October 14, 2010 at 4:01 am #253416
I have never heard the expression before. Where can I look for some info on what it actually menas. I’m reading lots of posts here related to the subject but can someone fill me in on the basics please?October 14, 2010 at 5:11 am #479987
Oh man where do I start…..
Try The Energy Bulletin Peak Oil Primer for starters.
There are lots of websites out there, some better than others, some just crackpots. Energy Bulletin is a collection of media articles collected from around the world published on respected websites and newspapers/magazines.October 14, 2010 at 7:36 am #479988
You can go in the library and there are authors like Richard Heinberg, Matt Simmons and Mike RUppert, who talks in the film Collapse. I’m sure I have forgotten most of the authors.
There are as well some webpages like the oil drum, peakoil.com and life after the oil crash.
Peak oil happened in 2008 and it is about the Collapse of the modern industrialized civilization. Peak oil is not about leaving your car at home or driving a hybrid one.October 14, 2010 at 8:02 am #479989
The term used to describe the point when worldwide production of conventional crude oil peaks in volume, which is expected to result in an increase in oil prices from a decline in the availability of cheap and easily accessible oil sources. Basically, the world is using up more oil than it is producing.
We saw big price hikes in 2007 as world demand surged. Then the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit and world demand slowed considerably. However oil prices are going up again even though the US economy is still in bad shape. The BP Oil spill this year was in part due to the fact that oil drilling is happening under much more difficult (deep) and risky conditions and more risk equates to a higher price both at the bowser and to the environment.October 15, 2010 at 12:04 am #479990
Thanks everyone.October 15, 2010 at 1:20 am #479991
The analogy is picking cherries from a tree. The first thing you do when picking cherries is pick the easy fruit first, and generally the bigger bunches too. Then once you’ve picked about half the tree things get a bit harder…you have to get a ladder and start climbing, and go to a lot more effort to pick the same amount of fruit, and at the top the fruit might not be that good quality (picked by birds or sunburnt). It takes more effort and longer to pick the same fruit.
With oil the problem is similar. In an individual oil well at first the oil might come out under it’s own pressure, called a gusher. This makes the oil extremely easy to extract as you apply little effort to get the oil out of the ground. Then once the pressure is exhausted there’s still lots of oil in the ground, but you either have to pump it out and/or pump another fluid into another part of the well to force the oil out. This makes the extraction a lot more expensive and takes more time. Eventually production of the well reaches a plateau and then goes into decline until it reaches a point where it is no longer profitable to extract the oil any more. I highlight this point because this is critical in understanding the problem.
There still might be plenty of oil in the ground, but if the price of oil is too low then oil companies can’t make a profit in extracting it.
When you apply the natural depletion of an individual well to all the wells around the globe, then you have a problem. Back to the analogy of the cherry tree; we’ve found all the easy to pick fruit, the super-giant oil fields, the fields on land and in shallow water. A lot of the supergiant fields are declining in production and no new big fields exist to replace them. Smaller, deep water fields are being discovered, but oil price needs to rise significantly in most cases for them to be profitable. The quality in some fields may also be very poor, with heavy crude oil high in bitumen and more difficult and expensive to refine.
Take Canada’s oil sands for an example. They are basically just giant fields of bitumen and sand mixed together, and natural gas is being used to convert water into steam to blast the bitumen out of the ground. Then this bitumen needs to be converted into synthetic diesel. It’s really a complicated method of converting natural gas and bitumen into oil. This process is incredibly expensive, and oil has to be over around $70 per barrel to make a profit. Consider that oil should normally sit around $30/b and you can see how depletion can effect the price of oil.
The oil sands produce around 2 million barrels per day. If that production was taken off the market due to very low prices, demand in oil would force the price up making production in oil sands profitable again.
This see-saw balance in demand and price is going on all the time, but in past history there has always been more than enough oil to supply demand.
Now demand and production have reached parity, and global production has plateaued worldwide even though prices have increased substantially. Oil fields all around the globe are experiencing their own peak. Some very large fields, such as Cantarell off the coast of Mexico, have gone into terminal decline, and it is becoming increasingly hard to find enough oil to replace their lost production.
It is anticipated that around 2012-2015 global production will begin to decline at a consistant rate of around 2-3% per year.
Oil drives economic growth. The solutions proposed to replace oil are only a drop in the ocean compared to anticipated depletion rates. Renewables can’t keep up, and most renewables can’t be converted into liquid fuels that are affordable, practical or safe.
Following the decline in oil production economies will also decline (even worse than they already have been). A depression is inevitable. How bad it gets depends on how governments are able to prepare for this problem. Globalization will also have a big impact, and there are many factors that make the whole issue unpredictable.
However the potential risk for disaster on a monumental global scale cannot be ignored.
Some people make the mistake of referring to peak oil as “running out of oil”. This is an innacurrate definition and a dangerous one because it can be easily argued against. But we don’t have to completely run out of oil to encounter major problems, and although I’m not fond of analogies to descibe scientific realities, I’ll use another one. If you are locked in a room you don’t have to completely run out of oxygen to sufficate. I think you can still survive on about 10% oxygen (as aposed to the norm of 20%), but after that you’re dead. There’s still plenty of oxygen left in the room, just not enough left to live.
Same with oil. There could be trillions of barrels still left in the ground, we just can’t pump it out fast enough or cheap enough to keep the world economy from dying or being able to support 6 billion people on a planet rated at only 1 billion.October 15, 2010 at 3:56 am #479992
*xxxx*…October 15, 2010 at 4:57 am #479993
Yeah, *xxxx* sums things up just nicely.October 15, 2010 at 10:22 am #479994
I am liking this one at the moment:
Crude is a good one to watch, an ABC doco.
Here’s a good blog, Peak Oil Hausfrau.October 30, 2010 at 1:17 pm #479995
Great points from Road Warrior there.
One thing I’d like to add is this term:
EROEI=energy returned on energy invested.
I’ll steal RoadWarrior’s analogy of the cherry tree.
Imagine that for me to pick 10 cherries, I need energy-let’s say the energy that 1 cherry can give me. Now this is for all the low hanging fruit. I just have to reach up and pick them-maybe stretch a little. That means I get a good crop. 9 cherries. Sweet.
Next, I move to the cherries on the slightly higher branches, because I’ve grabbed all the lowest fruit. That means I have to get a chair. This means I need to eat 4 cherries to get 10 cherries. But that’s okay, i still have 6 cherries left.
Move on to the higher branches, uh-oh, I need a ladder. I have to carry the ladder and it’s heavier than the chair, so I need to eat, I don’t know, 8 cherries to get 10 cherries? OK, that means I still have 2 cherries in hand.
(Can you see where I’m going?)
Finally, I want the cherries at the top. I need a damn helicopter. The helicopter eats 10 cherries for me to get 10 cherries…which leaves me with a surplus of… “xxxx and double xxxx”.
At which point I move on to apples. Or like Mad Max, pigxxxx.October 30, 2010 at 9:32 pm #479996
Here’s a good source of information
Sorry, I’m not yet sure how to activate a link in the new forum format.
edited to add: Nice! It does it automatically. Thanks, moderatorsOctober 30, 2010 at 9:53 pm #479997
Hi Dixiebelle-thanks for the great link, there. I loved the animation; my bicycle will keep me going for a while. I like your take that we can put a more loving and optimal approach to the problems that we face. I don’t think that the discovery of oil and its uses was when humanity discovered compassion or community or love for fellow beings and I don’t believe for a second that as a whole we will lose those essential attributes. Pockets of society may-but perhaps they never really had them in abundance, anyway.October 31, 2010 at 2:11 am #479998
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