No peak oil yet? The limits of the Hubbert model

The Hubbert model says that, within a reasonably large region, oil production should follow a bell shaped curve. When the model is applied to worldwide oil production, the maximum level of production is called "peak oil." Fat cows and lean cows are commonly seen as the consequence of being on one or the other side of the curve. Peak oil has been often predicted to occur within the first decade of the 21st century, however, up to now, we are not seeing a well defined peak but, rather, a plateau that has been going on from 2004. This article examines the situation and argues that Hubbert's model, as all models, is valid only in some specific conditions. In particular, we may expect the production plateau to keep going as long as the economy can transfer to oil extraction resources from other industrial sectors.

In 1998, Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere published an article in "Scientific American" where they predicted that the worldwide peak for oil production ("peak oil") would occur around 2004-2005. They had based their prediction on data on the available oil resources and on Hubbert's model which assumes a near symmetric, bell shaped curve for oil production. Campbell and Laherrere may have been right, at least as long as we look at the production of "conventional" oil. It may at least be argued that production peaked in 2005, although more time will have to pass before the trend can be assessed with certainty.

Fig 1. World production of conventional oil. Image from "Oilwatch Monthly"

If we consider production of "all liquids," that is if we include such sources of liquid hydrocarbons as natural gas liquids (NGL), biofuels, tar sands and others, it is hard to detect a peak of any kind. Production has been oscillating around an approximately constant - or perhaps slightly increasing - plateau for at least 5 years by now. The most recent data (for instance from "Early warning" ) indicate that production may now have exceeded the record observed in 2008.

Fig. 2 World production of "all liquids." Image from "Oilwatch Monthly"

A few words of caution before going on. First, it is too early to say that the data are not compatible with the Hubbert model since it may take a few years before the peak is clearly detectable in the curve. Second, the data are relative to the volume produced. But a barrel of NGL or of biofuel contains less energy than a barrel of conventional crude oil. So, in terms of energy, production may well be declining even in terms of "all liquids".

Nevertheless, what we are seeing is not what we would expect: we are not seeing a well defined peak, at least for the "all liquids" case. That raises a fundamental question: is the Hubbert model a valid tool for describing the future of oil production worldwide?

We know that the Hubbert model has worked in a number of regional cases, but not in all of them. One of the cases where the model failed is that of natural gas production in the US. Hubbert himself had calculated that it should have peaked around 1973. It did peak when predicted, but it did not significantly decline afterwards. Instead, it oscillated around a plateau and, in recent times, it has exceeded the 1973 peak. A completely different case is that of crude oil in the US, where the post-peak decline is compatible with the Hubbert model. Here is a comparison of the two cases (from EIA ). The scale is reported in terms of equivalent energy in Exajoules (EJ) with one cubic foot of gas equal to 1.1x10E+6 J and one barrel of oil equal to 6.1x10E+9 J.

Fig 3. Production of Natural Gas and Crude Oil in the USA

The different behaviour of the two cases is striking, especially considering that we are looking at data coming from the same geographical region, the same economic, political and legal conditions. So, why this difference? We may have a crucial point, here: if world oil production will behave like crude oil in the US, it will soon decline. If, instead, it will behave like natural gas in the US, it might keep going at the present levels for a long time, perhaps decades. Then, the point is to understand what causes the difference. That, in turn, depends on the validity of the assumptions at the basis of Hubbert's model.

An interpretation of the Hubbert model is described in a post of mine that I titled Mind Sized Hubbert ." According to this view, the model is based on the concept of Energy Return for Energy Invested (EROEI). Oil is a form of energy, but extracting oil also requires energy; the EROEI is the ratio of these two energies. The core of the model lies in the assumption that the extractive industry reinvests an approximately constant fraction of the energy it produces into new extraction facilities. In this way, it can grow exponentially, at least for a while. However, the industry tends to extract first the, "easy", high EROEI, resources. With time, it must move to progressively more difficult (lower EROEI) resources. With less energy available for extraction, the growth of production slows down. Eventually, production peaks and then declines. If these considerations are set in mathematical form, the result is the bell shaped curve (see this article in "Energies" ).

An equivalent way to see this effect is in considering monetary costs. A lower EROEI means higher costs of extraction. As a consequence, profits go down and that reduces the capability of the industry to invest in new resources. Alternatively, the industry may attempt to increase prices in order to keep profits constant. But higher prices reduce demand and, as a consequence, production goes down - it is again the Hubbert curve.

This is a simplified view of the Hubbert model that sees it as an isolated subsection of the whole economy. However, that is an approximation, of course. The economy is more complex than that and the response of demand to price increases depends on a property that economist call "elasticity." Normally, higher prices reduce demand, but a commodity may be so crucially needed that demand remains high even for high prices. In this case, demand is said to be "inelastic." Crude oil and other fossil fuels are so vitally necessary to the economy that the vagaries of oil prices during the past few years have had only a small effect on the production curve. So, oil is a classic case of inelastic demand (within limits, of course).

The consequence of a nearly stable demand coupled with high prices is that the industry can maintain its profits and keep investing in new production facilities, even of high cost resources. In practice, the extractive sector takes energy and resources from other sectors of the economy and uses it to extract low EROEI resources. In this case, you can't expect to see a bell shaped production curve any longer.

These considerations explain the different behaviour of oil and gas in the US. Both are badly needed commodities for the economy and in both cases demand is basically inelastic. But there is a difference. Oil can be imported from overseas by tanker. Gas, instead, needs to be liquefied at low temperatures and that requires special facilities, it also requires special ships for transporting and more - all that is very expensive.

As a result, after the national peak, in 1971, the cheapest route for the US economy to obtain oil was to import it from overseas and, hence, there was no need of an effort to develop high cost resources within the national borders. Oil consumption did not decrease but imports grew gradually and today account for almost twice as much as the national production.

The opposite holds for natural gas, which was very expensive to import. As a consequence, it made sense to invest into developing new domestic resources, even expensive ones. That has been going on from 1973, the peak date for gas in the US. The last round of the process is the recent trend of exploiting the so called "fracture gas". The technology is not new, but it is being used now because all other sources are declining. And if it is used only now, it means that it is more expensive. But the US economy needs gas and - so far - it is willing to invest as much as needed in order to obtain it. As a result, the US domestic production of natural gas remains today almost ten times larger than imports.

We see in the following figure the behaviour of gas prices in the US. The data are from EIA and are corrected for inflation using the data reported in usinflationcalculator .

Fig 4. Gas prices in the US

The price increase of natural gas after the 1973 peak may have been sufficient to maintain production at nearly constant levels. Note, however that higher prices were not sufficient for maintaining the rapid rise in production that had been the rule before the 1973 peak. The best that it was possible to do was to keep it approximately stable. Note also that prices have been rising at a rate that might be seen as exponential. If that is what is needed to stimulate production, how long can it last before gas prices become so high that many people can't afford to pay them? Inelastic cannot be forever.

Now, let's see if we can apply these considerations to the case of crude oil worldwide. Oil EROEI has been plummeting in the past decades, as we can see in this well known graph by Cutler Cleveland, reported on The Oil Drum by David Murphy

Fig 5. Crude Oil EROEI in the US.

So, the Hubbert model tells us that progressively lower EROEIs should cause a decline in production. However, we badly need liquid fuels and, since we cannot import fuels from another planet, we can only invest money and energy into extracting it from low EROEI resources. That is what the industry is doing, stimulated by higher prices. Here are, for instance, some recent data about tar sands, from Early Warning . Production of liquids from tar sands is nothing new, but it is starting to play an important role in oil availability.

Fig 6. World production of liquid fuels from tar sands.

Something similar is happening with biofuels, which have been growing rapidly (data from Koppelaar's OilWatch Monthly )

Fig 7. World production of biofuels (the vertical scale is in million barrels per day)

Note also that even the US domestic production of crude oil seems to be deviating from the Hubbert curve in recent times; it is - again - an effect of rising prices that have spurred new investments in extraction facilities.

So, the world's economy is diverting resources in various forms to oil extraction in order to keep the vital supply of liquid fuels to the world. But that comes at a cost. Energy and resources needed to keep on producing from low EROEI sources must come from somewhere: some other sector of the world's economy must do without them. In other words, the net total energy available to the economy does not increase and may actually go down.

Biofuels are an interesting example of this phenomenon. The EROEI of a biofuel such as corn ethanol is low, around the value of one or little more. But you can use energy from coal to make ethanol from corn and, doing so, you are effectively transforming coal into a liquid fuel. But coal used in this way is not available to the economy for other purposes - the net energy available to society does not increase. This kind of phenomenon occurs also for other resources and the reduced availability of energy is a possible explanation for the world's economic troubles of recent times.

So, what is it going to happen in the future? We are moving, here, towards a completely uncharted territory. It has never happened in modern history that a crucial non-renewable commodity has been exploited to the "peaking point" worldwide, as it is happening now for fossil fuels. Surely, the mechanisms of the economy will try to maintain the production levels of a commodity which is indispensable for our society: liquid fuels. For this purpose, resources will continue to be removed from other sectors of the economy, from coal for instance, and used for boosting production of liquid fuels. That will go on as long as possible - but not forever: the economy is not infinitely large and the resources available are finite. We cannot say exactly when but, at some point, the production of liquid fuels will have to start declining. We cannot say with certainty which shape the decline will take, but some models such as those of The Limits to Growth that take into account the whole economy indicate that decline might be abrupt.

If you expect a model - any model - to be able to predict the future you are going to be sorely disappointed. The Hubbert model is no exception, but many models can tell you enough about the future that you may prepare for it. It doesn't matter if models are approximate and in some cases don't even work; it is the way one uses them that makes the difference. A feather falling in air does not mean that Newton's law of gravitation is wrong. It only shows that you must use the model understanding its limits. The same is true for Hubbert's model: the case of natural gas in the US doesn't mean that the model is wrong. It only shows that you must understand its limits. If you do, the Hubbert model can tell us a lot about what is happening and about the reasons for the troubles we are having. And that should tell us something about where we are heading to; there is still some time, not much, to get prepared.


A good historical account of the career and of the work of Marion King Hubbert can be found at this page by Ron Swenson

The March 1998 paper on Scientific American by Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere can be found at this link on ""

The paper by Ugo Bardi and Alessandro Lavacchi that describes the "mind sized" interpretation of Hubbert's model can be downloaded at this link at mdpi

About the EROEI of biofuels, there is a classic paper by Patzek and Pimentel . It has been contested many times, but the basic idea that corn based ethanol has a very low EROEI seems to remain valid.

A discussion of the concept of elasticity in economics can be found in this paper by Ron Cooke.

About the evolution of the ratio of net and gross energy available to society, see this document by Charles Hall

A description of the relation between "peak oil" and "The Limits to Growth" studies can be found in this post by Ugo Bardi

This kind of phenomenon occurs also for other resources and the reduced availability of energy is a possible explanation for the world's economic troubles of recent times.

I dont think it is valid to lump liquid fuels together with all energy. There are no immediate limitations to generating electrical energy, for either coal, nuclear or renewable resources. The problem for transportation is the present need for liquid fuels but with the exception of air transportation, most liquid fuels can be replaced by electricity, or coal or CNG. Its the time needed to make this transition not the absolute availability of energy that is going to be the issue once we have a more rapid decline in oil( and other liquid fuels).

I don't think it is valid to lump liquid fuels together with all energy.

Too true. To use units of volume like barrels and to combine fuels which contain different amounts of energy is to misrepresent what the volume can be used for. Those graphs of "volume total liquids over time" are showing exactly what in terms of energy when the parts of the volume which contain NGL have, say, 65% of the energy that the parts of the volume of oil they are being combined with?

Could you imagine a chart showing copper and lead production together with copper dwindling and lead increasing faster somehow being used to demonstrate that there's still increasing amount of copper being produced?

That's the issue I was trying to raise last week. Can someone with the know how show the projected production based on NET ENERGY. I would think it would affect the curve quite a bit.

Yes, I would like to see more fine grained data on what is included even under "crude oil" in figure 1.

I am betting that a lot of the stuff that is keeping it on the 'plateau' is unconventional, tar sands, deep water, and very heavy and sour stuff--all of which take considerably more energy and economic and environmentaly cost to produce and refine.

(And, by the way, does anyone have an up-dated version of that graph? Rembrandt?)

I'll bet that Rockman has a good idea about the difference in cost, both in energy and dollars, between offshore and land based oil extraction. My wild, unqualified, guess is that the difference isn't very significant to the price at the pump.

JJ – You lose the bet…pay up. LOL. I can’t give an answer in net energy. We just don’t think in those terms in the oil patch. At least not directly…our primary metrics are measured in dollars. Offshore vs. onshore LOE (lease operating expense) - Offshore LOE is much higher than onshore. OTOH offshore production is typically much higher so LOE per bbl/mcf doesn’t tend to look too bad. OTOH a lot of energy is used to abandon an offshore platform compared to plugging an onshore well. So convoluted I don’t think I would even offer a rough guess.

US oil production has two primary arenas: new DW production from the GOM that start at very high rates but decline to non-economic levels within 5 to 8 years. And very mature old onshore fields that typically have been undergoing EOR for decades and have rather slow decline rates and will hang on for many more years. But the LOE per bbl/mcf for these old fields is typically higher than the DW fields.

As difficult it is to make a generalization about US production we have a much more detailed data base to work with compared to the rest of the globe. As far as the price at the pump remember that oil isn’t priced based upon what it cost to drill or produce that well. It sells for what the market will bear. A bbl of oil from a high net energy cost will sell for the same price as a low net energy cost well. Of course what new wells get drilled, what EOR projects are implemented and what production is maintained will depend on cost factors at the time those decisions are made.

There you go: I’m sure my explanation is as clear as drilling mud. LOL.


Can the dollar and energy costs be equated somehow?

Using a few approximations;

Oil accounts for 35% of the primary energy powering society.

If oil extraction had an EROEI of 1 then it would consume 35% gdp. Based on todays Global gdp numbers this would equate to a barrel cost of $580.

So can the barrel cost of extraction be equated to an EROEI by dividing it into 580. E.g. if DW oil extraction requires $70 to be profiatable then the EROEI for DW is 580/70 = 8.2.

Just a top-of-the-head thought, criticisms/comments welcome!


Not really because dollars can be borrowed from the future and spent today. The net energy eventually available to pay of the loan occurs sometime later on in the future.

Even if a company in the oil patch runs a tight ship and only uses savings to fund investment that does not prevent their customers from borrowing to buy the product.

If EROEI is constant or increasing no big deal borrowing is unlikely to be impacted. I.e its simply funding the needed expansion.
However if EROEI is declining then borrowing will eventually be a real problem.

I think if you want to link money and EROEI then the linkage is through debt not money. If debt is expanding or defaulting at a high rate and you have reasonable data showing EROEI is falling the EROEI is one part of the problem with paying back debts.

Clearly a lot of other factors are at play but many of these can ultimately be traced back to EROEI problems.

For example China's willingness to exploit its vast coal reserves with little control introduced a cheap relatively high EROEI resource this allowed them to expand. Nations like the US that where unwilling or unable to match China showed rising debt loads.
EROEI and costs clearly play a role in the expanding debt. Thus the US clearly did not have any decent EROEI resources left to balance the trade between the two. This includes all kinds of low energy technical/service related possibilities. In short no low energy intensive route was possible.

I think its much easier to see when you consider relationships between countries that have bountiful cheap energy and those that don't. The debt is highly correlated with the lack of high EROEI resources.

And to be brutally honest the US will probably never pay for the energy its used in the last several years either embodied in goods or directly. The people that sold the energy to us will never get any value out of most of their electrons.

One has to imagine even it its too late that energy and goods producers will realize this and consider just what they will except as payment.

watcher - probably to some degree but I'm not sure how I would interpret such analysis. One example: the cost (in energy and $'s) in drilling a deep well. Even though the rig burns diesel (along with all the motor fuel used to transport the equipment to the drill site) overall this represents a rather small amount of cost in $'s. OTOH the daily rig rate tends to be the highest single expense. The next biggest chunk is the cost of the steel casing used in the well. But it took a lot of energy to build the drill rig and the steel that went into it. But that has to be amortized over hundreds if not thousands of wells drilled by the rig. And a lot of energy in making the steel as well as mining the ore needed to make the steel in the first place. But prices for all these parts can vary greatly over time. A rig might lease for $50,000/day right now but could go for $18,000/day two years down the road.

Even the relatively simple act of producing a well is difficult to run the calculation unless you have a lot of details. I.E. - two wells each making 100 bopd. But Well A also makes 10,000 bbls of water /day. So the production cost includes the energy to dispose of that water in an injection well. Well B thus has a much lower lifting cost than Well A. But the oil from Well B has to be trucked 100 miles to the oil buyers tanks: more motor fuel and vehicle costs. Well A's oil is pipelined to the buyer so very little monthly transport costs or energy. But the pipeline moving that oil had to be built with energy expensive steel and then buried by a lot of diesel burning machines.

I think you get the idea. Not that it can't be done (but requires a lot of assumptions) but to what end? Unless one includes a very detailed list of assumptions and calculations it would be difficult to put it all in perspective IMHO. Even just using $'s as a metric it would be difficult.

Lots of variables, thats for sure. Much of what you are dancing around is the embedded energy per unit of production. Nick had a couple decent links to work being done in that field a while back but I can't remember when, seems it was in spring but was that 2009 or 2010 or was it summer?- ) Its complex, compounded and more and there seems to have to be some sort of pratical limit to the number of cycles of the embedding process you go back as well.

Hey, RM:

Responding to the EROEI problem, it looks to me like much more investment capital is being used, and more energy resources as well, in extraction today. Isn't it the case that by going to super permiation, and by expanding production of low EROEI product, while the plateau may be extended, the slope on the downside of the graph is much, much steeper?

Do you know, or do you know anyone who knows, what exactly we should be looking for as an immediate precursor to the crash that is being constructed?

