Peak Oil – the jury is still out


(© TebNad  Fotolia)

It was reported on the Guardian newspaper yesterday that BP had discovered a new giant oilfield in the Gulf of Mexico ('Big BP discovery refuels debate over 'peak oil', Terry Macalister, The Guardian, Thursday 3rd September 2009). The oil major has apparently found a new giant reserve, named the 'Tiber' field, with a possible capacity matching the 'Forties' in the North Sea, the latter having a capacity of around 4bn barrels. This significant find comes on the back of another reported discovery in Iran, a field with a possible capacity of 8.8bn barrels. Oil analysts have stated that the find in the Gulf is significant. Peak Oil sceptics have also suggested that this is evidence of the fact that the theory is flawed.

This should, of course, be welcomed as good news (unless of course, you're an ardent Green). However, does this really put paid to the Peak Oil debate? I'm not so sure. The article goes on to quote Jeremy Legget, chairman of Solarcentury and a peak energy analyst. He points out that the IEA stated in their 2008 report that "the world needed to find six new Saudi Arabias to meet the growing demand for oil in the future" (Jeremy Legget/Terry Macalister, The Guardian, ibid). In terms of matching the super giants which are still operational in Saudi, this new oilfield seems a little small in comparison. The question which also arises is whether these finds are also going to be enough to still satisfy the world's ever increasing demand for oil. Sure enough, demand had dropped off during the recession, but apparently we are now in the process of entering a recovery, which suggests that demand is likely to go back up again. This is accentuated even further by the emergence of the Newly Industrialised Countries such as Indian and China, aside from the West.

Then, of course, there are the issues of how much of the oil reserve in this new discovery and others like it are proven (i.e. the capacity can be actually ascertained) or probable. The lead time for these new fields coming on-line can also be very long. The article quotes the example of the Kashagan field in the Caspian Sea. This was discovered in 2000 and was supposed to come on-line in 2005. The new projected start-up date is now 2013. This links in with the issues of under-investment, an issue that has been plaguing the oil industry for a number of years, which in itself could lead to an energy crunch in a few years time, a possibility discussed in a Chatham House paper last year.

So the jury is still out, then? Personally, I hope that Peak Oil claims are wrong and that oil production remains sustainable for the time being, at least until another viable energy source can be obtained. Still, this won't discourage me from writing 'Dragon Line'. After all, it's only meant to be fiction!

If you want to judge the arguments for yourself, follow the link to the full article below. Also included are Jeremy Legget and Ruth Sunderland's responses to the news of the discoveries in The Guardian, which are interesting:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/sep/02/bp-oil-find-gulf-of-mexico

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/sep/03/peak-oil-energy

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/sep/02/bp-oil-discovery-comment

Until the next time………..

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About Owen Law

My pen-name is ‘Owen Law’ (real name: Nicholas Davies.) I’m a science fiction writer specialising in dystopian/apocalyptic visions of the future. I’m from Shropshire, England (on the borders with Wales) and I’m in my forties. I have a background in public services and training. I’ve been working on my first novel, Dragon Line, since 2008. I’ve also written several short stories, one of which you can find on this blog (‘Matilda Leviathan‘). I now reside on the border of Shropshire and Wales, and my interests include writing (of course!), current affairs and environmental issues.
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