September is a jubilee month for the oil industry. Successively, companies announced the discovery of new deposits. Does the oil never go out?
BP started byannouncing the discovery of a deposit called “Tiber” at 1250 meters in the Gulf of Mexico. It contains four billion barrels of crude oil (1 barrel – equivalent to 159 liters). Three years ago, the British corporation had tracked down a smaller field in the same formation, probably containing three billion barrels.
Similar news came from Brazil. There, exploration companies put forward a new estimate for the Guara oil field, discovered in 2006, located five kilometers down the coast of the Santos Basin, 310 kilometers off the coast of the South American state. Instead of a billion barrels, it could contain twice the amount of crude oil, production should start in 2012. Other finds can be found in Uganda, off the coast of the West African state of Sierra Leone and in West Greenland. But these are all quite small. The Ugandan deposit called Ngassa 2 could contain about 600 million barrels. By contrast, the title “huge” may claim another new field in Iran: Experts estimate it to be 8.8 billion barrels.
The findings rekindled an old debate: how long do the world’s oil reserves last? The scholars argue about that.
Peak Oil evangelists and convinced opponents of the theory
Some believe that world oil production has already exceeded the maximum production and will sink in the future. The fact that this point was reached in 2006, when the producers extracted 81 million barrels a day from the earth, says a study presented last year by the Energy Watch Group (EWG) based in Ottobrunn near Munich. Since then, production has dropped, and by 2020 it is expected to be just 58 million barrels. “By 2030, world oil production could halve. Because of the increasing consumption in the few remaining oil-exporting states themselves, this means that the quantities of oil available on the world market will decrease even faster than the production, “said study co-author Werner Zittel. The EnglishGeologist Colin Campbell even saw the production peak for conventional crude oil reached in 2005. If we add unconventional sources like oil sands and shales, “peak oil” was according to Campbell 2008. “The record price in that year of nearly $ 150 a barrel was no coincidence,” he says.
Such predictions are based on a calculation method developed by the US geologist Marion King Hubbert back in the 1950s. Thereafter, the development of the promotion of a field can be represented by a bell curve, the maximum is reached when the field was pumped half empty. The fact that Hubbert correctly predicted the decline of oil production in the United States in the early 1970s seemed to confirm his method brilliantly.
By contrast, Christoph Rühl, chief economist at BP, never tires of announcing the opposite. “I see no reason to accept the ‘peak oil’ theory as valid, on a theoretical, scientific or ideological basis … Peak Oil has been prophesied for 150 years. It has never come true, and it will continue to do so in the future, “he said in an interview in 2008. Just like 25 years ago, the confirmed reserves would last for more than 40 years – because in the meantime, new fields have been discovered and, above all, because technology has made so much progress. Previously, the feed pumps brought only 30 to 40 percent of the oil from some deposits, now it is 50 to 60 percent.
Industry services indicate that 70 so-called “elephants” were discovered between 2000 and 2007. Experts call fields of more than 500 million barrels each. In 2007, the “Carioca field” in the sea off the Brazilianstate of Rio de Janeirowith estimated reserves of 33 billion barrels added another “giant”. In total, around 43,000 oil fields are spread over the globe. This seems to confirm a thesis that the US economist Julian Simon established as early as the 1980s: when oil pricesand demand for black goldThis increases the incentive to invest more in new technologies that allow oil to be drilled at greater depths. Because new deposits are always found, one can not predict how long the global reserves will last.