I don't mean to infer that post-peak means no more oil production. In fact, I would expect that for some purposes oil would not need to have a positive EROEI at all, and so there will be activity for a good long time. It just would appear that after the crash, burning it up would not be seen as a worthwhile thing to do.


The thing about low EROEI oil is that there are very large amounts of it available in the world. An example would be the Bakken Shale in North Dakota which has been known about since the 1930's, but hasn't been developed until recently.

Higher prices will pull this low EROEI oil onto the market, but it will be developed very slowly due to capital and labor constraints. So, what you might see is a steep initial decline after the peak (as the big Middle East oil fields go into steep decline), followed by a leveling off of the curve after a few decades (as the non-conventional ones slowly come on stream).

So, both the people who are expecting a sudden crash in production, and the people who are expecting non-conventional resources to prevent a peak from occurring at all are wrong. There will be a broad peak, followed by a steep decline, and then a leveling off of production at a considerably lower rate.

In fact, it will look like the US production curve, only bigger. It took 40 years for US production to drop to half its peak level, and you can expect the global curve to take even longer.

Hey... I just had a bit of an epiphany about the depletion curve... maybe it is nothing... maybe I am just really thinking about EROEI...

In terms of PO, I have always thought in terms of depletion rates of conventional oil overwhelming growth in non-conventional, initially creating a flatter peak/plateau and then a pronounced decline, partly due to 'natural depletion' and partly due economic factors. More or less a HL curve I guess in production.

I never really thought about what it means to use 'cheap' oil to produce 'expensive' oil. As you are at peak this is easy to do. It is BAU effectively with the result of producing oil to give you a nice plateau.

But as the depletion of cheap oil continues and the 'expensive' oil permeates your economy and industry, the viability of using 'expensive' oil to produce 'expensive' oil would have a feedback on itself and become non-viable very quickly? You would get your shocks as expensive oil increased, but once 'expensive' oil had sufficiently saturated the economy you would get a tipping point.

So I guess I am saying that perhaps BAU at the peak can create a plateau in oil production because oil is still relatively cheap, but would eventually expensive oil will choke the life out of the economy/industry/our ability to produce more expensive oil and oil production goes off a cliff.

Which is different (by my understanding) of the effect of depleting wells in the past. In the past as wells depleted, the curve was determined by technology and geology because production was being 'subsidised' by cheap oil being imported into the economy from elsewhere, and so you might get a long fat tail, gentle curve from that well/region - whatever. But this time there will be no subsidies.

Meh. Now that I have written it I am not sure of it's value... I'll post it in the hope that it has value... Be gentle :)

Those are definitely intriguing thoughts.

One of the problems in maintaining a plateau whereby they simply increase the extraction rate is that the oil producers will quickly run out of ways to accomplish that. Then the creative, market-driven solutions will rise to the surface. Your idea is as good as any and if it hasn't been thought of before, I wish I had.

I would file it as an interim or transitory substitutability regime.

This might have some basis as Goodhart's Law. The idea of putting incentives in place to use expensive alternatives has the perverse result of the market corrupting the intent. The great AzimuthProject website has an example of how this can come about:

From the page at

In terms of Goodhart’s law, there was initially the statistic of response time which was a very good indicator of quality. When it was used to attempt to control the quality (by rewarding that criterion), those being controlled took actions which caused response time to become a very unreliable statistic.

The idea of a 'unreliable statistic' is used a lot in public discussion of public phenomena. But a statistic is merely a mathematical function that is intended to be evaluated on a body of data. It always has a clear mathematical definition as to how it should be evaluated, so it is really hard to see how it could be unreliable. What is really going on should be described as using a statistic as a proxy for some other, difficult to measure, or impossible to observe phenomenon. Thus, for instance, estimates of temperature in the geologic past are difficult(impossible) to measure in the here and now, so researchers look for various natural phenomena that depend of temperature to infer past temperature. Most commonly this involves slight shifts in isotope ratios in rocks.

But where the phenomenon that one wants to infer from the statistic is some form of human behavior and where the humans involved in actually doing the phenomenon know about the statistic and how it is being used as a proxy for actually assessing there work product, the logic justifying using the statistic as a proxy really breaks down. Ambulance companies, and CEOs of major, publicly traded corporations both start making decisions based on how they think the decision will affect the statistic and discounting how it will affect the real quality of their work. Basically, defining measurable goals and objectives can't work as a way to organize society. Flaws in this reasoning? I don't see any. But I also don't want to push it much, because I sense that I would not have much success.

Many of these laws are just different interpretations of game theory.
Goodhart's Law is very close to the efficient market hypothesis as well, whereby the market will automatically correct towards an equilibrium when they sense someone has an advantage.
I am just trying to place Calaf's idea on some other footing.

When I wrote the above, I was truly 'brain-dumping' as I was just catching up on TOD waiting for someone and then was meant to be leaving as the idea hit me - I was literally typing as the image of it was appearing in my mind as I was getting up to leave.

Having had a chance to get back to TOD and re-read it and actually reflect on it, I can see a mash of ideas, but one point did stick out that I am not sure that I have seen elsewhere; that being the global decline curve may not be like any well or region we have seen before. I think what I was descibing is effectively EROEI but from a market dynamics perspective.

(I am not authoritative and so I will just make the following statement in expectation of being corrected as needed)

All previous decline curves of any well or region were predominantly the result of geology and technology and the continued availability of cheap oil for industry/economy/production.

The continued availability of cheap oil (despite the decline in that particular well or region) fueled the ability for that well or region to produce a given decline curve.

With global peak oil there will be no substitution/imports of cheap oil from anywhere to allow technology and geology to produce the curves that we have seen in past. Using 'expensive oil' to create 'expensive oil' will change 'the equation' and create a new market dynamic that will shape the global decline curve.

I see money sitting on top of EROEI, and becoming a driver of the production curve. When oil is cheap the production curve process is in 'balance' between geology and technology to produce the curves we have seen before.

When oil is no longer cheap and permeates production/industry/economy the curve will be the result of a much different interplay between the production inputs and a different market dynamic. That is to say, the global decline for oil production should not look like any previous decline curve.

Edit: Now I remember...

and that is why a long plateau at peak GLOBAL production makes sense... there is no cheap oil substitute available like in all previous cases, but at global peak you still have a lot of cheap oil bubbling through production/industry/economy to allow oil production from almost any source, because these costs are still supported by the cheap oil underpinning the economy/industry/production.

Somebody might be able to produce oil from old tennis shoes at $90 a barrel, but once all the inputs to production - wages, food, spare nuts and bolts - begin using that $90 oil then... well I can't imagine how they can't re-price to accommodate the increase in the cost of oil and tennis shoe oil production must go up... I am not sure. But I do see how initially a plateau that supports 'expensive oil' is maintained at peak by cheap oil and continued demand.

Hope this has some value.


Have you looked at primary energy consumption? BP measures it in million tonnes of oil equivalent. Admittedly consumption is not production but at least it uses a uniform unit of measurement for energy across diverse fuels.

Did folks predict that there will be _exactly_ one moment in history called 'Peak Oil'? The plateau is due to stealing from the future. It too, cannot go on forever. But yes, it may help continue BAU for longer at the cost of sharper decline rates when it is no longer possible to sustain the plateau.

Afterall, isn't the hubbert curve primarily about flow rates?

In the overall "Peak Oil message", I don't see how this post is anything but distracting the common man from the core message of urging them to nurture and adopt a different lifestyle. The underlying message(s) of "Peak Oil" as I take them are:

  • finite resources do not abruptly run out, but they 'stop' growing year-over-year (which, inspite of your post, it has not 'grown y-o-y since 2005')
  • Dependency on a finite resource is a Bad Idea(TM), especially so if its highly vital
  • It takes time to adapt, whether the peak (or, the plateau's fall) comes 5/10 years in the future

"The plateu is due to stealing from the future" - Well said. I completely agree and it is what I tried to say in the article.

It is simply not the case that the Hubbert model can be applied to nuclear energy for millions of years. First breeder technology would allow uranium and thorium at up to 300 times of the fuel efficiency of current nuclear technology. Secondly huge amounts of recoverable uranium and thorium are available in the earth's crust. Uranium can be recovered from sea water for a few hundred dollars per pound, and a pound of uranium is the energy equivalent of 15 tons of coal. Uranium in the seas is a virtual renewable resource as long as recovery does not exceed 32,000 tones a year. 32,000 tons uranium flow into the seas every year from rivers and other sources. 32,000 tons of uranium will power enough 32,000 1 GW reactors, enough to power the entire human population of the world at several times the energy consumption level of the United States. Once we start running out of uranium we can switch to thorium as an energy source. the thorium content in the earths crust is estimated to be 3 to 4 times greater than its uranium content. It will be a very long time before we reach peak thorium consumption.

this sounds rather like theoretical wishful thinking.

What about looking at the data? (too depressing for a nuclear energy believer?)

Uranium extraction peaked around 1980 (and is essentially terminated in many countries)

nuclear reactor grid connection/ year year peaked around 30 some 25 years ago
functioning prototype fast reactors (sometimes claimed to be breeders) peaked long ago
functioning thorium prototype reactors peaked even earlier
nuclear electric energy production so far peaked in 2006
fractional electric energy production from nuclear peaked some 10 years back

average nuclear power efficiency is flat or declines since a few years

you need more?

Uranium breeder reactors did not peak for resource reasons; in this country, my recollection is that we quit building them because of their use in producing plutonium.

Thorium reactors (which are proposed to be breeder reactors, not producing bomb precursors) did not peak for resource reasons.

And the point of using a breeder, is to get a lot more energy out of a given pile of input resources.

Am personally very encouraged about the old research performed in the 1950s into Molten Salt Reactors, and which I've only just stumbled upon.

Am trying to get a hold of 2nd hand copy of Alvin Weinberg's 'The First Nuclear Era':

Unfortunately the libraries near me don't stock it. More's the pity!

I did not discuss any reason on why breeder prototypes etc peaked and why they are not being constructed right now.
I was just mentioning the unpleasant hard facts of reality for the believers in ``nuclear energy will save us".

It does not really matter for what reason things happened right now.

It might however matter to some extend for those who want to become realistic about fake alternatives for oil and gas.

But anyway, this post is about the Hubbert peak and not about the pros and cons of nuclear energy.

Perhaps we could just agree on the fact that humans are ``too stupid" to develop a sustainable nuclear energy system on our planet.

(the reason for being to stupid could be either because of false religious like believes or because nuclear energy technology is just to
complicated to be used correctly by our species or both.)

It does not really matter for what reason things happened right now.

I think it entirely does matter. Given finite supplies of increasingly expensive oil/gas/coal/whatever, eventually it becomes too expensive to be economical. That's not a reversible position. In contrast, we chose not to pursue uranium breeder tech because of arms proliferation/diversion concerns (roughly); that is a reversible position. I'm not sure why we chose not to pursue thorium reactors, but I've gone looking for information, and it appears to be purely a matter of choice -- there was no nail-in-the-coffin technical problem I could find. It may have been that the uranium reactors right then were a more mature technology, and faster to deploy, and the risks underestimated. So, again, a reversible position.

And there is the obvious retort that maybe we are underestimating the risks of thorium reactors, and maybe we are, but we could run quite a few prototypes before we had anything like a large risk. We accept all sorts of risks right now, all the time, and almost completely ignore them -- burning coal spews radioactive waste, driving cars kills tens of thousands of people every year, lifestyle choices (including driving cars, hence not exercising) kill hundreds of thousands.

I think, if you want to convince me that thorium reactors are a bad idea, you have to explain to me why I should expect them to be more deadly than, say, automobiles. I'm big on metrics, and I like to resolve safety issues by counting dead bodies, because otherwise people will spin fantastic stories. What's your thousands-killed, year-after-year, justification for not going nuclear, and in particular for not renewing R&D on thorium reactors? The clock is ticking, the longer we wait, the more time we waste.

I think the reason for not pursing thorium is just a matter of history. The first nuclear efforts were to produce a bomb and as I understand, thorium is not much good for that.

Well, lets first acknowledge the different nuclear energy peaks and consequences I mentioned.

second, lets acknowledge (or propose a hypothesis) that oil as an energy source will go down
and quantify the yearly % decline.

third for those who believe in the nuclear techno fix
propose a realistic scenario on how your way out can work and what it would imply
from the year you won heads and hearts and onwards. How many nukes and in what country
and how much uranium needs, how much reprocessing, etc.

just give it a try.

If not, well your ideas will not even be formulated. What a pity.

As I understand from Wikipedia, the liquid-salt thorium reactors reprocess continuously, on site; the game is to remove stuff from the salt as you are using it. Because it is low pressure, no incredible pressure containment vessel is needed. Because it is already melted, and because high temperatures retard the react, melt down is by-design not an issue.

I would not pursue uranium, both because of waste problems, proliferation problems, and because there is much less of it available.

And I would start immediately, as fast as possible, doing everything. Nukes, renewables, biofuels with positive ERoEI (oats!). Only an idiot puts all his eggs in one basket -- you are asking me, "show me how putting all my eggs in your basket will work", and I will give you no such guarantee. It is another basket, and the risks of testing it are low compared to the risks that we live with now. As far as I am concerned, the more baskets, the better, and we haven't scaled too many baskets up to size yet (we HAVE scaled uranium nukes up to size, we just don't like the costs, risks, and wastes).

The Netherlands have nicely shown us how to scale low-energy personal transportation up to size (bikes) in a wealthy nation, but that sells about as well as "nucular" in this country -- so far. We had a incredible pissing match here in Massachusetts over off-shore wind farms, not like we've got all the hearts and minds on that one yet, either. Geothermal in Northern California is stalled over earthquake concerns. A failure to win hearts and minds is not a technical problem, and we have to keep the two separate.

My assumption is that we not on track to halt global warming (never mind reversing it), and we need to be on that track, and we need to be trying everything.

And I would start immediately, as fast as possible, doing everything. Nukes, renewables, biofuels with positive ERoEI (oats!).

The problem with this is approach is that there is a high probability that none of it will work, either to mitigate peak oil or climate change.

The alternative is to use the limited fossil energy that we have to make sensible adaptations so that 1). We don't need so much energy to go about our daily lives and 2). Even with expected climate change, we can be reasonably comfortable and well fed.

So we can throw money(which is really just a marker for energy demand) into a dubious nuclear R&D program or we could re-build our cities, residential and commercial buildings so as to require far less energy to run them in the future. Option 2 has much higher likelihood of success as we already have working examples and don't require technological breakthroughs. It is also going to be much easier to implement as it will engage a large proportion of the population who will see the immediate benefits.

Convincing people to eagerly hand over billions of dollars into energy projects that have a high likliehood of financial failure is going to be politically impossible. Just because you can get a positive EROEI in one technology does not mean you can scale it up to run all of modern society on. If you can't run BAU as it stands now then somethings got to change and it doesn'tnecessarily follow that it's going to be magic technology riding to the rescue.

We should do that too. I don't see adapting down to 20% of current as something that will be easy. The first, low-hanging gains will be easy, and like everything else (oil production, in particular) things get harder. It's really easy to replace 30% of car trips with bicycle trips. 80% for everyone, not just nuts like me, will require a bigger change. People are going to ask, "is this really necessary", and you'd better have a good answer for why we didn't try a lot of stuff.

Note, also, that a billion dollars ain't what it used to be. We spent 14 of them building tunnels for cars here near Boston; we were spending something like a billion a week for a while in the OIL war (Operation Iraqi Liberation, what did you think I meant :-); our excess medical spending compared to nearest-most expensive is in the ballpark of $1000 per capita, or $300 Billion. We can afford to gamble much more aggressively on all sorts of alternatives, and we should. $10 billion a year on bicycle infrastructure would roughly match Dutch per-capita spending, just for example. Amtrak loses about a billion a year; if we spent it intelligently, we could subsidize that more, too (the Acela runs full to near-full now; it needs rail improvements, it needs more trains, it needs to go faster south of NYC).

IMO, the biggest hurdle we face is the lack of reality. There is enough energy to power civilization as it stands, we just can't access it. There's far more sun energy than we could use, e.g., but we don't. And when we do, we waste most of it. The trick is to imagine how the world must be in the future, not how we want it to be.

The future must be not just carbon neutral, but for a period of 100 - 500 years, carbon negative. The future must be not only efficient, but must have fewer people in it. Not because of energy or food - we can get enough of both. Food, in fact, is easy. Energy, not so much. But the real issue is Liebig's Minimum, otherwise known as the weakest link in the chain. The problem is, we don't know what all of them are, necessarily. If we already have them all identified, then we need to deal with them. Some of them are water, phosphates, coal, oil, gas, fish, rain forests, sea ice. There are others. Essentially, we are talking about carrying capacity.

The most important Liebig's we face is time. The problem with nuclear, of any kind, is time. Time is why its contribution will be small in anything like a century or less time frame. Nuclear reactors simply can't be built fast enough nor be evenly distributed enough because of geography and economics. The time window is determined by climate. All the economic energy in the universe won't help if we are creating an unlivable, wet bulb planet.

We know from commentary out of Cancun that at least some climate scientists are building their own lifeboats. We know from direct quotes related to polls of climate scientists that only a small portion now consider less than 2C to be realistic. In other words, we've likely reached tipping points in the climate, so any debate about energy production needs to keep as the final requirement the immediate beginning of the process to draw down carbon, not just reduce emissions. Any net emissions is too much.

I agree with you completely. The effects of GW run-away-train will create itself escalating society, food production, security and health problems, in as few as about 15 years. This has been highly underestimated on this site.

The core message would be: Weaning away from coal completely within 10-15 years. Imagine Australia not exporting any more coal to China in order to prevent even more catastrophic consequences of GW as we can see now in these days.

Primarily this must be done by efficiency gains and reducing consumption, then replaced completely through renewables.

