Oil may be running in - not out.
SUNDAY JANUARY 24, 2010
American or British geologists say the world's supply of oil was deposited in horizontal reservoirs near the surface in a process that took millions of years. It is a ‘fossil fuel,’ a biological residue derived from crushed animal and vegetative matter and hence in finite supply. In some cases, according to the theory, huge amounts have been concealed between rock formations in the shallower ocean offshore as in the Gulf of Mexico or North Sea or Gulf of Guinea.
Oil and renewable resource are not words that often appear in the same sentence. Since the economies of entire countries ride on the fundamental notion that oil reserves are exhaustible, any contrary evidence would arguably turn the world view upside down. Is ‘peak oil’ a hoax perpetrated by alarmists and hippies? If oil is not finite then the price should come down, the panic to find alternatives would be over and in the realisation that oil is harmless to the environment the first casualty would be the international banking system, backed up by the cost of the US dollar which in turn is governed by the cost of oil.
No one knows if we are using up something much faster than it was created. Even to say known reserves of ABC will be exhausted by period XYZ at current consumption rates is to deny that new reserves will be discovered during XYZ. But more importantly, we can confidently observe that in nature everything recycles. It is possible but highly improbable that oil is the sole exception. It is more likely that oil is renewable and can be compared to air or underground water.
If we can positively establish that the amount of oil being returned to or remaining in the earth equals or exceeds the amount extracted from it by the number of humans using it then any oil “problem” disappears. The sun's hydrogen is also a finite resource, and at some point in the future our local star is certain to die, and when it does our planet will die with it. But no one lays awake at night worrying over that.
To assess the oil reserves we must estimate the starting number of barrels of oil in the ground and how much we have so far used. We will never know either answer. So why do so many alarmists paint a doom-filled picture?
In fact it seems the evidence is more of oil running in than running out. The Eugene Island c ase is an example. Production at this oil field deep in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana , was supposed to have declined years ago. Following its 1973 discovery, production slowed from 15,000 barrels a day to about 4,000 in 1989. The field is now producing 13,000 barrels a day and probable reserves have rocketed to more than 400 million barrels from 60 million. Scientists studying the field say the crude coming out of the pipe is of a geological age quite different from the oil that gushed 10 years ago. This means Eugene Island is rapidly refilling itself, perhaps from some continuous source miles below the Earth's surface.
It now looks as though the world contains far more recoverable oil than was believed even 20 years ago. The world's greatest oil pool, the Middle East, has more than doubled its reserves in the past 20 years, despite half a century of intense exploitation and relatively few new discoveries. It would take a pretty big pile of dead dinosaurs and prehistoric plants to account for the estimated 660 billion barrels of oil in the region.
Just when we thought we were running out of oil, technology came along to extract oil from shale rocks in the mid west and Canada. Brazil recently went from 17th to the rank of 10th biggest oil producer. China has made 10 major new discoveries this year alone. India is finding energy offshore. Russia is a major producer. Last year Mexico made a huge offshore discovery it has yet to tap and NZ found oil off the southeast coast near Southland. New technologies now recover resources from old wells previously thought tapped out, they can create oil from formerly useless resources, like tar sands, and recover oil and natural gas from previously impossible geography, like the deep blue sea miles beneath the surface.
The somewhat buried reality is that oil may not have come from dinosaurs or forests smashed under rocks. More and more scientists are now coming to a belief that oil is "a-biotic", continuing to be replaced by chemical processes in the crust of the earth. Russia is now the world’s largest oil producer and natural gas producer. The Russians have been saying the fossil-caused oil theory is an unscientific absurdity that is unprovable since the early 1950’s, but the idea is still almost unknown in the West.
To the Russians, oil supply on earth is limited only by the amount of organic hydrocarbon constituents present deep in the earth at the time of the earth’s formation. They claim oil is formed deep in the earth, formed in conditions of very high temperature and very high pressure like that required for diamonds to form. That oil is a biological residue of plant and animal fossil is seen as a hoax designed to perpetuate the myth of limited supply. In the 1980s they went to Vietnam and offered to finance a-biotic drilling costs. The Russian company Petrosov drilled Vietnam ’s White Tiger oilfield offshore into basalt rock some 17,000 feet down and extracted 6,000 barrels a day of oil to feed the energy-starved Vietnam economy.
By the mid-1980’s the USSR emerged as the world’s largest oil producer. To have produced the amount of oil to date that Saudi Arabia ’s 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, an absurdity. Meanwhile, Western geologists do not bother to offer hard scientific proof of fossil origins. They merely assert it as a holy truth.
The 2003 arrest of Russian Mikhail Khodorkovsky, of Yukos Oil, took place just before he could sell a dominant stake in Yukos to ExxonMobil after Khodorkovsky had a private meeting with Dick Cheney. Had Exxon got the stake they would have gotten control of the world’s largest resource of geologists and engineers trained in the a-biotic techniques of deep drilling. Why then the high-risk war to control Iraq ? For a century US and allied Western oil giants have controlled world oil via control of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or Nigeria .
Today, as many giant fields are declining, the companies see the state-controlled oilfields of Iraq and Iran as the largest remaining base of cheap, easy oil. With the huge demand for oil from China and now India , some say it becomes a geopolitical imperative for the United States to take direct, military control of those Middle East reserves as fast as possible. Vice President Dick Cheney came to his job from Halliburton Corp., the world’s largest oil geophysical services company.
There is no hard evidence of a lack of crude oil in the world. Global oil use = 31.5 billion barrels per year. One barrel oil = 42 U.S. gallons. One cubic foot = 7.48 U.S. gallons. One cubic mile = 147.2 billion cubic feet. So the volume of oil consumed by mankind annually = (31.5 x 42) / (7.48 x 147.2) = 1.2 cubic miles of oil per year. The volume of the earth is 260,000 million cubic miles. If by volume a millionth of the interior of the earth contains oil, there is enough to last 260,000 years. But if 1/250,000 of the earth is oil, which is only about the volume of the Mediterranean Sea , and which does not seem at all unreasonable, at the present rate of consumption we can drive our SUVs around for another million years. You read it right, one million years.
Let the alarmists put that in their exhaust pipes and smoke it.
editorial, " Brazil 's Not Peaking," Investor's Business Daily, December 14, 2007. Courtesy: NCPA)
(Wall St Journal 16/4/99)