March 1, 2013
THE MALTHUSIANS NEVER TIRE OF BEING WRONG:
Memories of Peak Oil (Vaclav Smil, February 21, 2013, American)
These are the percentage increases for crude oil extraction between 2001 and 2011: global production was up by 10.8 percent, and Saudi Arabia's output was 20 percent larger. So much for any imminent collapse of the country's supergiant oilfields, a claim that made Matthew Simmons a temporary celebrity. Russia's production was 47 percent higher, but that large rise reflects the recovery from a prolonged post-1991 extraction dip caused by the economic problems of post-Soviet Russia. Much more impressive gains were achieved by two former Soviet republics: Kazakh oil output doubled in the 10 year period, and Azeri oil production tripled!Total output in the Middle East in the decade after 2001 -- despite continued politically induced underperformance of the oil industry in Iraq and production problems and trade sanctions affecting Iran -- rose by 17 percent. High flyers in other regions included Canada (output was up 37 percent, nearly all of it due to the rising recovery from Alberta's oil-bearing sands), Colombia (up 49 percent), Brazil (up 63 percent), and Angola (2.3 times higher in 2011 than in 2001).But the most remarkable story has been unfolding in the United States, where horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (commonly referred to as fracking, pioneered on a large commercial scale by natural gas producers) have been rapidly adopted by oil drillers and have led to a remarkable turnaround in U.S. crude oil extraction. Until 2008, the country's crude oil production kept following its long-established gradual decline (the output peaked in 1970 at 533.5 Mt), and between 2001 and 2008 it dropped by nearly 13 percent, from 349.2 Mt to 304.9 Mt.The reversal has been impressive: from 2008 to 2011, extraction rose by nearly 50 Mt to just over 352 Mt, a level last seen in the year 2000; the increase over those three years was more than the total 2011 output of such oil powers as Indonesia or Azerbaijan. North Dakota (Bakken shale) has been the principal locus of this production renaissance. At the beginning of the year 2000 there were fewer than 200 oil wells producing from the Bakken deposits, averaging about 10 barrels a day per well; by October 2012, there were nearly 4,800 wells with average daily flow of about 140 barrels of oil per well. North Dakota's oil output was 37 percent ahead of Alaska's North Slope extraction and behind only Texas and the offshore production in the Gulf of Mexico.A forecast by the U.S. Department of Energy sees a possible production increase of as much as 140 Mt/year by 2025, and the most recent review by the International Energy Agency (IEA) even sees the United States as the world's largest crude oil producer as early as 2017.
Posted by Orrin Judd at March 1, 2013 6:26 PM