On the other hand, pri-de, IMO, the biggest hurdle we face is the lack of maturity. I think this is closer to the mark than a "lack of reality" can have manifold bases. It's not hard to profile the faults of society. We all do it. In the emotional/intellectual sense, the problem of wishing it so, is always a double edged sword. People on any cutting edge of technological revolution will always pass the gauntlet of skeptics, competitive lunatics with divergent solutions, doubters, name callers, shoot from the hippers, and other fanatics, or just the mistaken. If we are to succeed in saving the world people with different ideas need more respect insofar as the possibilities go. I feel the cuts taken on my system design are often ill informed, stupid, or blather based (which is to say based on a persons often deep seated sense of how they see a problem being defined and solved). My system (The Tripe System Report is I feel a machine, a complex system, but a machine or system designed to do an energy job that isn't called for by the great unwashed techno masses. The Tripe does storage and transportation of energy. What is being called for hard core, with much emotional chortling and chanting, is the perfect easy replacement for FF to electric systems. Yes, this is not realistic thinking, but is it downright immature? I think it is. This is immature thinking, impure thought, because the time and hope people have invested is unmindful of other avenues. I say 95% of our hope is going in the wrong direction which is to say we are thinking with excessive amounts of tradition in mind. What is needed is a redesign of systems, not undue complimentary behaviors towards our current infrastructures. Unless you have a comprehensive sustainable energy system package to pedal, as I do, then you are in the hope someone will solve the energy crisis. This is field of thinking that usually entails hopes for grid constant solutions, which aren't likely. In other words there is mature hope and immature hope. 95% of us want a new power source for the electric grid, because we have that and it's a constant. And many want and need and new fuels for the cars we drive right now. 5% of us are smart and open minded enough to realize this may just be chasing a rainbow happy cake. I am with the 5%.

Required in new systems designs, energy and otherwise, that we must have, are new attitudes about what the problems actually are, and what the possible solutions actually could be. We are, in fact able to deal with such complexity. To say I just want ... and then describe what you want ... without connection of the dots to science-math-dollars so to speak is not a crime, but it may be the start to a feasible model. Sometimes to specify a theory as to how dots will get connected, pays off. But the catch is that maturity is a human attribute we don't have, that is, to see the need to see a machine that isn't yet here. Vision is a rarity.

To me the world must, must, be a place where we use the enormous energies available and apparent to the reasonable man. For this not to be impossible, we will need to transport and store the horsepower in question, and be able ship the horsepower in question, using conversions and re-conversions. Your list works. You have a gift for the synthesis of the problems. Your perspective is to me, spot on. Essentially (I agree) we have a carry capacity multi facetted complex problem. The supply of humans pushes the servicing yards capacity. There are too many people; but you think like it's a doable deal to work it out, and I agree that it is. My list for feasible sources in order are 1. Geothermal, 2. Wind and Wave (my own hybrid machines), 3. Solar, 4. Moon Tides, 5. Tidal Currents, 6. Oxen. All of these need the storage, conversion and re-conversion systems the tripe system provides. Let's go fools! Thanks Steve

removed double post

what uranium extraction peak ?
Are you talking about all the uranium that the US and Russia got for their weapons programs.
So that the US DOE has over 400,000 of uranium in the form of uranium hexaflouride sitting around ?

I am looking at a three for three sweep of our bets for 2010.

Kazakstan at about 17800 tons for 2010, so I am looking very good for the 2011 portion of this bet

Brian Wang Dittmar Midpoint
2010 16500 tons 15000 tons 15750 tons
2011 18000 t or more 17,999.9 tons or less 18000 tons

There should be 3700 more tons of production in Kazakstan and 1000 more tons of production in Canada. Australian uranium production will be lower by close to 2000 tons.

World uranium production looks on track for 54,000-56,000 tons in 2010.

Big Husab mine could be open by 2014 in Namibia (5600 tons/year)

China is targeting 112 GWe of nuclear power in 2020.

Cameco in Canada is targeting doubling uranium production by 2018

China is going full speed toward large scale reprocessing and fast reactors

On generation.
The OECD is up almost 2% through October, Japan, USA numbers for november show continued
generation over 2009.

Ukraine, China, India and Russia all show well over 2009 through November.

Japan is lowering the cost of uranium from seawater

BN 600* Beloyarsk 3 (D) fast reactor still operating since 1980 600 MWe
China CEFR (E) 65MWe started 2010

Under construction
BN-800 Beloyarsk 4 (C) 880MWe expected 2014
In 2009 two BN-800 reactors were sold to China, with construction due to start in 2011.

India 470 MWe fast breeder at Kalpakkam to start late in 2011 or in 2012, with 4 more to follow by 2020.

A 1000 MWe Chinese prototype fast reactor (CDFR) based on CEFR is envisaged with construction start in 2017 and commissioning as the next step in CIAE's program. This will be a 3-loop 2500 MWt pool-type, use MOX fuel with average 66 GWd/t burn-up, run at 544°C, have breeding ratio 1.2, with 316 core fuel assemblies and 255 blanket ones, and a 40-year life. This is CIAE's "project one" CDFR. It will have active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal. This may be developed into a CCFR of about the same size by 2030, using MOX + actinide or metal + actinide fuel. MOX is seen only as an interim fuel, the target arrangement is metal fuel in closed cycle.

However, in October 2009 an agreement was signed with Russia's Atomstroyexport to start pre-project and design works for a commercial nuclear power plant with two BN-800 reactors in China, referred to by CIAE as 'project 2' Chinese Demonstration Fast Reactors (CDFR) - in China, with construction to start in 2013 and commissioning 2018-19. These would be similar to the OKBM Afrikantov design being built at Beloyarsk 4 and due to start up in 2012. In contrast to the intention in Russia, these will use ceramic MOX fuel pellets. The project is expected to lead to bilateral cooperation of fuel cycles for fast reactors.

The CIAE's CDFR 1000 is to be followed by a 1200 MWe CDFBR by about 2028, conforming to Gen IV criteria. This will have U-Pu-Zr fuel with 120 GWd/t burn-up and breeding ratio of 1.5, or less with minor actinide and long-lived fission product recycle.

Russia has experimented with several lead-cooled reactor designs, and has used lead-bismuth cooling for 40 years in reactors for its Alfa class submarines. Pb-208 (54% of naturally-occurring lead) is transparent to neutrons. A significant new Russian design from NIKIET is the BREST fast neutron reactor, of 300 MWe or more with lead as the primary coolant, at 540°C, and supercritical steam generators

A smaller and newer Russian design is the Lead-Bismuth Fast Reactor (SVBR) of 75-100 MWe. This is an integral design, with the steam generators sitting in the same Pb-Bi pool at 400-495°C as the reactor core, which could use a wide variety of fuels. The unit would be factory-made and shipped as a 4.5m diameter, 7.5m high module, then installed in a tank of water which gives passive heat removal and shielding. A power station with 16 such modules is expected to supply electricity at lower cost than any other new Russian technology as well as achieving inherent safety and high proliferation resistance. (Russia built 7 Alfa-class submarines, each powered by a compact 155 MWt Pb-Bi cooled reactor, and 70 reactor-years operational experience was acquired with these.) In 2008 Rosatom and the Russian Machines Co put together a joint venture to build a prototype 100 MWe SVBR reactor.

India and Russia signed a cooperation agreement to work together on breeders.

In India, research continues. At the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research a 40 MWt fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) has been operating since 1985. In addition, the tiny Kamini there is employed to explore the use of thorium as nuclear fuel, by breeding fissile U-233.

In 2002 the regulatory authority issued approval to start construction of a 500 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam and this is now under construction by BHAVINI. It is expected to be operating by 2012, fuelled with uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX - the reactor-grade Pu being from its existing PHWRs via Purex reprocessing) and with a thorium blanket to breed fissile U-233. The plutonium content will be 21% and 27% in two different regions of the core. Initial fuel will be MOX pellets, later vibropack fuel may be used.

The PFBR will take India's ambitious thorium program to stage 2, and set the scene for eventual full utilisation of the country's abundant thorium to fuel reactors. Four more such fast reactors have been announced for construction by 2020. Initial Indian FBRs will be have mixed oxide fuel but these will be followed by metallic-fuelled ones to enable shorter doubling time.

India is also developing mixed carbide fuels for FNRs (U-Pu-C-N-O). Carbide fuel in FBTR has reached 125,000 MWd/t burn-up without failure, and has been reprocessed at pilot scale. It envisages metal fuels after 2020.

Indian figures for PHWR reactors using unenriched uranium suggest 0.3% utilization, which is contrasted with 75% utilization expected for PFBR.

advancednano: First off let's not be supercritical of steam, because if you have ever enjoyed a good hot dog, ( I get so emotional) well I don't need to explain.

I have an oddball idea for a super-duper-critical steam nuke plant. The idea is to have a closed and pressurized chamber for the whole plant. This would include the water reservoirs, everything. The pressure will come to the plant in the form of 2-8,000 psi. This added air pressure will in theory turbo boost the steam provided by the reactor heat. I like the thought of using lead as coolant. Hat's off to the Russians SVBR 75-100 KWe systems. These it seems to me would be easily adapted to a high charge of compressed air.

My job is to make the CA off shore. Others can design nuke plants. I can easily give the nuke plant all the CA it would want. This is done with wind and wave machines. I can pipe it to the plants as well. The question I have is this: Could a plant be designed to run on the nuke fuels hybridized and adjustabily connected on the CA as well. Can this help to produce steam for base and peak needs. Just as a gas and CAES plant work can't the same deal be done for the nuke? Given X horspower or KW output of a standard say SVBR plant: What would the addition of 2-8,000 psi make in steam production? Would this not make for a super-duper-critical steam issue?

If we can make small nuke and compressed air hybrid systems work: one factor, not small in the grand scheme, could work in the favor of our getting off of FF: Heat co-gen systems may lend well to small portable nuke plants such as the SVBR model. With large scale rail systems, of my design, small nukes could easily locate, temporarily, to generate electricity, where the heat needs are. I can see a mini nuke CA turbo plant servicing a five to ten mile run. Lead heat sinks could work, iron, rock, mass of one form or another, giant iron bowling balls could easily be able to transfer heat, even to homes, but only if systems were designed to provide conduits for these diverse applications. I think this idea should be modeled up and thunk over.

I was not criticizing steam nuclear power plants, but showing that Michael Dittmar was ignoring the activity. I believe he is ignoring the activity because I told him about the breeders when he wrote his four part anti-nuclear articles last year.

We will see how well Michael Dittmar can claim to be a nuclear energy authority when he loses all three of the 2010 nuclear bets. I think when I have two years of shutouts with a follow up in 2011 (world uranium production, world nuclear generation and Kazakhstan uranium production) then it will start to get pretty apparent how wrong Dittmar was.

If France, Japan and the Ukraine get their nuclear plant operational act together, combined with the build up in China, India and Russia, the gaps between reality and Dittmar's prediction will be pretty laughable around 2014.

I also pointed out the large mistakes in Ugo's article about uranium from seawater in a post in the comments to this article.

Another incorrect oildrum prediction
Piccolo on the Bakken in 2008

Because of the highly variable nature of shale reservoirs, the characteristics of the historical Bakken production, and the fact that per-well rates seem to have peaked, it seems unlikely that total Bakken production will exceed 2x to 3x current rate of 75,000 BOPD.

Piccolo on the Bakken in 2009

My analysis of the Bakken is looking more correct
Bakken oil production (Sask, ND, Montana) would be in the 500,000 barrel of oil per day range in 2011-2012 and onwards.
The 500,000 bpd is over 3 times what was coming from the Bakken two years ago and double the estimate of whether Bakken could move the needle for US production.

465,000 bpd from Montana and ND would be 14 million barrels of oil per month.

US production of oil is 162 million barrels per month.

So over 8% of US oil production.

The oil production technology for the Bakken is still improving and they are talking about possibly getting to 30% of the oil in place. 400 billion barrels of oil in place. That would be 120 billion barrels. So the 6-8 billion barrels of reserves talk is a snapshot.

167 billion barrels of oil in-place in the North Dakota portion of the Bakken and not including Three Forks Sanish oil.

North Dakota projecting 700,000 barrels per day in 2014-2017

Some predict one million barrels per day by 2020

the horizontal multifrac drilling is unlocking more similar deposits in France, Australia, China and other places in North Dakota (spearfish and Tyler formations)

``We will see how well Michael Dittmar can claim to be a nuclear energy authority when he loses all three of the 2010 nuclear bets. I think when I have two years of shutouts with a follow up in 2011 (world uranium production, world nuclear generation and Kazakhstan uranium production) then it will start to get pretty apparent how wrong Dittmar was."

Thanks for the honor. Lets see what will happen during the coming years.

1a) 2010 yeah, you might be right TWhe might be up to around 2008 values again.
Still much lower than the record year 2006 so far

But as was said when the bets were made:
the years when things really matter (and diverge) will be after 2013 (when the 10k tons natural uranium equivalent of russian uranium
to the USA will end). If more Megatons will be converted to Megawatts great, I am happy to loose thanks to this miracle.

2a and b) Concerning world uranium mining results

yes, true if the Kazakhstan numbers are correct for 2009 and 2010
I will loose my bet(s). Fine with me. Lets see how things evolve during the next few years when things become interesting
(the uranium price is already nervous and moving upwards).

However, can you explain why this is the only country which fulfills plans after plans,
while the other countries struggle even to keep their mines going?

My guess: The corrupt elite in this country found a way to add uranium, which was extracted during the Soviet Union times,
to the market. This would explain also why the former minister is now in prison.
But, perhaps we need to wait for wikileaks to find out eventually.
Before that I will for sure loose with Kazakhstan.

However, look into the 2009 Red Book about the uranium peak in Kazakhstan predicted already around 2015!

concerning your:
`` If France, Japan and the Ukraine get their nuclear plant operational act together, combined with the build up in China, India and Russia, the gaps between reality and Dittmar's prediction will be pretty laughable around 2014."

Well, may be they don't!

``I also pointed out the large mistakes in Ugo's article about uranium from seawater in a post in the comments to this article."

Concerning seawater uranium, may be I can recommend the story "the emperors new suit " enjoy

The oil production technology for the Bakken is still improving and they are talking about possibly getting to 30% of the oil in place.

original estimates for recoverable oil in the parshall field, the sweetest of the sweetspots, was generally under 10% of ooip. 4 years of production history has demonstrated that those estimates are overstated by a factor of 2. estimates from other areas are most likely overstated by a factor of 3 or more.

the problem is that most of that calculated ooip is traped in nanodarcy permeability rock. the spectacular 'early peak flowback' rates come from the natural fracture network in the bakken/three forks. what technology is going to increase recovery from 3 % of ooip to 30 % ?

three of the four largest bakken fields in north dakota have already reached their peak production.

many public traded companies are claiming that the three forks is a separate reservoir from the middle bakken. offset wells being frac'ed in one or the other zone keep getting filled up with frac sand. public traded companies are also claiming that 2 - 4 of each(tf and mb) can be drilled on a section of land. lalala.........lalala...a...lala.

helms refered to the 700kbpd forecast as a 'rosey' forcast:

Yeah, how about proof that you didn't pull all those stats out of your nether regions? Or proof that all of the above were not just caused by misguided attempts at 'environmental conservation' or attempts by the oil and coal industries to stifle competition? Or because uranium is well on its way toselling for cheaper than dirt with most major nuclear countries having more than enough just from dismantling old warheads?

With China having completed its research on fuel recycling and its fast buildout of new nuclear capacity we will probably power on to the 22nd century while you guys sit in the dark telling yourselves nuclear has peaked.

Although I have come around on nuclear technology especially the possibility of liquid fluoride thorium reactors, it is probably unwise to think we can rely on nuclear power to save us in our current situation. Build out of nuclear power has not occurred anywhere very quickly, certainly not quickly enough to cushion the decline in fossil fuel ERoEI. Current nuclear technology is not amenable to a fast build out nor does it seem to have a sufficiently high ERoEI. LFTR technology is still drawing board material as far as I can see. Until some are actually built to see their ERoEI, it is difficult to say if nuclear can save us. I am less concerned about energy production peaks as I am about ERoEI drops. Our societies have been built at highs for this value and failure to maintain them means a loss of complexity somewhere in the system.

We will of course fail if we dont try.

The global economy is still very rich and even the old indebted industrialized countries have vast capacities for doing stuff if they prioritize. We should be able to test almost every energy producing and energy saving idea in parallell including nuclear power ideas that almost worked with 40(!) year old technology.

We will of course fail if we dont try.

This is true, of course, and I think we should keep working on it. As I said on today's DB, a little electricity on the way down would be very nice indeed.

However, building many complex nuclear plants on the cusp of a rapid simplification of our society many not be a wise idea.

I hope for a "shitload" of electricity on the way down and so far are manny corporations, interest groups and our government aligning to get post peak oil relevant investments done in Sweden and our closest neighbours Norway, Finland and Denmark have the same trends. I have no idea if it is being done due to peak oil but smart people everywhere know that peak oil is a slow acting fact of life and politicians who dont acknowlede reality sooner or later gets their pants pulled down. This is one of the factors currently pummeling the formerly dominating social democrates into pulp in last years election and the polls.

Ten reactors are running and nine of the originally twelve are being renovated wich in the short term is bad for their availability, new ones are being planned, wind power investments are currently being done at around 2 TWh/year, hydro powerplants are being renovated, industrial and district heating CHP is being built and both the high tension grid and the rural distribution grid is in the middle of a renewal program.

The per capita electricity production for the roughly 9,3 million population is around 15 000 kWh and I expect it to increase with around 10% keeping slightly ahead of migration. It would be possible to double it with new nuclear powerplants and lots of wind power but that would require massive electricity export or use of electrolysis hydrogen in oil refineries, possible but I do acknowledge that there is an economical limit.

It is about 25 years since we had a more or less complete technology base for nuclear powerplants. We have the waste handling in hand, maintainance fairly complete, an interest in recreating much of the newbuilding ability, fuel bundle fabrication but no isotope refining and no mines although there is lots of uranium ore and prospecting. I expect that Sweden will continue to be a solid place to run nuclear businesses and factories among other businesses and factories adding some resilence to the global supply web.

