Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Peak oil is/is not

I want to take a short bit of your time to mention Peak Oil, again.

Peak oil is going to happen. At a certain point we'll discover we're unable to produce as much oil as cheaply.

Peak oil is not, however, reaching a point where we suddenly discover we have no oil. The apocalyptic doomsayers need to get a grip.

Frankly, we're going to know about the peaking of oil production about six months to a year after it actually happens. We're going to notice that the rate at which production increases has come to a crawl, and even flatlined. It'll cost more and more to get each barrel out of the ground as more exotic measures are required - most of which also happen to reduce the quality. But we'll have a year to a decade of more-or-less the same production just costing more and more.

And at a certain point, other methods of petroleum production get feasible. That is, the cost of selling oil is high enough that it gets a profit when 'this technique' is used. This will mean that the flatline will not turn into a decline, and might even turn into a resurgance of climbing production overall. Of course if we are careful we'll see that more and more comes from shale and sand and coal and such. Oh, and alternatives such as biofuels and nukes and sun and wind will gain larger segments as well.

Bottom line - it's not going to be the end of the world, and it's not going to happen overnight. But with the price of oil and oil products tripling (yes, that's my guess) over the space of a handful of years, a lot of things are going to get changed. What's going to replace it? dunno yet, though I've got some things I'm watching.

Life is change. Deal with it.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Prince Hydrajak said...

You are killing me here kirk!

You are smarter than this. Stop using dollars to compare meathods. Use Energy returned on energy invested.

When it takes the 1 unit of energy to get 2 units of energy out the tar sands in Alberta... they might be a winning economic meathod, but in thermo dynamic terms its likely a losing one. (unless your liquid fuel distribution is so effectient you aren't going to lose that extra 1 unit of energy you gained.)

We will be pulling oil out of the ground after EROEI is less than 1. Simply because we need to make things like plastic out of the oil. Doing so may be economical but it sure isn't going to solve our energy problems.

4/04/2006 4:27 PM  
Anonymous Prince Hydrajak said...

You are killing me here kirk!

You are smarter than this. Stop using dollars to compare meathods. Use Energy returned on energy invested.

When it takes the 1 unit of energy to get 2 units of energy out the tar sands in Alberta... they might be a winning economic meathod, but in thermo dynamic terms its likely a losing one. (unless your liquid fuel distribution is so effectient you aren't going to lose that extra 1 unit of energy you gained.)

We will be pulling oil out of the ground after EROEI is less than 1. Simply because we need to make things like plastic out of the oil. Doing so may be economical but it sure isn't going to solve our energy problems.

4/04/2006 4:27 PM  
Blogger Kirk said...

Good point (re sands) - one I'd not considered. On the other hand, the coal-to-oil program is allegedly energy efficient, meaning it's going to produce more energy than it requires to convert. Less than coal has in potential (per mass), but more than it costs.

A point on that, however, is that energy isn't the only thing we pull from oil. There are a lot of other things for which the energy cost is (relatively) immaterial - it just changes how much the end product costs. Plastics and fertilizers are two such items.

4/10/2006 1:39 PM  

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