Peak Oil?

At ASPO’s recent conference in Berlin, companies such as BP and Exxon and men such as Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, began to talk to the proponents of the peak oil theory.

Whilst they may not agree with Dr Campbell’s theories, their attendance highlighted ASPO’s emerging importance in the oil debate.

In public, Mr Birol denied that supply would not be able to meet rising demand, especially from the buoyant economies in the USA, China and India.

But after his speech he seemed to change his tune.

For the time being there is no spare capacity. But we expect demand to increase by the fourth quarter (of the year) by three million barrels a day.

He pinned his hopes for an increase in production squarely on troubled Saudi Arabia.

If Saudi does not increase supply by 3 million barrels a day by the end of the year we will face, how can I say this, it will be very difficult. We will have difficult times. They must invest.

But even Mr Birol admitted that Saudi production was about flat.

Three million extra barrels a day would mean a huge 30% leap in output in just a few months.

When BBC News Online followed up by asking if this giant increase in production was actually possible rather than simply a desire he refused to answer. You are from the press? This is not for you. This is not for the press.

Asking other delegates—admittedly supporters of the peak oil theory—whether such a steep increase was feasible, the answers were unambiguous: absolutely out of the question, completely impossible, and 3 million barrels—never, not even 300,000.

One delegate laughed so hard he had to support himself on a table.

Some recent figures tend to back up ASPO’s outlook.

North Sea production is declining at an increasing rate, having peaked in 1999.

Not at the predicted flat rate of decline of 7%, but gradually accelerating from 7% to 8.5% to 11%.

And the number of major new oil fields discovered around the world fell to zero for the first time in 2003, despite an obvious increase in technological expertise.


The Guardian takes up the story today:

The world’s problem is as follows. We now consume six barrels of oil for every new barrel we discover. Major oil finds (of over 500m barrels) peaked in 1964. In 2000, there were 13 such discoveries, in 2001 six, in 2002 two and in 2003 none. Three major new projects will come onstream in 2007 and three in 2008. For the following years, none have yet been scheduled.