Personally am I starting to advocate developing small breeders for regional CHP plants as a long term plan to free up more biomass for fuel and biochemical production. It is also unwise to relie on garbage for long term district heating since the biogas production is expanding rapidly and can absord all of the biodegradable garbage within about 10 years, garbage plastic is valuble as a fuel synthesis feedstock and we will get depressions with lower personal consumption giving less garbage.

Keeping this running require no more then 1970:s level of technology, oil is not magical, its joules and hydrocarbons for chemical feedstock, we can go bio-nuclear. It should technology wise get easier with todays additional knowledge, electronics and biotechnology.

If a rough "simplification" gives a factor of ten hit in component size or CPU capacity it still leaves plenty for basic service including internet, PC:s and mobile phones, CAD, control systems, etc, no pocket size android phones though and we get to play Starcraft 2 on low graphics settings. ;-)

Another interpretation of simplification is simplification of government bueraucracy, military organization, etc. I think we have done enough of that during recssions and our failures of socialism to be able to triage our own government if the shit realy hits the fan.

But I dont know what to do in regions with lots of population, little biomass, a shaky technology base and and a shaky government. My overall solutions are for strong and competent governments pulled forward by specialists and large long term thinking minorities in the population.

hydro powerplants are being renovated

Yep. And in Skåne we are way ahead of that game; we scrap and rebuild our hydroplants. Also as a side effect, we get to rebuild our downstream bridges as well!

EDIT: Funny howI forgot the link:

I worked on reactor technology using Thorium over 30 years ago. Its funny reading about nuclear power seeing proposals for "new concepts" that I worked on or saw back then. But your point is the important one: Should we be investing in highly complex technologies when it is becoming so clear that we have already overshot what we can deal with as a species? I suspect we would all be happier and safer if we put that money and energy into simplifying our lives and our societies instead of upping the ante to make more and more of us dependent on things that might as well be magic, thereby reducing our self-sufficiency and sense of self-worth.

"How do you keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paree?"

As a species?

There are individuals and tribes with more or less efficient policies for interaction between individuals and this is often called culture.

Lots of things can be done, both sustainable and disasterous, this is proved by lots of such things being done. Everyone wont be doing long term good things and we will get disasters, I hope this will lead to cultural evolution and not die offs but I do not know.

Simplificaton is good as long as one does not simplifie away the ability to provide food etc for everybody or simplifie away the ability to understand nature in more then a self experienced spiritual way. I realy abhor the lets-all-get-back-to-natural-life idea since it would give a very large die off and make it much harder to understand physical reality. The key is "lets-all", if some do and relieve consumption preassure its fine, especially if they still pursue some intellectual goals and interact with society as you obviously do via internet.

I have no problem relying on things that might as well be magic as long as I can add something of value myself. We have allways relied on things we do not understand, the news is that a lot of our surroundings is understood but we only have time and intellect to understand a tiny bit of all available knowledge. Then we also create new stuff with this knowledge, I like that exept when the boxes are welded shut and the magic hidden away from possible understanding and copying.

I realy abhor the lets-all-get-back-to-natural-life idea since it would give a very large die off and make it much harder to understand physical reality.

Cite your sources, please, because you are unequivocally incorrect about this, but I want to understand what you believe the parameters and possibilities to be before responding.

I am a recent convert to pro-nuke thinking. I feel the next generation, 4th, can provide good clean energy. But if I'm wrong we're all dead, but we're all dead if we continue with the FF usage.

I like to think of the back to nature movement as a bio-common sense movement more so than as a societal bowel (bowl) movement towards the epoch of poisoned poop. We're just animals. Our crops aren't sacred, that's for sure. In Sweden they use their own urine to fertilize, works fine, so to me that is back to nature, even though such systems can be quite detailed and complex. There just ain't no either or: Natural Or High Technology, a true false dilemma if I ever saw one. Holistic, natural (deer) livestock husbandry combined with high tech organic can work better to feed more, I say, but why will we find out? How will we find out with such massive masochistic industrial farming subsidies? We don't know what we're eating.

We do such bantering as dogs chasing their tails on a constant basis on Fishfolk, an MIT chat for fisheries. With us it may be green fishing v industrial habitat destructive fishing. Back to nature can make more fish if you think back to nature means giving your habitat class of assets more clout than a fishing boats owner rights to harvest in his own personal way. If you think the cod fish are worth more in the sea as breeders than in the fishing boat owners hold, then this could be a back to nature movement. But ..... What the heck .... Let's talk balance sheets, efficiencies for whom, and why. Common Shmommon. We each hold some part of the whole and we each have our own balance sheets to look at too. Is it either or? Not to me.

The main problem is: we are way to many to feed ourself with natural methods. We have never proven we can feed 2 billion people without FF. And with all soil destruction, water depletion, ecosystems collapse, deforestation and climate change, the area to play with is much larger now. If we go back, we die.

We must stay on this path to keepeveryone alive. However this way we are doing nowis dependant on one use non renewable resources. When they are out, we die.

The road we are at now destroys the eco system, wich basicly is our life support system. If we stay here, we die.

This road leads to death, and we can't get off of it. Only way out is depopulation, and then hope we can manage as well as possible on the way down.

The path to keep everyone alive will just lead to a more rapid and more catastrophic crash and dieoff. We won't keep everyone alive and we never have.

Wich was my point. We are riding a tiger running for a cliff. If we stay on it we fall over with it, if we jump off, the tiger will eat us. And there are the odd chance we get tiered onf lose our grip before the cliff.

The main problem is: we are way to many to feed ourself with natural methods.

Says whom? We fed ourselves just fine before the advent of FF fertilizers. Asia didn't just become densely populated yesterday. There are multi-decade studies showing organic no-till ag outperforms FF ag. We also have examples of deserts being greened and rain forests being regrown. Growing enough food is among the least of our problems because we can build soils very quickly and sequester water very effectively.

Depopulation is certainly part of the answer, but that absent other societal changes will only lead back where we are today. We can build sustainable communities.

"Says whom? We fed ourselves just fine before the advent of FF fertilizers."

Peak population before the advent of FF was in 1800 at which time world pop. was 1 billion plus/minus about 100 million, which is much less the current world pop. I think it is irrational to believe that we can feed ourselves now, or in the future from biosphere resources alone, without a substantial crash in world pop. Maybe stablize at somewhat more than 1billion if we manage to preserve almost all of what is left of biosphere. But if we trash much more of the biosphere before the crash, world pop. will bottom out at much less than 1billion, IMHO.

edit: add mention of biosphere in stmnt. of what is irrational.

I'd go with pri-de. There is some reason to think that permaculture/bio-intensive organic methods can provide enough food but I also think that we may have to pull down borders in order to have people relocate to areas that can feed them using those methods. That isn't going to happen.

"There is some reason to think that ... "
Yes, but you agree that it's not enough reason to actually believe that ...

You offer opinion, I offer fact and experience. You need to balance this equation.

Regenerative Agriculture, longitudinal study

Re-growing a rain forest, and community

Mollison, growing food in drylands

Growing food in Jordan

A Nation of Farmers

You offer opinion, I offer fact and experience.

Back in the day granpa' was a wee one, we had this problem we could not feed everybody. Then they invent something called the "green revolution". Everyone gets food, population tripple. Problem; it is all dependant on FFs.

Today we have destroyed alot of the bio-resources, I need not list all that again,plus we have an upcoming climte change ahead of us. We are 3+ times as many and about to lose the energy source that keeps the modern agriculture running.

But we have lost another criticl resource; knowledge. There was a day when 80% of population lived on a farm, and even more if you go further back. Today, less than 2%. And those who do know how to operate and repair a tractor, how a milking machine works and how to log on to the web site to order forms from the EU to apply for subsedies. But they don't know old school farming.

How are we going to feed ourself old school now when they couldn't do it 100 years ago before they trippled pop and destroyed all those values? Remeber the green revolution was invented SPECIFICLY because old school did not suffice any more.

Why would we want or need to return to "old scool farming"?

Running tractors on biogas needs less farmland then feeding horses and it is
a lot faster to retool diesel engines for biogas + ingnition diesel and then
change to new engines then to breed horses, make horse sized machines and train
horses and farmers.

Milking machines is an extremely good return on investment in labour,
running a motor for the milking machine vacuum pump and light bulbs were the key
resons for the original rural electrification back when we were quite poor.
You need on the order of 50 grams of rubber per cow and year for your milking
machines, a nice high value low volume trade item. The rubber used for one
tyre is probably enough for milking all the milk one human drinks or eats as
cheese etc during a lifetime.

And why should we run out of nitrous fertilizer? Phosphorous is more sensitive,
that loop needs to be closed within about two generations.

We have more knowledge now then we had back then and better means to access it and
learn how to use it.

But I do agree that EU can be dumb. The EU standard for ecological farming
specifically forbid use of human urine since too manny countries were afraid
of the icky factor. Thus is human urine only used for conventional farming...
The interesting fraction is the large volums from the sewage treatment plants,
it has taken about 20 years of bettering the quality but it is finally starting
to get accepted for farming in Sweden, another 10 years and it will probably be
standard procedure and no more of the valuble nutrients will end up in landfills.

There are very large regional problems with lack of water and soil erosion on
the globe but why should that lead to "old school farming"?

Everyone dies - eventually. Generally, we prefer death to come peacefully and at the end of a long, productive and fulfilling life, but it comes to all of us eventually. What we need to do as a species, if we want to continue the human experiment, is to avoid death coming abrubptly and to all of us at the same time.

As the top predator in the food chain we need to find a mechanism that regulates our numbers in a way that does not impose misery, pain and or arbitrary selction of who lives and who dies. Genocide has already been tried and I think pretty comprehensively found to be both unpopular and distasteful as well as being quite ineffective. Populations subjected to genocide tend to repopulate faster after a brutal attack.

The most effective way to reduce birth rates is to provide high quality general education to girls and women. The good thing about education is that it doesn't have to be high energy, can be distributed widely, can be self reinforcing, provides intelellectual low consumption activity, builds social capital and will ultimately reduce birth rates. An educated population is also more likely to become a peaceful democratic society which contributes to world peace.

Ironically, some cultures still treat women like dirt and may need the pointy end of a gun stuck in their faces to ensure that women and girls get that education and rightfully take their place in running the affairs of civil society. There are numerous countries around the world where an investment of military force in support of women and girls education would payoff huge dividends in the future in reducing birthrates which might avoid the miserable dieoff scenario so often cited here. This is of course an unlikley prospect given that the Western world is morally corrupted now by consumerism and far too selfish to divert spending on the trivial and entertaining novelty to an investment in something that would ultimately help avoid a catastrophe.

Even if you implement a lot of education, socities with that capability are few and far in between and very often high energy users. Besides, very few socities have shown to have this capability. Mostly the West, East Asia and a single few, dispersed countries(e.g. Singapore). An educated population is so far an exception to the rule and it has been so since time immemoral. To suddenly change this is naive at best. And to do it quickly enough to make real impact can only be described as pure fantasy.

Besides, we are already too many people as it stands. To implement this will take many decades. As for genocides, factually, you are wrong about the alleged 'quick rebound'. Look at the native americans(both in North and South America) or the native Australians(can't spell their name). There are many more examples of this, and these groups even survived. There are countless people that have been completely exterminated in human history. It can certainly happen again.

Still, genocide probably won't be contemplated(if at all) until the situation gets very dire. And it might not need to be planned. Humans are naturally tribal. In a world with few resources, people will be aligned along ethnic, cultural and religious lines. As always in History. Besides we live in times where you can kill 300,000 with a single suitcase of Anthrax. It won't be the petty fights of the medieval area.

Remember the response to 9/11? Imagine if 300,000 had died instead of 3,000 and think of the response. Now add this to a world situation where wars are no longer taboo and wars are being fought everywhere around the world for less and less resources until we get a stable population.

A modern Nazi-Germany(or Nazi-Russia etc etc) can easily wipe out large segments of populations. And let's not forget Pakistans proliferating nuclear bombs. What if one or two of those goes into the hands of terrorists? Nuclear war might still erupt. Either way the next 15 years will not be very nice for most people in this world. The richer you are, the safer you are, as always.

The richer you are, the safer you are, as always.

The real rich people have avery large proportion of their wealth in value papers. Many of whom will go Poof! in the future. Speaking as one who ain't got any,it will be interesting to watch.

I believe in back to basics of common sense. We can well use our urine for fertilizer, in fact it's safe and easy. We spend too much time and money neurotically trying to somehow discretely dispense with our bio products, it is silly. The stuff is usable fertilizer. God Bless the fertilizer goodness in us all. Why not use it for plants? We are stunted by our ickey ickey paranoia. In india they are getting ahead of us, up from the pit of disease, they can't see using centralized sewage systems but instead use the digesters for their own cooking gas and using the composted waste for crops. It's good. It is good no matter what phobias we may have. This is how we can feed our selves while getting going on the road back to nature. But we can't do it with oxen pulling our poop to the outlying farms, necessarily. What we need, what is called for, are industrialized processes for the old ways.

The same is true for our marine and fisheries technologies. We need public aquaculture driven industrial scale systems to get production out of the sea. On Cape Cod, where I am, I saw cod at $13.99 in the local fish market. We have to start thinking instead of being a pay out based society. A good idea alway has ten people negatively affected, and those ten people in our culture each come with ten like minded allies to the cause of mediocrity. Change is tough to take, and often it can cause death of the slow low quality of life sort, if left undignified. Change is not sin against the god's of capital, but you just can't prove it by us in the USA.

All the talk about dying seems based not on gradual trends to the green, but instead on some how a fictional foot to the brake of modern FF useage that may in some imaginations somehow occur. I say let's get real. The theory is right the deaths would occur, but only if the fictional foot to the brake were applied hard and fast sending us into a tail spin .... doomer material type stuff.

New systems are needed to provide loops of biology that make sense. I say no problem to getting the job done. Who's with me?

Spot on with humanure. Urine has saved several of our fruit saplings, some of which would have been pronounced clinically dead before we started the urine treatment. It's the closest thing to magic that I've experienced.

As for a die-off, I don't think it relies on a foot hard on the brake but it will be experienced at different levels by different regions and maybe war will have a significant impact on population.

I could get on board with long as the relatively inexpensive Atmospheric Vortex Engine is high on the list to obtain development funds.

After about two years and less than $100 million of development expenditures, we should have enough positive results to abandon efforts and expenses involving more complex technologies, which (IF successful) would result in the associated "technocratic elite" either being in charge, or at least in a position to demand exorbitant fees for their "know how".

A more efficient chimney would a good thing! It would make a billion dollars as a refinement to current cooling towers if it has any net energy gain and this would be a lot easier to build and demonstrate then building a powerplant.

Plese send me 0.1% of the income if this works out...

The AVE is the more efficient chimney/cooling tower you suggest.

Current cooling towers designs (without swirl) do not just allow for but actually CAUSE the mixing in of cooler/dryer air just above the top of the tower due to turbulence (high Reynolds No.). This limits their rise (see

The introduction of swirl SUPPRESSES turbulent mixing of the rising stream with the ambient air, allowing the plume to rise to higher altitudes while creating a negative pressure at it's base, drawing in more air from the surface layers.

By redesigning cooling tower units so the individual modules are cross-flow, exiting tangentially into a central arena, not only would they not need to expend energy for fans, they could actually harvest it when atmospheric conditions are favorable.

Sorry Magnus, but this is already patented, but you could partner up with AVEtec, I suppose, if you wanted one of these for your company.

Google waterspouts, tromba marina, Valencia to see cool videos of waterspouts on Lake Valencia in Venezuela--same principle as discussed above.

tirwin wrote:

"LFTR technology is still drawing board material as far as I can see. Until some are actually built to see their ERoEI, it is difficult to say if nuclear can save us."

That's not entirely true. Molten-salt reactors involving thorium were built and used in numerous long-term tests from the early 1950's to the 1970's at the Oak Ridge Natl Lab (ORNL).

One such test is described at:

"The Molten-Salt Reactor Program (MSRP) was begun at ORNL under H.G. “Mac” MacPherson in 1958 .... The MSRP won permission from the AEC to build a small reactor on the condition that it have less than 10 MW of thermal power.

Design and construction of the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) began in 1961. It was a “true” liquid-fluoride power reactor. It utilized a lithium7-beryllium fluoride solvent into which was dissolved zirconium and uranium tetrafluorides. The goal of thorium breeding was deferred since the favored design at the time was a two-region liquid-fluoride breeder. The MSRE was designed to simulate the “core” of that future reactor.

The MSRE went critical on June 1, 1965 and operated for 4.5 years until it was shut down in December 1969. The MSRE was the first (and probably only) reactor to operate on all three fissile fuels: U-233, U-235, and Pu-239. During its operation, uranium was completely removed from the salt through fluorination by bubbling gaseous fluorine through the salt....The reactor was then loaded with U-233 that had been made by early runs of thorium fuel at the Indian Point reactor in New York."

As for the ERoEI of Thorium, I don't have a precise number. But I would repeat the well-known and well-supported estimate that says an amount of Thorium fuel the size of a ping-pong ball can provide an amount of energy sufficient to provide for a lifetime energy supply (cooking, A/C, heating, transport, etc.) for an average American person at current rates of consumption (which can obviously be improved upon).

And a good introduction to the possibilities and current status of Thorium reactors is at:

May be, before getting to excited, you should read the more down to earth information from Chinese experts
reported here

``Going too far too fast 'could threaten the long-term healthy development of nuclear power."

The advice is to build fewer Generation II plants by 2020, and to focus on more modern plants using more local technology. Seems like a good recommendation.

Peak electric streetcars occured in the 1940s, after which most systems, such as the Los Angeles streetcar system, were dismantled.

Therefore, electric streetcars are irrelevant for addressing the effects of peak oil.

