Don't forget: Live Simmons Chat at WaPo

If you want to read Matthew Simmons respond to questions, he's participating in a live chat at the Washington Post at 3pm (ET) today. Post your own feedback to the chat here.

(Liveblogging update) Topics tackled so far:

1. Large oil discoveries in China's Bohai Bay
2. When will Hubbert's Peak occur? (might have already happened)
3. Coal gasification and its environmental impact
4. Who's oil/gas reserve estimates are most accurate? (small oil companies beholden to their creditors)
5. What is the relationship between peak oil and global warming? (GW may be put off if we rapidly decrease oil usage)
6. What does Saudi ARAMCO have to say about you now? (There's an internal directive not to talk about him)
7. Awesome! Simmons and 2 other have responded* to the Yergin piece! They hope it'll be published in the WaPo soon.
8. Why do the Saudis say they can increase production by 12 mbd? (Because they think they can!)
9. How will the new Caspian Sea pipeline affect oil supply? (It won't)
10. Won't newly discovered oil in central Africa and the former Soviet states compensate for the decrease in Middle East oil? (No.)
11. What country is most likely to take up the Saudi shortfall, if any? (Libya, maybe Algeria.)
12. A convoluted question about Saudi King Abdullah. (He may decrease production not out of greediness, but simply to protect his country's only asset for a little longer.)
13. What about deep water drilling? (really expensive, and only at best 1 in 5 wells have any oil)
14. Gimme a short, medium, long term outlook on Natural Gas in North America. (It's bad, dude. We've definitely peaked.)
15. Why do most oil experts seem to ignore the issue of depletion altogether? (most likely because no company has ever produced any data about their decline rates)
16. Who'll be more affected by peak oil: US or Europe? (Europe has a different problem than the US: most transportation of goods is by truck, b/c their waterways are too small and rail is dedicated to transporting people. The US will have a passenger car crisis.)
17. Isn't competition for resources between China/India and US/Europe going to intensify? (Of course, which is why we need to give them a greater share of the remaining oil rather than hoarding it, or else they'll get violent.)
18. If Iraq were peaceful, how much could we expect to see from them? (At best 2-3 mbd, but only after 10-15 years)

The transcript will be available at the same WaPo page when the chat is over.

*Simmons wrote: "I'm one of three co-authors of an op-ed piece that we have just submitted to The Washington Post that hopefully will get published. What the three of us collectively feel is that it is a very unrealistic assesment, it is not a detailed, bottom up field by field, they ignore by and large depletion issues, and it's based on an enormous belief that technology and enthusiasm and urgency will create new oil supplies. That is precisely the same logic that CERA used very loudly in 2001 and 2002 to dispute the critics views that natural gas in North America was running into trouble. And it took less than 24 months after they had dismissed any problems in natural gas before they made a discovery that we had a natural gas crisis. I think what they're doing being as casual on future oil supplies, let alone predicting we're headed toward another oil glut, is doing the world a great disservice."

I already sent in my question...have you?


Grad Student Believes Wood May Replace Oil

The process -- in which sawdust and methanol are heated to 900 degrees Fahrenheit to create the bio-oil -- is already drawing some interest from energy and wood product companies, Soria said.

Though the idea may sound far-fetched, Soria and McDonald say the theory has precedent in nature -- coal is the result of trees being subjected to high amounts of heat and pressure.

"We're trying to speed up the process," McDonald said. "Rather than doing it in millions of years, can we do it in minutes?"

Still, he said, the bio-oil isn't likely to be an immediate competitor to crude oil. Crude oil currently costs about $60 a barrel, and bio-oil will only be competitive when the cost of crude oil reaches $80 a barrel, Soria said.

that will be an op-ed I look forward to seeing...

Easter Island here we come.
Let us turn all our swords into chainsaws and cut them trees.

Interesting. I'd never heard about the Europe vs. US difference before (#16).

And #17 is also fascinating. He already delivers a message most people don't want to hear, so to say that we should play nice and give China and India a big chunk of the remaining reserves is not going to go over well.

A few months ago during an online discussion about oil prices with one of their economics columnists, Pearlstein, I politely stated that he and his colleagues at the Post where completely missing the real story: peak oil.

He answered the question with the usual nonsense about technology saving us, but I have to wonder if that small prod played any role....nahhhh... ; )

I liked the answer on oil depletion, especially in light of the fact that "they [CERA] ignore by and large depletion issues".

