil viscosity in pipelines; and ability to drill horizontal, ultra-deep, and through hard rock formations, didn’t exist 30 years ago. With classified technology, oil can be produced almost anywhere on earth.


Abqaiq and Ghawar, two of the biggest oil fields of Saudi Arabia, are beginning to recover two out of three barrels underground due to modern oil extraction techniques (Nansen Saleri/WSJ/CEO Quantum Reservoir Impact). Unfolding technologies will likely double recovery efficiencies (Saleri). Even a 10% increase will result in 140 additional billion barrels of oil—an extra 50 year supply at current consumption rates. 


Evidence seems to be supporting the abiogenic theory. It states that petroleum is formed from non-biological sources of hydrocarbons located deep within the earth’s crust. With methane being the primary precursor, under the right conditions it can become a non-biological source of oil.


Oil is being found at 30,000 feet, which is far below the depth of 18,000 where organic matter disappears. In all excavated oil, biomarkers exist. Carbon-13 is the isotope scientists associate with abiotic origin, while carbon-12 is usually with biotic (Corsi/WorldNetDaily).


Hydrocarbon deposits have been found where biogenic production is not feasible, or where sedimentary strata location is directly above fractures in the basement below. The above is evidenced by Ghawar (Saudi Arabia), White Tiger field (Vietnam), Eugene Island 330 (Louisiana), Panhandle Field (Kansas), Tengiz Field (Kazakhstan), and many others in California, Western Venezuela, and Morocco.


Ultra-deep wells, some deeper than 40,000 feet (Kola SG-3), have been drilled in Russia. With this advanced technology, Russia has rivaled Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest single oil producer. Dr. J. F. Kenney, who helped develop the huge Dnieper-Donets Basin, said “Alone to have produced the amount of oil to date that Ghawar Field has produced would have required a cube of fossilized dinosaur detritus, assuming 100% conversion efficiency, measuring 19 miles deep, wide and high.” In short, very unlikely.


Energy from nuclear fission has been thwarted by environmental legislation. The nuclear fusion (ITER) location in Cadarache (France) is due to start up in 2020. a commercial reactor will likely be online by 2050. Of course, shortly thereafter, we may find cars as in the movie “Back to the Future” being supplied with items such as old banana peels used to make energy for propulsion.


It was just revealed the US exported 1.8 million barrels/day of refined petroleum in February so far (Reuters/Energy Department). This represents 10% of total US refining capacity of 17.6 million barrels/day. Maybe the old administration understood oil availability is not the problem—it is environmental regulations.


Kevin Roeten can be reached at [email protected]