Peak electric streetcars occured in the 1940s, after which most systems, such as the Los Angeles streetcar system, were dismantled.

Is it not true that GM was largely responsible for the streetcar's demise? IIRC, GM wanted the people to buy cars and so eliminated the primary alternative.

Exactly so. And the fact that a technology experienced a peak resulting from artificial constraints at the time is not a valid argument that the technology may not be applied to good effect in the future, either streetcars or nuclear power.

Peak electric streetcars occured in the 1940s, after which most systems, such as the Los Angeles streetcar system, were dismantled.

Therefore, electric streetcars are irrelevant for addressing the effects of peak oil.

Dismantling the Los Angeles streetcar system was a serious mistake, for which the inhabitants are paying dearly, and will pay even more dearly in the future. It's going to cost a large fortune to rebuild it. Despite what many people think, electric cars are not going to save the freeway system.

Southern California once had the largest electric interurban railroad system in the world. They probably won't be able to afford to rebuild it in the post-peak-oil era, and will end up having to abandon their suburbs. It's going to be a bad experience for Californians (as if it isn't already).

Don't confuse the results of political decisions with technology limits or a shortage of resources.

They quit looking for uranium because they had found so much there was no point in looking for more. Seven years of reserves is a general rule in mining.

Breeder reactors were stopped for political purposes. EBR II did stay running long enough to prove out it's fuel cycle.

Other political decisions resulted in a nuclear moratorium with all new electrical production shifted to first coal, the natural gas.

Does anybody have any hard figures on the CURRENT cost of extracting uranium from seawater?

It seems reasonably safe to say that we would be wise to assume that, while scaling up any industrial process always saves money, the people who write the estimates of costs are apt to be wrong by a factor of two or three -or maybe ten or twenty-or even infinity, for practical purposes.

Take the example of controlled fusion for example-personally I don't believe any of us reading this forum today will live to see practical fusion power plants-the cost of research and development is simply beyond our ability to pay it.Some of the needed materials and technologies might even actually turn out to be physical impossibilities.

But I do think we will see practical breeder reactors-and that nuclear power could potentially save our butts-a lot of them, at least, from industrial collapse and the inevitable carnage that will follow such a collapse. (78pp)
is reference 7 in wikipedia:

On p. 56 of the pdf, begins a discussion of extraction of uranium from seawater. This has been done in laboratory research, but not in anything approaching engineering prototype quantities. Estimates of cost are given, but I think that they are hardly better than idle speculation. If there are better numbers that are not public, the reason for keeping them private is entirely a matter of speculation (beyond the manifest speculation that they exist).

The quoted concentration for U in seawater is 3.3 mg/1000 l in Wikipedia (with no footnote reference).

The pdf briefly considers the ERoEI and concludes that it would be far less than one.


Here's a source "that might be feasable for $120/lb" of U3O8 (that's not yet enriched). Assuming the usual optimism, maybe 3 times that?

Oldfarmer, please give a look to my article on "Sustainability".

Extracting uranium - as any metal ion other than Na, K, Mg and Ca (and maybe Li, just maybe) is impossible. Too expensive in terms of energy. With the most optimistic assumptions; extracting uranium from seawater would need as much energy as you can get from it.

"extracting uranium from seawater would need as much energy as you can get from it."

My quick study, reported above, leads me to believe that the situation is worse than this. The actual cost of extracting U from seawater has never been properly evaluated because everyone who has set out to do such an evaluation has quickly come to the realization that the cost is very much greater than the return. When they communicate this preliminary result to their friends and colleagues, they are quickly convinced to abandon the analysis and find something more useful to do with their analytical talent.

Ugo, does your article touch on the possible extraction rate? A couple of years ago I think someone gave a presentation at an ASPO conference that stated an enormous amount of seawater would need to be processed to get a usable amount of uranium. Having to process this amount of water would seriously dampen the rate of extraction, it seems to me. Some techniques like adsorption may not actually need a lot of energy input (once the infrastructure is built) but the rate of extraction would be extremely low, I think.

Sofistek, you are referring to Michael Dittmar's presentation at ASPO in Ireland. He gave some qualitative idea of the mass of water that would need to be processed in order to produce the uranium we need for the present (and future) reactor fleet of the world. My article follows a similar line, but it quantifies the energy cost of extraction.

If you want a high rate, you just increase the size of your facilities - the problem is that more facilities mean more energy. Eventually, however, you are right that there is also a question of volumes processed; when you start processing a significant fraction of the oceans, then you stumble into other kinds of limits: filtering out whales, for instance. And also cruise ships would be sucked in.... :-) . But it is just for fun. It is the usual problem, it is EROEI.

You used 1 Sversrups current for your calculations, when Japan is looking at the Kuroshio which has 42 Sverdrups.

The Agulhas Current is the Western Boundary Current of the southwest Indian Ocean. It flows down the east coast of Africa from 27°S to 40°S. It is narrow, swift and strong. It is even suggested that the Agulhas is the largest western boundary current in the world ocean, as comparable western boundary currents transport less, ranging from the Brazil Current, 16.2 Sverdrups), to the Kuroshio, 42 Sverdrups

The sources of the Agulhas Current are the East Madagascar Current (25 Sverdrups), the Mozambique Current (5 Sverdrups) and a reticulated part of the Agulhas Current itself (35 Sverdrups). The net transport of the Agulhas Current is estimated as 100 Sv.

You said no one was looking at scaling up with offshore processing when Japan is looking at exactly that

Japan is also looking at genetically engineering seaweed to be the absorpant which will produce biofuel and extract uranium and vanadium by having high levels of tannin.

Japan has an active research program and their latest work is to use cloth dipped in juice that is high in tannins

You also base your calculations on once through reactors

It seems to me you've seriously overestimated the energy cost.

So, a mid-range value of 5 kWh/kg cannot be too far off in terms of the energy cost of extracting something from the open sea and bringing it back to land.

Servicing collectors moored in known locations close to shore should take substantially less fuel than dragging nets and lines through the ocean, hoping to intercept schools of fish. What's the fuel-energy/kg of fish farmed in pens?

We also read in the paper that the membranes were “pulled out of seawater using a crane ship every 20 to 40 days”. In other words, the membranes have to be brought back to the elution facility every month or so.

No they don't. Table 1 of "Aquaculture of Uranium in Seawater by a Fabric-Adsorbent Submerged System" shows no obvious saturation of the medium; the 90-day trial had one of the highest adsorbent rates.

Charles, I think the idea of being able to extract all 32,000 tonnes from the seas is not remotely possible. First of all, the seas are very large; as U235 is extracted, the dilution level decreases, and it becomes more expensive.

Also, I wonder how long it remains suspended (or is it dissolved? Educate me, please.). Once it hits the seabed, extraction from deepwater could be problematic, I would say. Again, shooting from the hip here, so send me some data if you could. Moreover, my understanding is that U235 gradually moves down, it being the most dense naturally occurring element, and all. Eventually it reaches center Earth, and some believe that there is a natural thermonuclear reaction going on all the time (and at the center of most larger non-gas planets = and perhaps the gas giants as well, though I do not recall reading of any). This is the source of much of the heat that keeps the planet moving, as it were.

Anyway, I think the recycle technology (breeder reactors) is promising, since it solves or addresses both disposal of waste (there isn't any) and availability of ores. I have advocated strongly for returning to nuclear power, though with little success, and believe that this should be considered as a short to mid-term direction as we downsize and become truly sustainable.

Of course, some believe that nano-tech will come to the rescue... or maybe we should watch for the Rapture? Longer term, IMO, we need to reduce human population, and live in balance with the natural conditions of the planet. If we want our species to continue past that, we should be encouraging transferral of life to other planets, But that is another rant.


Yes, I'd reluctantly support nuclear as a transition energy source, within a strategy to move to a sustainable society. Otherwise, another unsustainable energy source is not a particularly bright move, even disregarding the safety problems.

Also, I wonder how long it remains suspended (or is it dissolved? Educate me, please.). Once it hits the seabed, extraction from deepwater could be problematic, I would say. Again, shooting from the hip here, so send me some data if you could. Moreover, my understanding is that U235 gradually moves down, it being the most dense naturally occurring element, and all. Eventually it reaches center Earth,...

Uranium is in solution; presumably it is precipitating out about as fast as new material is added to the sea. Over geologic time, it will be recirculated through hydrothermal vents or being uplifted in erodible mountains.

Uranium is lithophilic, so it preferentially went into the skim of slag on the early molten Earth. As a result, the concentration in the crust is *higher* than in the lower levels.

The present-day abundance of uranium in the 'depleted' mantle exposed on the ocean floor is about 0.004 ppm. The continental crust, on the other hand, is relatively enriched in uranium at some 1.4 ppm. This represents a 70-fold enrichment compared with the primitive mantle. In fact, the uranium lost from the 'depleted' oceanic mantle is mostly sequestered in the continental crust.

"The plateu is due to stealing from the future"

Its a subjective POV if you ask me... if you back dated EOR tech the final hubbert curve would be a bigger bell than the one implied by the production history.

I think its the other way round . practically (on paper) a command economy could pull out a lot more oil per day than we currently see.. the plateau is a form of rationing.

The plateau is due to stealing from the future.

True, but it is also a matter of resolution and perspective from the point of view of the observer. Somewhat akin to standing on vast plain and claiming the earth to be flat. If one observes the same plain from the vantage point of a space craft orbiting the earth, the plain becomes but a point in the overall curvature of an oblate spheroid.

Bringing in a team of surveyors, with ever more precise tools, to measure slight variations in elevation at various points in the plain becomes a pointless exercise if we want to measure the circumference of the globe.

Somewhat akin to standing on vast plain and claiming the earth to be flat.

Actually it is on plains you can see the best that earth is round. From back in ca 500 BC and forward it was common knowledge that earth is round. The guys who found out about it; sailors. And nothing is flatter than the sea. With extreme winds you may get a 30 meter high wave, it never get much higher than that.

Since the 19:th century we have believed that medevial people believed earth was flat, but that is an urban myth.

The guys who found out about it; sailors. And nothing is flatter than the sea

Thanks for the heads up, Jedi, from outer space, yes, from the deck of a small sailboat... well, as I said it depends on your reference point. For the record I live within 2 miles of the Atlantic Ocean, I've spent a good portion of my life in, on and under the sea. I have even witnessed a ship or two disappear over the horizon due to the curvature of the earth...

Since the 19:th century we have believed that medevial people believed earth was flat, but that is an urban myth.

Tell that to these guys who still aren't convinced in 2011...

Deprogramming the masses since 1547, the Flat Earth Society has long been dedicated to the Flat Earth principles which define our organization.

Throughout the years it has become a duty of each Flat Earth Society member, to meet the common Round Earther in the open, avowed, and unyielding rebellion; to declare that his reign of error and confusion is over; and that henceforth, like a falling dynasty, he must shrink and disappear, leaving the throne and the kingdom of science and philosophy to those awakening intellects whose numbers are constantly increasing, and whose march is rapid and irresistible. The soldiers of truth and reason of the Flat Earth Society have drawn the sword, and ere another generation has been educated and grown to maturity, will have forced the usurpers to abdicate. Like the decayed and crumbling trees of an ancient forest, rent and shattered by wind and storm, the hypothetical philosophies, which have hitherto cumbered the civilized world, are unable to resist the elements of experimental and logical criticism; and sooner or later must succumb to their assaults. The axe is uplifted for a final stroke - it is about to fall upon the primitive sphere of the earth, and the blow will surely “cut the cumberer down!”


I wish that was a joke or satire, it isn't.

I wish that was a joke or satire, it isn't.

Oddly enough, such ideas are on the upswing. If you said earth was flat in the medevial days, they would have flogged your figgons. Today, people believe more and more wiered stuff. See the Hollow Earth guys, for example. (No, I did not mean earth is HOLY, I meant there is a big HOLE in it. With an advanced civilication in it. I would love to see Flat Earth and Hollow Earth theorists on a TV broadcasted debate show.)

Hi Fred,

Of course I am only an arm chair jack of all intellectual pursuits, and a master of none, but I think our understanding of the history of the question of a flat versus round earth has been oversimplified in the telling.

I agree that scholarly thinkers, the occasional sailor with more than the usual amount of brains, and a good portion of the very very few well educated people of times long past understood that the earth is round.

But I have never seen any evidence to indicate that the VAST majority of people , one, ever gave the matter any thought, or two, if they did, accepted the idea of a round earth.

I have seen plenty of things on a life long random walk thru the " big library" to indicate that the typical citizen of previous times did indeed believe the earth was flat-these typical citizens including the majority of the people able to read and write.

We need to keep in mind that in the West for instance, hardly anybody except a scribe or two and the local priest could read and write in many communities, for centuries at a stretch.

Certainly no priest of Rome previous to 1600 or so would have ever considered in his worst nightmare the idea of even mentioning a round earth, unless he got hold of some very bad(ergot infested) grain and some good wine on the same day.

Having actually spent my life among normally intelligent but uneducated (ignorant) people, I have no problem whatsoever in contemplating the thought of the typical sailor believing he could sail off the edge of the Earth.

I know plenty of people right now, today, with degrees from supposedly good universities, who believe in things equally as irrational or delusional, and I'm NOT referring to Jesus and His Daddy and Momma !

The problem with the educated elite is that it never seems to be able to remember that the rest of the world is simply not educated, and that the natural state of mankind is superstition and ignorance. ;-)

And I might add that there is another layer of the onion of irony to be peeled back here-one that you as a biologist will appreciate-most of the superstitions and the erroneous beliefs we label "ignorance" probably have survival value, or at least had such value at some point in time.

Certainly no priest of Rome previous to 1600 or so would have ever considered in his worst nightmare the idea of even mentioning a round earth, unless he got hold of some very bad(ergot infested) grain and some good wine on the same day.

I am sorry to break this news to you, but this is untrue in every detail.

There are an earth globe from the 13:th century at a museum in Paris.
There are a geography book (the standard book on geography of the time) from rougly the same time, pedagogicly teaching how earth is round and day/night changes occour when earth revolve around its axis.
There are a protocol from about 800-something of from a debate between a round-earth and a flat-earth theorist. According to the protocoll, Mr Round Earth won.

The myth you subscribe to is listed as nr 4 on Wikipedias list of common misconceptions:

Let me repeat the FACT as they are:
This greek fellow figured out the diameter of the earth within 5% error marginal ca 500 BC. The greek took this knowledge with them.

When the New Testament was written we see the evidence of the progress of this knowledge: Jesus tells us abut the rapture when the righteous will be suddenly removed and the rest left on earth. He mentions 3 couple of people where one is left behind, the other removed. These couples are doing night/morning/evening-activities when this happen, BUT STILL AT THE SAME TIME. Jesus was a carpenter.

Then comes Darwin. The church opposes his theory (a great misstake IMHO) and then the advocates of evolution decides they need to discredit the church as a scientific advisor. Method of choise: invent a story that the church teached the earth was flat in the medevial days. People still believes this.

Please contact a historian forfurther details. I am just a welder.

Hi Jedi,

Speaking as one welder to another, greetings!

I used to pass out cards advertising that I could fix anything other than a broken heart or the crack of dawn.

The last big job I did personally consisted of welding up most of the duct work for the Commonwealth of Virginia's test and research facility-the place they will be doing any work done in state on super hot viruses and so forth. I still have my own shop, and piddle around in it .

I am well aware aware of most of the references you mention;they are good ones, within the limitations of the intellectual blinders of the people who wrote them.

But I will stick to my guns-probably less than one person out of ten thousand prior to the industrial age ever gave the idea of a round earth ANY thought whatsoever.Most such people lived and died within a few miles of their place of birth, and never saw anything such as a book, or a newspaper, or a school.

And if by some chance they did get into one of the very few privately operated schools, well... if you actually read the history of who the teachers were, and what they taught......

Even today, most of the students attending university are being taught one huge load of bullshit in many respects.Business majors, and economics majors , are taught to believe in eternal growth- but little or nothing about the physical limitations imposed on this absurdity by the laws of physics and the practical facts of geology.

The primary reason we have an unaddressed peak oil problem is ignorance, on the part of the general public-and this in an era of fast and nearly free ( I get yesterdays paper for free every day, and broadband plus land line phone costs less than a daily glass of beer) communication and near universal education, at least in the West.

I taught in a public school for a good while-this during the third /fourth generation of compulsive education, and after couple of generations of television, by the way.

Speaking as a professional in this respect, I can say that it is probably not impossible to overestimate the ignorance of the public, but I have so far as I can recall never seen a documented case of it happening.


Must have been fun that part. I love welding big things. Unfortunateley the economic crisis made our export based industry lose alot of costumers, not tomention all cars e make that no one can afford the fuel todrive any more, and there are loads of unemployed welders out there, and now I have joined them. No fun at all.

But I must dissagree with some of you points.

First the one about no one moving far away from home: we have evidence that we knew about christianity in my country about year 300, but the faith got here first 500 years later. The reason they knew this was trade contacts. We have identical rock carvings on the swedish west coast as in a place in the italian alps that are 3000 years old. And so on. Last I heard about this, historians no longer say we were all isolated in ourlocalcillage; we did have far reaching contacts. And the key issue here is:

It only takes one to spread a rumour.

I also strongly disagree with that they did not ponder the realities of the cosmos. We are a curious breed, and have been for all days in the past. Off course they were thinking about it. All it takes is someone to spin an apple on top of his finger tips while sitting by the fireplace or in the sunlight to go "hm?..." and have a great idea. We probably found out about this round earth thing a hundred times before the greek.

But the greek knew how to write, and that is a way to preserve thoughts for the future. This way you can re-use thoughts instead of having to think them all anew again. That is when it begun to spread.

Sow how about schools at the time? We have a note book from a student who attended the university at Uppsala (you've probably heard of this guy Kjell Aleklett, same university) back in "flat earth days". His notes from geography class tells us he got in formed. And weather you trust me on this or not; education was stadardized at the time. The catholic church made sure of that.