First, I'm worried that the real current average daily decline rate is probably more like 8-10% per annum, which makes the problem far more of a challenge. The only thing I can imagine as to why so many "oil experts" seem to ignore depletion is that no company has ever produced any data about their decline rates. Economists tend to believe that good things happen for good causes and because energy is so important, if there is a need for energy we will just find more energy. There is also a wide body of optimists that believe that modern oil field technology has effectively defeated depletion. And I know that modern oil field technology has created far higher decline rates than we ever had the ability to do before this technology. Then there is a final belief that a host of new unnamed technologies will make it even easier to offset depletion, but no one has any idea what the unnamed technologies are and there aren't any being worked on that have any significance. All the technologies that have gotten so much attention in the past decade took 30 years to invent, commercialize, and introduce around the world. And the new technology blackboard is bare today.

Given our latest discussion threads, this is right on the money.

I was puzzled by No 5. I would think that burning coal (and wood) will be the obvious response to a shortage of oil and gas. Burning coal has to be even worse for GW than burning oil.

Re: CERA Natural Gas Forecasts

Simmons said CERA was off the mark with their gas forecasts in the 2000/2001 period. Here's what I've found so far. From a speech in 2000 by Richard D. Farman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sempra Energy:

There will be some trying times ahead. In fact, I have to agree with the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, or CERA, that the natural gas business is in for a pretty wild ride for the next few years. First, the good news. According to CERA, the much-anticipated power wave has begun and could bring with it a 30 trillion cubic feet natural gas market in the United States by 2010.

This is an annual increase over the next decade of 3.1 percent, or 8 trillion cubic feet, over the present use of natural gas – far ahead of the 1.8 percent annual increases posted during the 1990s.

Got that? That was in the year 2000. Now, it is 2005 and a Natural gas crisis looms, study warns:

North America is heading toward an inevitable natural gas crisis that will not end until dozens of liquefied gas plants are built, according to a new study.

U.S.-based Cambridge Energy Research Associates says in the study released at the weekend that even the prospect of new finds in Western Canada will not be enough to head off the looming crunch.

"North America's natural gas supply shortfall -- the clear inability of domestic supply from available lands to keep pace with demand -- will challenge the North American natural gas market for the next several years," the study says.

With CERA, all good things tend to happen by 2010 unless the evidence makes it painfully obvious that they won't.

stepback, I'm tandem-ridin' tree hugging former consultant to the forestry and oil & has industries; just to clear the air, I don't see the oil from wood scenario playing out. If "bio oil" ever has a future it had better be in low impact fast growing species if there is such a thing.

My bottom line is until we talk about conserving resources we've no right inventing new ones to exploit.

On the CO2 front, Energy Bulletin had an article today:

Faster CO2 emissions will overwhelm earth's capacity to absorb carbon - by Robert Sanders

In all, business as usual would lead to a 1.4 degree Celsius, or 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, rise in global temperatures by the year 2050. This estimate is at the low range of projected increases for the 21st century, Fung said, though overall, the model is in line with others predicting large ecosystem changes, especially in the tropics.


"This is not a prediction, but a guideline or indication of what could happen," Fung said. "Climate prediction is a work in progress, but this model tells us that, given the increases in greenhouse gases, the Earth will warm up; and given warming, hot places are likely to be drier, and the land and oceans are going to take in carbon at a slower rate; and therefore, we will see an amplification or acceleration of global warming."

Dave, the CERA folks are off the mark by a wide margin, again. Good work hunting down all this stuff.

Gwyn Morgan, CEO of EnCana, the largest North American producer of Natural Gas (US and Canada), has indicated numerous times that keeping up with demand is going to be extremely challenging. Some would say he's bet the company on it - they've been divesting all their foreign holdings including oil, selling of natural gas storage facilities (demand will be tight all year round - those legacy business units won't have the same value or purpose in the future), etc.

I posted the EU/US question, and while the answer given was good. I was hoping to see his view on how the people would being effected and react (teach me for being vague).

One of the areas i give a lot of my thought to is how the reactions to this coming crisis will be dealt with differently by different regions/countries. I believe we might see some unlikely countries coming forward and 'showing us the way'.

My hope is that Europe will be able to take more of central role in the energy markets of the future to maintain a certain stability and strive to create co-operation.

how do others think Europes approach might differ from that of the US?

M. Watkins --I guess the ultimate, eco-friendly technology will be one where a thin film of nanotech microrogansms absorb sunlight, absorb CO2, and transfer H2 from sea water into the absobed carbon so as to form small chain hydrocarbons. A biotech, oil producing goo that self replicates at a controlled rate.

These things called "leaves" on trees do this to some extent, but not fast enough. ;-)

See the lights at:

Mr. Watkins:  Are you saying we need a carbon-negative energy system?