Off course there were some few how did not know. But you know, going to church those days was mandatory, and the sermons (thats when the guy with the funny hat talks) lasted like 3 hours. Whatwere he talking about? EVERYTHING! That was the only school they had, so there was, according to historians, some teaching of school stuff to. And the priests went to universities to get their hat.

The historical evidence for that they knew geography in the medevia ages are compelling. But yet, I have never succeded to convince anyone who are in anti-knowledge denialism of this fact to change their view point. I don't know whay, but we modern people likes to cling to this myth. It makes us feel better knowing that they were stupid back then.

But I do agree with your points on denialism. For another parallell see the NASA-did-not-fly-to-the-moon-crowd. When we don't want to believe, we don't. Wich makes me very happy knowing that I broke out of Young Earth Creationism, wich I were raised to. What are the odds to ever break out of a denialism cage? Maybe I was just lucky?

Your points are well made but as is often the case, the reality is not black or white but a shade of gray. Throughout the Dark Ages there are examples of the earth depicted as a sphere. This was understood by a significant percentage of the educated segment of the population. At the same time, the uneducated segment of the population (a vast percentage) and a portion of the educated class believed the earth was flat. A good read on this is in Daniel Boorstin's "The Discoverers". See Chapter entitled "The Geography of the Imagination." It is quite similar to today really. The vast majority of the educated segment of society accepts evolution as fact. Yet a significant segment of society, 30%+ by some polls, believes evolution is false and the earth is 4000 years old. This includes some otherwise intelligent and educated people. Not really different, is it, from those who believe peak oil is a myth and the world is "awash" with oil.

Jedi, a bit off topic: Some weeks ago I was on a flight and the normally foggy horizont was razor sharp. I actually could see the curvation of the earth from above.

Fmagyar, I think you have to look at the shape of the peak in relationship to the availability of resources, necessary to get more oil, in particular, money. Oil goes to $147 per barrel and the world economy hiccups. Had there been plenty of money, there might have been some increase in available resources as infrastructure geared up.
Now, Westexas don't get on me about this as it was, in fact, IMHO, the inavailability of money, drained from the worlds monetary system that was partially to blame for the lack of sufficient infrastructure.

Demand destroyed, the production went into plateau and will stay there until demand destruction rears it's ugly head again. Seems like pricing will force that soon.

Another point is that major producers now aren't necessarily producing at the top rate they could (and why should they in a rising price market), that's what the IEA has alluded to today :

IEA sounds oil price alarm
Submitted by Mikael Höök on Mon, 2011-01-17 13:30.

IEA executive director Tanaka told reporters on the sidelines of an industry conference that Opec "needs to show more flexibility" in increasing oil production according to Reuters. "If the current price continues, it will have a negative impact," he said. Oil hit a record $147 a barrel in 2008 and there are fears that prices could rise significantly above $100 if Opec does not signal its intent to lift supplies.

Nonetheless, United Arab Emirates Oil Minister Mohammed al-Hamli downplayed the IEA’s concerns, saying that fluctuating oil prices were not a cause for concern. "The price keeps going up and down and all I can say for now is that we are happy," al-Hamli said. The minister claimed markets continued to be well supplied and added he expected positive growth in demand going forward.

Read more: Upstream Online

de Margerie Total CEO also said something similar along the lines "today it's not a problem of quantity available, but quantity on the market"


Yes, but obviously TOD has chosen the techie route, or in other words the confortable one, and doesn't wish to adress the only thing that could matter : public awareness, and policy and politics regarding fossile fuels and Energy, which for the US (and from a pure US selfish perspective), could be sumarized as an obvious first step : the GAS TAX MUST BE INCREASED

But it's a clear decision

ToD is more then a US forum.

I agree that fossil fuel taxes is a very good idea, preferably ones that are increased steadily until they reach substantial levels that force the market into litterally providing lighter solutions.

We still got a car culture and industry over here were fuel taxe are high but it is not as heavy and it is not the only solution for every transportation need everywhere.

The free market will still solve the dilemma withoth taxes but probably in a more abrupt way.

The free market will still solve the dilemma withoth taxes but probably in a more abrupt way.

Yes it will, by "exporting freedom" to some reserves-rich land. But don't worry, the abrupt way will be felt only by your counterpart.

Yves - Again it appears you must have been elsewhere when we've had our discussions on TOD about public awareness. I'm not sure what "public' you mingle with but within my circle the vast majority of folks are very aware that increasing fuel taxes would reduce demand. And they just as readily reject the idea: they simply don't want to pay more for driving. Not saying that's a logical position but it is their position. Likewise most politicians IMHO also realize the long term benefit of raising motor fuel taxes. They know that fact just as well as the fact they would destroy any chance of re-election if they supported any move to increase those taxes significantly. Raising fuel taxes is not THE FIRST STEP. A step that isn't taken isn't any kind of a step.

As I pointed out to you in an earlier post I have little interest in beating on this dead end subject anymore. Not that it isn't an important aspect of PO but because it typically leads nowhere other than pointing out the foolishness of the many Americans. But you are certainly welcome to inspire more conversation on TOD about the subject matter. So far it seems you've haven't inspired very many. Perhaps it's your critical/condescending tone. But hey...what do I know: I'm just a simple minded techie.

Rock, for quite some time the link I used to use to access TOD in my personal bar was Gail's thread below :

I understand that Gail (the actuary) is no more part of TOD editorial board, but also seems to me she wouldn't do such a thread anymore, indeed there really isn't so much to "understand" about peak oil after all, what is the saying again ? "it isn't a problem it is a predicament" or something like that.

Now that the tax aspect has been discussed and that the conclusion was it isn't feasible, true that I didn't see it, do you have links to these threads ?

Moreover, there are still people (Americans) saying it should be part of the "solution", James Hansen but also others, like Jeremy Grantham quoted in Drumbeat recently :

The financial resources of the carbon-based energy companies are particularly terrifying, and their effective management of propaganda goes back decades. They established and funded “independent” think tanks and even non-profit organizations that have mysteriously always come out in favor of policies favorable to maintaining or increasing the profits of their financial supporters.

The campaign was well-organized and has been terrifyingly effective. And the results speak for themselves: which other developed country has so little gas tax? Not one. And better yet, which other country now accepts the myth that good red-blooded Americans will never stand for such a tax? That is the real art. It has created an environment in which we cannot aspire to the social responsibility – and a higher gas tax is simply that – of, say, the Italians (the most agreeable people on the planet, in my opinion, but not noted for making tough political decisions). Which other developed country has had no improvement in fuel efficiency because it has reinvested the considerable technological advances in heavier SUVs, with no real need for most other than the nurturing of their macho instincts? Not one.

So whether you consider it being a dead end subject or not, I still consider that it is THE MAJOR POINT regarding the US and peak oil, both from a US pure self interest economic perspective, but also as the only way to push the message to the "masses", somehow.

So that I will probably continue bringing it on the table, the sad part in this in the end being more "politics" now being apparently a really dirty word in the US.

A plateau should give people pause since 90 million people are added every year to the population. Maybe overall oil is in a plateau but oil per capita is declining. But those on the garbage heap of history are little noticed. So what if we have millions of more starving or near starving people scraping by in the slums of the world.

"The plateau is due to stealing from the future."

I wouldn't even go that far. If you plot the height of 10 adults, you get a chart with ten points. If you plot 1000, you get something that looks like a normal distribution curve. If you plot a million, you get even closer to the normal curve.

It's simple statistics. Different fields of different sizes with different reservoir sizes and different ages, and it smooths out. The peak goes away, and a broad plateau results.

The Central Limit Theorem describes the shape of the probability distribution of a sum of independent random variables.

It does not describe anything about the sum of a set of production functions that are the derivatives of a set of logistic curves. There is no mathematical reason for the latter to approximate a Gaussian distribution function.

PVGUY: I wouldn't even go that far. If you plot the height of 10 adults, you get a chart with ten points. If you plot 1000, you get something that looks like a normal distribution curve. If you plot a million, you get even closer to the normal curve.

It's simple statistics. Different fields of different sizes with different reservoir sizes and different ages, and it smooths out. The peak goes away, and a broad plateau results.

That makes zero sense. Do you just make this crap up?

The problem with this argument is that the area under the production curve is a fixed value.

We don't know exactly what that value is, but you can't raise the curve today without lowering it tomorrow.

This means that there are only 2 potential explanations for the current plateau:
1. We are pushing up production over expected production for URR, and increasing the rates of dropoff we will see later
2. Production has been "clipped" below expected production for URR by economic/political factors and we will see a slower dropoff down the road (or even an increase, but unless the numbers are way off I don't expect to see annual production exceed 2005 for C+C).

I don't think it quite is; if you're counting every last drop of oil in the ground, it is surely fixed, but it is enormous. The area under the production curve is how much we can figure out how to extract, for a given dollar and/or energy cost. That will be a fixed number, but we don't quite know what it will be, and different people perceive different numbers. The most innovation-Panglossian economists assume that we will always think of something useful in the future.

Every last drop of underground hydrocarbons could be considered the absolute limit barring some fantasy solution.

The practical limit will turn out to be some percentage less than that, and while it is impossible to know in advance what that final number is going to be, I personally expect that the combination of physical difficulty and economic/political factors will keep us from jumping up from this plateau.

So while it is impossible to know the final area under the curve until we get there, we can draw some conclusions about the most likely range.

WHAT year will the plateau end? 2020?

Cool - Not sure if it will be "a year". I'm not very good at predicting futures but my sense is that we won't run up to the edge of the plateau and fall off a cliff-like face. In geomorphology there is a type of hill form..a questa. The front of the hill has a somewhat steep rise but reaching the crest you see a long gradual down slope that eventually reaches the base elevation. The crest of the questa may seem somewhat flat but it's clear there is a declining gradient in front of you. In fact sometimes you hardly notice you're walking downhill. I wonder if 30 years from now that this is what we'll see looking back.

But that gentle declining oil production gradient doesn't represent a gentle time for consumers. Against that gentle decline we have to overlay a not so gentle increase in consumption along with prices. I think the political, social and military responses will be far from gentle. In fact I doubt much of the future conversation will revolve around how much oil is capable of being produced per se but how much oil each player can control/usurp. Regardless of how far oil production drops if a player can access all they need then they are not at PO...even if most of the rest of the world has been there for years.

There may not be a global cliff, you may very well be right about that. But the latest few months I have become incresingly aware of exports. Population and demand grows, together with domestic consumption in exporting nations. For the importers, that spells more competitors for less oil. My guess is some place will one day get the message from their supplyer "sorry guys, no more oil, we will focus on our key costumers from now on". For them, it will be a 100% drop over night. And that phone call will come to place after place. And one day, it will come to an office near you.

I would liken it to a lot of slopes that you encounter while backcountry skiing, and I would liken the current oil situation to skiing an unknown hill in a white-out without a map.

It appears to be flat on the top, and you are double-poling along complaining about the flatness and the little bumps. Then it starts to get steeper, and you start to slide a little. Then it gets even steeper and you have to do turns to slow down. And then you realize that it is far steeper than anything you can ski, you are completely out of control, you can't stop, you can't go back up, and for all you know there might be a cliff below you.

A lot of people have been killed skiing these types of slopes. Experienced skiers are very wary of them. If they aren't sure what they are on, they will stop and assess the situation. If they still aren't sure, they will turn back.

I think the mathematics that creates these slopes is similar to that which creates the Hubble Curve. They certainly look much alike.

The current oil situation is similar to skiing one of these hills, except you don't have the option of turning back and unfortunately, most of the people who are skiing it are novices rather than experts. And nobody can see what is ahead, so some people think it's a plateau, some think it's a cliff. Most likely it's a downslope that starts out so slowly that many people think it's flat, and then rapidly gets steeper until it's too steep for most people to handle.

I can barely bear with these analogies. I will do downhill, backcountry, XC skate skiing in the span of a week. When you hit the steep parts, you really need the right equipment. Skate skis get squirrelly on you right from the start. My Fischer snowbounds backcountry skis have metal edges and a parabolic cut but they still aren't great on steep parts. But the downhill skis usually do the job, up to a point. I guess the allegory is that many people are going to get squirrelly. But maybe the downslope is actually an uphill slog. In that case, free-your-heel and your mind will follow.

I think the mathematics that creates these slopes is similar to that which creates the Hubble Curve. They certainly look much alike.

I live for the slopes. Interestingly, I have a whole section devoted to slope topography on page 524 of Steep slopes are actually pretty rare and the model that predicts how rare they are has something in common with the Hubbert curve, and thy name is Entropy.

That fit is a beauty and it is a single entropic parameter giving the mean slope of 0.037 rise/run for the entire USA. Average slopes on ski runs are around 0.5


Problem is there is a similar hill with a slightly different geology the flat top is caused by a harder caprock on top. As you reach the edge there is a nasty cliff between you and that gentle slope.

Seriously thought I'd argue that the US production profile suggests if you try hard enough you probably will eventually get a fairly gentle decline rate. Its just that exactly how this gentle slope might meet up with our current production thats and open area.

Indeed the years around US peak production are very interesting. So although I think your long slope is spot on I don't think your tie up is correct.

For example oil prices have now been much higher longer than at any time in history. Very little of our current production was developed using expected price points much higher than 30 dollars a barrel at most.

I will attempt to spar with you in your area of expertise :)

The problem with Big Foot is that it is not big enough. With only 200 million barrels of reserves, the capital cost/bbl would be 5 times as much as for a billion barrel field on a similarly-sized structure. If the field were developed with 20 wells (over the life of the field and including service wells) each costing $200 million and producing 5,000–10,000 bbl/day, the cost would be $4.0 billion. The 100,000 bbl/day floating production platform would cost $1.75 billion and initial exploration costs, would amount to $1 billion (including lease bonus and seismic surveys). Thus total capital cost will be about $6.75 billion or $33/bbl, near the current crude oil price. Assume daily platform operating costs of $600,000/day which include two workboats and two helicopters and the lifting cost is $6/bbl. That puts the cost up to $39/bbl and it is still necessary to move it to the Pascagoula refinery 300 miles away.
For comparison, if the structure had a much longer oil column with reserves around 1 billion barrels, then the capital cost would under $10/bbl. Crude oil price risk would be essentially removed.

Oil prices have since risen and this is a field that has yet to be developed. The rest of the story is worth a read.
My main point from that quote was clearly big fields are far more lucrative esp if future price volatility is assumed.
The claim that high prices will automatically increase production by making new fields economical is questionable esp since its pretty clear that they strain the economy and may be volatile. On the other side although its impossible to get good numbers one has to imagine that everyone with and existing field that was developed with and expectation of a 20-30 dollar price point or less has to be doing everything they can to take advantage of these high prices. Except for the Saudis of course :)

Clearly new field development esp in deepwater can be problematic but on the same hand accelerated production from existing fields seem to be a slam dunk decision. The net result is simply by looking at price alone it seems that the net effect is to accelerate the depletion rate of existing fields while not necessarily accelerating the rate that new fields come online. Clearly at some point this accelerated depletion rate will lead to and accelerated decline rate that won't be matched by new field additions.

This is one of many ways one can see that there is likely to be a bit of a bump or dip or whatever you want to call it before you get to that long gentle slope. Additional concepts simply make it more alarming. Heck even the DOE as raised the alarm on the investment.

The U.S. Department of Energy admits that “a chance exists that we may experience a decline” of world liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015 “if the investment is not there”, according to an exclusive interview with Glen Sweetnam, main official expert on oil market in the Obama administration.
Glen Sweetnam, who heads the publication of DoEs annual International Energy Outlook, agrees that what he identifies as a possible decline of liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015 could be the first stage of the “undulating plateau” pattern, which will start “once maximum world oil production is reached”.

I left out the explicit rejection of peak oil the position is a perfect mirror of CERA. And of course clearly they make no mention of the effect of high prices on existing fields however even the most optimistic forecasts are predicting and un in undulating.

Over the short term even if the undulating plateau theory is correct these dips may well prove very significant. Simply including the undiscussed effects of high oil prices on existing fields suggests the dip may be bigger than expected.

If one assumes that the public data is correct and we have been on a plateau for a while clearly we have already had a rough time.
Regardless of what the real relationship is between supply and demand clearly our economy has already been badly damaged. And its also clear that high oil prices can return. Its far from clear that the world economy can even survive what ever is really happening right now much less the future. Since it looks increasingly clear that we are in for either and extended period of fairly high priced oil or another price shock of some sort whats going to happen after that ? And then the one after that ?

The undulating plateau concept is I guess supposed to calm everyone but so what ?

The economy clearly can't handle it easily. I'm far less worried now about the long term peak oil projections these days its next month and six months etc that matter. Unless we see some real and clear stabilization of our global economy every single month matters. If it continues to deteriorate the size of the pin head your dancing on probably does not matter. I know you pretty much said the same thing but I think that for now its important to focus on the short term. Heck the way things are right now a single above ground event that causes a serious disruption in oil supply may be enough to crumble the economy. Assuming things continue to tighten over the coming months something as small as a major pipeline outage or a hurricane could really send us reeling.
Or we could have some other major event in another part of our economy or another economy.

My point is it seems like we are already in the middle of the storm if you will and its time to worry about someone rocking the boat not the leak in the bottom regardless of its size :)

jedi/memmel - I agree with both of you in some aspects. As far as new efforts making for a more gentle down slope I don't actually contribute much to that. As production matures in many fields the rates drop but so does the rate of decline. There are many wells in Texas that have almost no decline rate after 40+ years of production. OTOH these wells average less than 10 bopd each. There just happens to be a lot of them. I envision something similar for global production rates. A more gentle down slope will be based upon very old fields IMHO. New field discoveries, such as DW GOM/Bz, will help but they won't have the long life/low production rate we've seen from mature onshore fields. In the review mirror new big field discoveries may just appear to be short lived up bumps on our gradual down slope.

But I agree there is likely a cliff in our future. Not so much in terms of production rate but from a widening gap between max rate and demand. Perhaps a better visual than a cliff would be a wall. We just smacked into one such wall in '08. We bounced off a little sore but still alive. Lots of pain for sure but demand destruction allowed us to hop over this relative short wall. We may hit similar short walls in the next 5-10 years. But it seems eventually we'll hit a wall we can't jump over. A time perhaps when even demand destruction isn't enough to put matter back into equilibrium.

Yeah I like the wall concept because its not just including production but demand. It really does not matter how both variables are changing simply that they get out of sync if you will. Demand can say result in a price increase but still be increasing and production can't keep up.
This leads to what it looks like we have seen in the past a bidding war developing.

Underneath it all we have plenty of money to devote to buying oil and producing oil its just money is not having as much of and effect.

It's like a millionaire going to a flea market or and art auction. In the flea market he can throw his weight around in the auction house well not so much. This works on both producer and consumer side. Big producers are used to being able to throw money around and get results. Oil gets expensive well we will just produce a few new billion barrel fields viola oil and money. Wealthier consumers are used to being the millionaire in the flea market with oil costs a insignificant factor.

These walls develop when money leverage fails. I.e throwing money at the problems does not change the outcome. You have to gasp alter your behavior. Big oil has to consider smaller plays it would never have touched before. The consumer might just have to conserve.

This fits very well with what I claim happened in 2008 we hit a distillate wall. Using this concept you can avoid the argument of why we hit it but clearly we did. In the US everyone complains about gasoline prices but clearly its was distillates leading the price moves.
This of course directly impacted business operations and its a wall because distillate demand simply could not be met at any price.

Why this happened is of course interesting but the key economic impact are these walls if you will that seem to form.

This is actually pretty interesting because again regardless of the true supply situation clearly OPEC is part of and attempt to prevent the formation of such walls. I don't think they are as worried about average daily price I'm sure any high price for oil is good for them.
However they are worried about another wall looming where you have a market imbalance as its very destabilizing.

If you think about it from a producers perspective they will produce oil at what ever the market price is however volatile prices are a big problem that why we have the futures market in the first place. Its hard to run a business with big price swings. On the other side of the table its hard for consumers to have large variable expenditures if they have a lot of debt that needs servicing at a fixed rate.

So these walls regardless of why they form have and out sized impact on the economy. Producers don't know what price point they can depend on. Consumers are forced to increase savings to cover variable costs etc.

I think the real issue is then how is supply and demand really changing ? On the supply side I'm not too worried about demand growth as clearly it can be forced down i.e a demand growth wall is fragile and can be destroyed. However if its a supply problem it seems that these walls will again form of their own accord even if demand behaves itself.

Thus if its demand driven then conservation and demand destruction results in a series of "low" walls. If its primarily supply side its a series of ever higher walls as demand growth is not driving the creation of the wall. Indeed in the worst case scenario demand simply cannot fall fast enough to collapse the wall.

The rapid return of oil prices to 70-80 even as the economy remained very weak is and indication that supply was a factor not demand.
The only question is was it from OPEC withdrawing crude or some other issue ?

Either way both issues are at work if it really was OPEC withdrawing supply well then we are likely to see ever higher prices but we won't see another wall form for some time to come as incremental supply will be available. This does not mean they are really protecting some sort of price band as they claim simply that they can ensure at least for a while that as price rise lack of supply does not play a role in creating one of these walls which ensure a weaker "demand" wall.

I just can't convince myself that a gentle decline is on the cards. It may be theoretically and technically possible to have gentle decline but that prospect would surely require societies and global civilisation not falling apart. We seem to have hit a plateau now and global economies are playing all sorts of tricks to pretend that economic growth is back on track (if a little slow) - but real unemployment and underemployment isn't budging. Are we likely to muddle through for another few decades before people realise that the "good times" aren't coming back? I don't think so. And once the wheels start to come off societies, international trade and tourism start to wind down, countries put up barriers, sporadic riots break out, and so on, is a smooth decline at all likely? I don't think so. Our economies and societies aren't structured to operate well without economic growth, or without the prospect of it. So I do see a cliff, though timing is completely unknown.

Ahh but a gentle decline and a cliff are not mutually exclusive !

If this gets deleted I'll email it to you it explains how both are true.

And I'll do a blog post on it.

ROCKMAN is 100% correct just off on his timing this creates the cliff.

Dear Hugo,

excellent posting, as always.
I think that these irregularities (compared with the logistic hubbert curve) are due to several processes:
1. technological improvements for technologies to extract the same sort of fuel (e.g. enhanced oil recovery or shale gas)
2. innovations for technologies that compete with this fuel (e.g. electric cars, electricity from renewables)
3. purchase power
4. fuel efficiency

Hubbert's logistic curve is valid for one technology without innovations. But these innovations trigger additional logistic curves, which overlap each other: The fostering type 1 curves add onto the original curve, whereas the competing type 2 curves take away from the original curve.

1. An example for a set of type 1 curves is the Weyburn oil field, where improvements like eor added up to the original extraction volume:


2. An example for a set of type 2 curves can be seen at a EIA graph of the United States Energy History

US energy history

Here for example wood was substituted by coal, which in turn was (partly) substituted by oil etc. So in future, for example substitutions for oil may be renewables, as soon as they become economically competitive to fossil fuels - a process which is starting right now.

3. Furthermore, there might be a third factor, which doesn't really fit into the two factors mentioned above: Purchase power, i.e. the ability to invest in energy consumption.

An example for this is the decrease of US road mileage after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
US mileage

Thus, the global purchase power for liquid fuels might turn out as the ultimate limit to the oil price. And as soon as the production of this marginal oil goes down the global oil production goes down. So this limited purchase power is also a limit to the demand elasticity: As soon as consumers cannot afford to pay more they are forced to consume less.

4. The effect of fuel efficiency is more complex:
On one hand it decreases the specific demand of fuel. Thus this effect may decrease the global fuel consumption - provided that the global demand for mobility, heat etc. doesn't increase. This is far from sure, regarding e.g. the rising demand in China.
On the other hand increasing efficiency increases the consumers' service-specific "purchase power": They can afford more expensive fuel if they have cars and homes that consume less. With a car that runs 1000 miles per gallon you could easily afford $10 gasoline. So is hard to predict which effect future increases in fuel efficiency will have on global oil production.

that Weyburn graph is quite a find

a global version would be insightful.

The 4 issues you raise increase at the margins close to peak, in a way the above ground complexities may not steal from the future but actually ration. The plateau is a by product of the bell curve maths being overwhelmed by the above ground stuff. It also must represent a period of declining exergy.

I am GUESSING while purchasing power may be the ultimate limiter it only comes into focus once C+C production is close enough to the peak of the curve.

The purchasing power effect can cut the other direction, though. Improved circumstances for developing countries (China, India, Brazil, others) mean that many more consumers may appear, and they are already accustomed to living relatively low-energy lives. Socially, they are accustomed to getting more value out of a gallon of gas (carpooling in a Tata Nano, or e-bikes and e-scooters in China) than we are.

Which is to say -- be careful you don't assume a constant-sized pool of consumers.

midi - interesting history of Weyburn Fld. But it is grossly misrepresentative to offer it as a model for future recovery from the global population of oil fields. Above all else EOR from infield vert drilling, water flooding, horizontal drilling and CO2 injection do not universally improve economic flow rates of all types of reservoirs. For instance hz drilling in a pressure depletion reservoir adds nothing to flow rates nor recover. Likewise only a very few mature water drive reserves can be improved with new vert wells.

Second, very few major fields have not been undergoing EOR for decades. Consider the US: there are very few fields that haven't been redeveloped with some form of EOR. Weyburn Fld may be a great model for potential increases from EOR of fields that haven't been addressed. But a very small number of US fields have such potential. Certainly more foreign fields have such potential. But many more have been redeveloped with one EOR method or another. Consider the major Saudi fields: most have had aggressive water floods in place for decades. Many saw significant increases in production from hz drilling that began almost 15 years ago.

So yes...there are a number of fields globally that will have improved flow rates when various EOR methods are eventually applied. But assuming such efforts will be applied to much existing global production with such positive results as seen in Weyburn Fld is a tremendous overstatement IMHO. With the exception of hz drilling all the EOR methods have been aggressively applied to US fields for more than half a century. All the major Saudi fields have been undergoing water flooding for decades. Even hz drilling was utilized on a large scale in the US over 20 years ago. Just consider the illogical position that EOR hasn’t been applied when it was both available and economic to do so: Over 30 years ago when oil prices (adjusted for inflation) reached a high very close to that seen in the $147 peak of ’08. So we in the oil patch just sat on our thumbs and took a pass on increasing profits?

Bottom line: offering that the majority of current global production can be greatly enhanced by EOR is very misrepresentative IMHO. In fact I'll offer that one reason we've settled into something of a production rate plateau is due to the slow but steady rcovery via EOR from many of the world's oil fields.

I may have given the mistaken impression new tech was some ubiquitous reason for a plateau in production, that was not my meaning.

the history of global C+C production displayed along those lines is of interest that is all.

On reflection my position is any form of EOR is in essence a below ground factor applied to the OOIP and if we looked at the entire history of the resource EOR is built in.

My point is any above ground issue relating to socio-economic factors is a form of rationing because no economic metric is of it self capable of increasing URR or OOIP. Though they may be proxy indicators for EOR feasibility. Once the plateau is reached my GUESS is that socio-political-economic effects will constantly feedback and maintain the plateau(range) for as long as is physically possible.

midi - I fully agree. The inground factors will be our base but the above ground factors may add an instability that all but obscures the geologic factors. Embargos, voluntary production reductions, demand destruction due to global recessions, etc will dominate the world of the consumers IMHO.

I just hopped on your poat as a vehicle to respond to some of the cornucopians out there who still think the oil patch is holding back on EOR waiting for better oil prices.

What's notable about Weyburn is that it's one of 4 CCS projects, sending CO2 by pipeline cross the US-Canada border to boost production at the field. I had a fun vehement argument with Majorian about this, where I pointed out that they missed their 2010 production forecast by some amount - 15 kb/d or whatnot, can't find the posts anymore. Dunno if that makes it a gamechanger, but with only a handful of these CCS projects around you wonder if maybe it's just too expensive for the oil cos to care, despite all the Green involved - saving the planet Green, that is, not $$$$. Well, unless the Gov, that is, Us, via taxes, start to subsidize these projects. Weyburn's CO2 pipeline ran $100.

THIS JUST IN: Carbon Dioxide Injected Underground is Leaking - WOWK-TV -

A Saskatchewan, Canada couple claims that carbon dioxide injected deep under their farm has escaped to the surface in what is said to be the world’s largest geological carbon storage project.
A consultant’s report released Jan. 11 by Cameron and Jane Kerr finds that CO2 is leaking from the Weyburn oil field.

“The provenance or source of the high concentrations of CO2 in soils of the Kerr property is clearly the anthropogenic (man made) CO2 injected into the Weyburn reservoir,” reads the report by Petro-Find Geochem, Ltd. of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

So much for that. I do remember how I finished up my final post to Majorian: "Next."

KLR – When you wonder if the CO2 injection is a “game changer” I’m guessing you’re not referring to Weyburn Fld and the other 3 projects. If it increased production by 10X it would have no impact on the global production curve. So if you’re talking about CO2 injection being a game changer I’ll point it was a game changer in the US…starting back in the 1950’s when it started being applied to many domestic fields. The only applicable fields where it wasn’t applied were the ones that had no access to CO2. From your post apparently that’s what happened to Weyburn. For whatever reason they delayed infield drilling and water flood until late in the field life. I can only guess that was due to economics. The viability of those techniques had been known for decades earlier.

No doubt there are many foreign fields where EOR hasn’t been applied for some reason. But none of those reasons would involve a lack of technical knowledge. Even hz drilling is old hat today. For EOR to be applied to these remaining fields will require overcoming what specific implementation problems exists. But seeing recent examples of EOR working in other fields isn’t going to make it happen IMHO. The technologies have been available in decades old tech journals.

Rockman, as you're no doubt aware, CO2 flood projects were quite effective in improving the recovery rates in the Permian Basin of West Texas. I think about half the CO2 flood projects in the world are in the Permian Basin. The key to the economics of it was the availability of large sources of cheap CO2 in the area - there's an awful lot of CO2 in the natural gas. The cost of these projects was something on the order of $20/bbl of increased production because of the cheap CO2 available.

The Weyburn project depends on the availability of CO2 from the Dakota Gasification plant in North Dakota, which is subsidized by the US Department of Energy. This plant is a coal gasification project which produces large amounts of CO2 as a side-effect. Since it would look bad for the US DOE to be releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases into the air, they pipeline it across the border to Weyburn, Saskatchewan where it is injected into an oil field to improve production.

It's an interesting project, but it only works because of the availability of large amounts of free CO2, and government subsidies - US government subsidies. Of course the US does get to dispose of the bad CO2, and imports the additional oil, so it does makes sense from a US perspective.

Typically Canadian oil fields used NGL miscible floods for enhanced oil recovery instead of CO2 floods because of the availability of large amounts of NGLs and a shortage of CO2. However, NGL production is declining because the gas fields are drying out, and the oil fields are largely exhausted anyway, do there's not much potential for more EOR in conventional oil fields. If someone gives them free CO2, though, the oil companies will use it.

I am interested on an atom by atom carbon balance analysis. You put CO2 down in the ground to get more carbonhydrates up. Is this process a sink or source of CO2?

ROCK - I was referring to Weyburn's pioneering implementation of CCS; I know about CO2's use in EOR. Get into an argument with Majorian if you have the chance, he states his case well; but Weyburn sounds like a real mess, and I wonder how much the other CCS projects were moved along by government handouts too.

Sorry KLR...missed that aspect. I know some years ago they weretalking about a CCS type project in S La. but I don't know if it ever got off the ground.

Speaking of holding back:

Titled "Hannity wants another invasion"



Good grief - he actually suggests the US has "every right" to invade Kuwait and "take all their oil" as a solution to high oil prices.

tow - Of course we have "every right" to take what we need to prosper. What the heck is the point of being strong if you don't use that power for self gain. You surprise me...I always though you to be a realist.

Kind of leaves a bitter taste in your mouth to be lumped in with that thought process, eh? We may have to get use to it. Sorta of like a new spin off of the old saying: "There are no atheists in foxholes": there are few kind and gentler people waiting in line to pay $8/gallon.


What surprised me was that I'd expected to click the link and find Sean Hannity talking up invading Iran again. I really didn't expect him to be talking up invading Kuwait - well not yet anyway.

Last person who invaded Kuwait for oil and financial reasons ended up lynched I seem to recall.

As a geologist, perhaps you could help us all with a deep mystery that has long troubled me:

How, exactly, did our oil end up under their sands, anyway?


dohboi - it's called secondary migration. No different than my cow getting out and wandering over to my neighbors pasture. It still my damn cow! And I have a gun to prove it.

The really stupid part is that none of these idiots are reading my posts. We need to "export democracy" to Equatorial Guinea. Then we can export all their billions of bbls of oil to the US so that this oil can be truly "free". And the best part of the plan: it would truly be a righteous and moral thing for us to do for the truly suffering people of EG. A true win-win-lose for us - the people of EG - the EU. What red blooded American could ask for more.

Their ignorance is astounding. They ask, "Why didn't Kuwait pay for its liberation?"

Well, Kuwait did. Somehow, most of the mainstream media missed this, but the Kuwaitis and the Saudis paid for almost the entire cost of the First Gulf War. Kuwait had been invaded, Saudi Arabia thought it might be next, they both had massive amounts of oil dollars, so they used it to eliminate the problem (Iraq).

This was one of the reasons the First Gulf War was so painless for the US. The Arabs (Kuwaitis and Saudis) fronted the cash to smash the rival Arabs (Iraqis). They essentially used the US Army, Navy, Air force, and Marine Corps as paid mercenaries to kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait.

OTOH, the Second Gulf War was much more financially stressful for the US because the Arabs were not on side. Although the Saudis and Kuwaitis are not great friends of the Iraqis, they didn't see the point in paying for the war since it was not one they asked to be fought. The US had to pay for it all itself (using borrowed Chinese money, however).


FM - LOL But I suspect few got it.



very few major fields have not been undergoing EOR for decades.

Yes, the people who think that EOR is going to dramatically increase global oil production don't realize that most major oil fields are already on EOR programs, even in less-developed countries. I guess they didn't get the memo.

Drillo, you are right in raising the question of technology. It would deserve a long discussion. One thing I can note is that the very fact that the Hubbert model often works means that technology is a "second order" factor; which affects the behavior of the production cycle but does not dominate it.

The Logistic curve as derived via dispersive discovery exists only because of technology advancement. The only reason that the characteristic shape occurs is due to acceleration in technology or acceleration in search effort that has an exponentially increasing rate.

Drillo said:

Hubbert's logistic curve is valid for one technology without innovations.

Those Weyburn curves are not close to Logistic. The premise is invalid.
Check page 248. I have a few pages on the analysis of Weyburn.

Those Weyburn curves are not close to Logistic.

Of course they aren't. The Canadian regulatory authorities know they will be looking at a logistic curve if they don't do anything, and they don't want a logistic curve. They want something much flatter. They are planning for the future.

After all, the senior regulatory authority in Canada is the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), not the Alberta Energy Use-It-Up-As-Fast-As-Possible Board. Weyburn is in Saskatchewan, but the ERCB is the senior regulatory body in Canada, and the other regulatory bodies (provincial and federal) take their lead from it.

For that matter, so do other countries. I was flying back from Peru, and the person sitting next to me was an ERCB official who had been advising the Peruvian government on how to regulate their oil industry.

So, in Canada, typically what happens is that a company finds a prospect, leases the land from the government, and drills up the oil field. The government gives them a mandatory well spacing - usually one well per 64 hectares (160) acres, and hits them with very high royalty rates (e.g. 50%). Historically, they were also given an allowable, e.g. 50% of maximum production out of each well. This depended on economic conditions because the government did not want to saturate the market with oil. Nowadays it depends on what they consider the optimum long-term production rate for the wells, with an eye to maximizing ultimate recovery.

As the oil field declines, the royalty rates also decline (sliding scale royalties). Eventually the field is only producing at a fraction of its original rate, so the company applies for a spacing unit reduction. The government says, "Okay", so the company drills infill wells at, say, 16 per hectare, and gets a boost in production.

Then the infills start to decline, so the company applies to drill horizontal wells and the government says, "Okay". Also, at some point the field goes on Good Production Practice (GPP) rules rather than allowables, so the company can produce whatever it wants (within reason) without being told how to do it. The result is another boost in production.

Then, as the horizontals start to decline, the company gets an opportunity to do a massive CO2 flood, subsidized by the US government (this is unique to Weyburn). The Saskatchewan government says, "Sure, go ahead, as long as the US government is paying for the CO2, what do we care? The field is pretty much dead without it."

The result is a curve that looks like the Weyburn one, above. But you have to realize that this kind of thing is largely unique to Canada. Most other countries allow companies to do whatever they want and produce their oil fields flat out at all times. They're only interested in royalties and taxes. The result is the typical bell-shaped curve - i.e. the first part of the Weyburn curve, but with a higher peak and a steeper decline.

I tend to look at Canadian production curves as "The exception that proves the rule". If you just let events take their course, you will usually get some kind of bell-shaped curve. If you manage the industry intensively, knowing that the alternative is a bell-shaped curve, you could get something that looks like the Canadian production curve - but this is very, very unusual in the global context.

Globally - I think we're looking at a bell-shaped curve. Exactly what kind of bell-shaped curve, I don't know, but it's almost certainly bell-shaped.

If you replace the exponential growth of extraction rate (point in 4 out of 5 steps in WHT's derivation of Hubbert) with something growing slower, you will get a broad shoulder on the right. E.g. The graph shows Hubbert in red and the curve with exponential growth (which is needed to obtain Hubbert curve) replaced with quadratic in blue. The growth of extraction rate is not as "frantic" and the resulting curve looks quite like that for Weyburn. The slower growth in extraction rate, the broader the shoulder will be. The model holds, with constraints, too.


That's a good explanation, and I would alternately describe it as a convolution of a maturation rise with a proportional drawdown. That gives the characteristic right-tailed asymmetry. I also called it a shocklet as it is a kernel function of the oil shock model.

And then we have single field case histories like this 2004 article about the Yibal Field:

The Royal Dutch/Shell Group's oil production in Oman has been declining for years, belying the company's optimistic reports and raising doubts about a vital question in the Middle East: whether new technology can extend the life of huge but mature oil fields.

Internal company documents and technical papers show that the Yibal field, Oman's largest, began to decline rapidly in 1997. Yet Sir Philip Watts, Shell's former chairman, said in an upbeat public report in 2000 that ''major advances in drilling'' were enabling the company ''to extract more from such mature fields.'' The internal Shell documents suggest that the figure for proven oil reserves in Oman was mistakenly increased in 2000, resulting in a 40 percent overstatement. The company's falling production and reduced reserves in Oman are part of a broader problem facing Shell, the British-Dutch oil giant that earlier this year lowered its estimate of worldwide reserves, a crucial financial indicator, by 20 percent, or 3.9 billion barrels.

Rather than using competing single field case histories, probably a better approach would be to look at a region that has peaked, for example the Lower 48 and the North Sea, and then use the HL plot through their respective peaks to predict what their post-peak cumulative production would be, and then compare those projections to the actual data.

I suspect that technological advances will cause an incremental, but not material, increase in recoverable reserves, when we look at entire regions.

Hmm one problem with using natural gas in your example. Fractured wells have high upfront production. Your correct that they have high cost but also unconventional gas production peaks the first year and then declines rapidly. Next we have discussed extensively that perhaps the investment in UNG may have been a bit of a scam. In short the money to cover high start of costs may well result in a large loss.

So you have a resource that offers great initial returns and a marketing campaign thats questionable that provided the capitol.

Unconventional alternatives to oil production don't have these characteristics. Investment has been far more realistic and production growth much slower. Also if you can find a graph of conventional vs unconventional NG production in the US this for example.

One finds unconventional production accounting for 40% of US production.

Thus the unconventional resource base was similar in size to the conventional base and could be brought on line at rates that matched or exceeded conventional production. Cost was a huge issue but this was solved via marketing.

Further more the gas shale formations are immense spanning hundreds of square miles. As they are developed sweet spots are found with significantly better production profiles then the general formation drilling focuses on those. Given the size certainly other sweet spots are possible but most of the development focuses on the best parts of the field and they are huge.

To some extent this sweet spot approach has also been used in unconventional oil production.

If one then compares unconventional oil production which is probably less than 5mbd to total world oil production which excluding lease condensate is north of 60mbd even this favorable comparison result in only a 8% offset. Not even in the same ballpark as UNG.

Next for UNG future production is highly uncertain the high decline rates coupled with depressed drilling probably will result in volatile production rates and pricing. Future capitol investment is even more uncertain almost regardless of price movements because of losses.
Certainly continued development will move forward at a much more muted pace. Needless to say a lot of very important history about UNG has yet to be written.

One last thing on gas:

You can read a better description of Hubbert NG predictions here:

Natural Gas unlike oil does not really have a geologic sweet spot. If there is source organic material and a trap you get gas across a wide range of depths and temperatures. And of course gas is mobile even in what are basically sources i.e coal/shale. And also sources are more varied. A single Hubbert peak approach is probably a poor fit for what is really a number of very distinct geologic conditions that result in recoverable NG. NG associated with oil bearing formations is simply not the same as Coal or Shale. Even regular NG occurs under a number of clearly distinct conditions from some source that are wet i.e oil like to others which are only related in being trapped in the similar formations oil may be found nearby or not. Historically NG production has focused on NGL's not NG perse it was a search for wet gas.
It seems sensible to at the very least split the more lucrative wet gas discovery and production from dry gas production. They can have quite different economics. I suspect if you revisit Hubbert's work and focus on wet NG production you might find his numbers are a lot better.
In a sense he was modeling primarily wet gas production. I doubt he even really considered this as even large dry gas fields where marginally economic. Thus his data was heavily weighted toward the sweet spot of one type of a diverse set of sources of natural gas.

Oil simply does not have near the dynamic range that NG does for reserve formation and capture not even close and the production of unconventional oil is utterly different from UNG to date although we could see agreement in the future.

Indeed I expect UNG production share to match up much better with whats happened with oil. This means UNG production falling to 10-20% of total production and obviously overall NG production itself falling by 30% or more. So I don't necessarily disagree with your analysis simply I think you may be a bit premature in making your conclusion. I suspect the current situation for UNG will prove to be a brief distortion in the long run. And obviously the same result for oil unconventional sources will make up about 10-20% of production regardless of the rate of decline of conventional oil. On the investment side this suggests that whats happening is a contracting economy is partitioning a falling total investment between remaining conventional resources and unconventional and falling production leads to falling investment.

808 words total :)

Thanks for this informative comment, memmel. More or less, it agrees with what I said - what we are seeing is "a brief distortion in the long run". The question is what we mean as "brief" :-)

Yes thats really the question is it not.

For natural gas and for coal the basic resource endowment is not the primary factor above ground investments and location of the resource vs markets are critical. Stranded gas and stranded coal reserves are the norm not the exception. And they are reserves not resources because they are technically extractable just not economic to bring to market. We know about them we can extract them just not bring them to market.

This is important because both shale gas and the Canadian oil sands are effectively co-located with the largest single energy market and can leverage the infrastructure used to supply that market. Even with this long run development and especially longer term production rates of both are and open question.

Even with conventional oil the proximity of a large market makes a difference its doubtful that small stripper well production is viable in many places yet it accounts for 2mbd of US production. Even here if you read issues other than oil price have a impact on future production.

All of this becomes important if one looks into the future we might not know exactly when but one day the US will probably be using only 10mbpd of oil. At this point just how useful is all this infrastructure that was leveraged today for alternatives ?
Obviously it will be older than it is today and clearly if you read about all the problems its already falling apart.
Next a lot of it is of marginal use below certain flow rates thats and intrinsic problem with pipelines. Clearly there is a sweet spot where alternatives can leverage the existing infrastructure but maintaining it and replacing and optimizing it for a new usage pattern has not become a problem. The same issues even apply to wind power for example as it leverages the existing electric grid.

Overall simply looking at alternatives from a infrastructure perspective one gets the result that resources are far more likely to become increasingly stranded not less stranded as time progresses. The time period where the existing infrastructure can be leveraged to expand and where its age and the intrinsic difference between the needs of the new resource base and the old result in stranding problem seems to be measured in years. As and example we have already leveraged as much as we can of the existing infrastructure to process the Canadian oil sands.
Further expansion will require new pipelines and eventually new refineries piping Canadian crude down to the gulf of Mexico is a desperate measure not a robust alternative. In the fact that development of the Canadian oil sands has not justified the development of optimized infrastructure for processing the oil is in my opinion a screaming red flag that something is wrong.

I'm not saying we won't develop them and indeed all the alternatives will probably be utilized for a long time I'm simply saying that once they are actually viable as resources worthy of full investment including all needed infrastructure I doubt seriously that they can act as substitutes for our current oil usage pattern.

Indeed if one reads it seems that they already have failed to do so. The Canadian oil sands development has already hit the infrastructure wall. Utilization of wind in many areas also faces the same challenge. The duct tape is already failing.

808 words total :)

Read "The Oil Conundrum".

That's 4 words

808 words total :)

Too funny. Thanks for being a sport about it, Mike.

Of course if you add in the word value of the graph (a picture is worth a thousand words) that would bring the total to 1808, right?

Still no commas though, not a one.

I think memmel is dictating to voice recognition software.

That's a perfectly tenable conjecture. As long as Memmel can shoot wild arcs from way beyond the 3-point line, we should be free to lob a few. The fact that no commas appear anywhere in his writing leads to the idea he is using something like DragonDictate. You also see run on sentences, which is a characteristic of casual speaking. The software likely has a hard time figuring out where to put the periods.

I use Dictate. Works well. But users must insert all punctuation symbols: commas, periods, question marks, single and double quotes, colons, and so forth. It does not do these things.

The "training" takes about 10 minutes. You read a script. Supposedly you are acquainting the engine with your voice. Truth is, the engine has all of the regional dialects encoded, it simply matches you to one of them. The real point of reading the "training passage" is to acquaint you with the concept of saying "period" at the end of a sentence, or saying "comma" wherever you want one.

It is remarkably easy to dictate. The learning curve for inserting punctuation is about 10 minutes. After that, it is automatic. You GROK it.

The other neat thing is that the software works contextually. It associates words with adjacent words: for example the old ice cream/I scream conundrum (and others like it) are easily avoided by adding directive words like "cold" ice cream, or "vanilla" ice cream. This allows the software to select the correct phase (of several potential options) about 99% of the time. There is a distinct benefit to the average user: he/she becomes proficient using descriptive modifiers effectively. This adjustment facilitates readership.

A well dictated piece not only has rhythm, it has color. So to speak...

I've tried dictation software and found that I don't write like I talk. I just couldn't use it. If you work from a script, it's fine.

serial giberizer.

Historically NG production has focused on NGL's not NG perse it was a search for wet gas.

Regardless memmel has a talent for writing, which IMO explains some of the hostility towards him, as this site is naturally biased towards the technocratic style.

Reading Memmel is for me like reading something written in English by a non native speaker of the language-somebody VERY perceptive and intelligent, but hard to understand due to unexpected parsing of the grammar.

It can be almost impossible for me to follow his arguments, as WRITTEN and punctuated, sometimes.

But if you simply imagine he is in front of you and talking, and you imagine all the little shakes of the head, the movements of the hands, the changes in inflection, posture, and volume, as if you were actually with him, very often the previously obscure meaning comes thru loud and clear-to me at least.

To me his commentary is good enough, and far more than good enough, to make it worthwhile to puzzle my way thru it.As I see it, he has a solid gold intellect but no more than a "gentleman's c" writing style.

Of course there is a possibility that if he were getting PAID to write here, he might be as clear as crystal and as persuasive as any diplomat.

"Voice recognition software " is where I would put my money.

LOL man the chances of that are about zero.

I think from your past writings your from Missouri I'm suspect you have met people in your life that really don't know how to read and fake it.
Most can read a little bit but they are very good at hiding it. I'm like that with writing I really honestly can't right. Just like people that can't read I act like I can write by dictating a speech to myself and then writing it down. Obviously just like someone who can't read I don't really do a good job of faking it. On top of that I have a really hard time thinking in a linear flow simply following a single line of thought when there are so many interesting sidetracks to explore is not fun.

In the end my attitude is there are plenty of linear thinkers out there many are also excellent writers. Some people who I would label as non-linear thinkers like Nate Hagens and Westexas are also good writers.

Although I can't write I do think that perhaps with complex problems at least trying to explore the problem in all its glorious feedbacks and eddies and loops and waterfalls is worth attempting. As often as not perhaps I fail to capture the intrinsic beauty of how complex systems collapse. Since I can't write what the hell might as well try. I'm not going to ever accomplish anything else as a writer.
And its not clear I can succeed at this.

Underlying my writings all I keep trying to say is attempts to linearize and simplify complex problems are inherently dangerous.
Complexity is a two edged sword you can use it to do incredible things and can turn on you and create incredible horrors if you simplify or linearize the problem a thus fail to capture the dangers of complexity.

Indeed the number one fact I've deduced from studying complex systems is anyone that studies them and then tries to make predictions about their future behavior is wrong. Not some but every single person including me.

My goal is to try and be less wrong than everyone else. People that assume mistakes mean your entirely wrong simply don't understand the problem. No one is ever going to get the right answer, some if they try will simply be less wrong than the others.

This is to try and keep the complexity if the system in the discussion or writing.
I think that attempting to do so might be hard for real writers.

But since I can't write anyway what the hell not its all hard for me trying to capture the complexity does not add too and already impossible burden :)

Sometimes it even seems to make sense to other people which is surprising to me to be honest.
Now there are writers like Douglas Adams who are real writers and can capture complexity. Underneath his humor he clearly understands and can explain complexity in a way I never will. Perhaps reading too much into his writings as a young teenager has rotted my brain.
Given that he is my role model surely you can understand where I'm striving to go but without the humor to cover the truth.

Back atcha , Memmel

You can rest assured that I for one take your thoughts as seriously as a heart attack-and as a person appreciates serious literature (Adams is a dead serious writer! He will be on the classics list centuries from now.) I appreciate where you are coming from.

Nearly everybody who comments here is confined by the intellectual straight jacket of their technical education.

Only a few of us are able to both understand science and see it's limitations.

You are a man with eyes in a land of the blind-your observations that you just hope to be less wrong than everybody else, and that complexity makes it impossible to accurately predict the future are worthy of being engraved in stone over the entrance of every great university library.

Old prospectors used to say that diamonds and gold are where you find them.

Dude at the end if the day you make a decision with your gut feelings.

All your experience comes down to one wrenching moment red pill or blue.

The terms redpill and its opposite, bluepill, are pop culture terms that have become a common metaphor for the choice between the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue) and embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red). The terms were popularized in science fiction culture via the 1999 film The Matrix.

Do not swallow the wrong pill :)

What I'm trying to say is in the end every person eventually is forced to make their own decision once made it done. You cannot if its a true life changing situation go back.

I've made such a decision myself I've decided to grow tomatoes and blueberries.

LOL! Man, the chances of that are about zero.
I think from your past writings, you’re from Missouri. I suspect you have met people in your life that really don't know how to read and fake it. Most can read a little bit, but they are very good at hiding it. I'm like that with writing. I really honestly can't right. Just like people that can't read, I act like I can write by dictating a speech to myself and then writing it down. Obviously, just like someone who can't read, I don't really do a good job of faking it. On top of that I have a really hard time thinking in a linear flow. Simply following a single line of thought, when there are so many interesting sidetracks to explore, is not fun.

In the end, my attitude is there are plenty of linear thinkers out there. Many are also excellent writers. Some people who I would label as non-linear thinkers, like Nate Hagens and Westexas, are also good writers.

Although I can't write, I do think that, perhaps with complex problems at least, trying to explore the problem in all its glorious feedbacks and eddies and loops and waterfalls is worth attempting. As often as not, perhaps I fail to capture the intrinsic beauty of how complex systems collapse. Since I can't write, what the hell? Might as well try. I'm not going to ever accomplish anything else as a writer. And it’s not clear I can succeed at this.

Underlying my writings, all I keep trying to say is, attempts to linearize and simplify complex problems are inherently dangerous. Complexity is a two-edged sword: you can use it to do incredible things, but it can turn on you and create incredible horrors if you simplify or linearize the problem, and thus fail to capture the dangers of complexity.

Indeed, the number one fact I've deduced from studying complex systems is, anyone that studies them and then tries to make predictions about their future behavior is wrong. Not some, but every single person, including me.

My goal is to try to be less wrong than everyone else. People that assume mistakes mean you’re entirely wrong simply don't understand the problem. No one is ever going to get the right answer, some if they try, will simply be less wrong than the others. This is to try and keep the complexity of the system in the discussion or writing. I think that attempting to do so might be hard for real writers. But since I can't write, anyway, why the hell not? It’s all hard for me. Trying to capture the complexity does not add to an already impossible burden. :)Sometimes it even seems to make sense to other people, which is surprising to me, to be honest.

Now, there are writers like Douglas Adams who are real writers and can capture complexity. Underneath his humor he clearly understands and can explain complexity in a way I never will. Perhaps reading too much into his writings as a young teenager has rotted my brain. Given that he is my role model, surely you can understand where I'm striving to go but without the humor to cover the truth.

You seem to enjoy characterizing yourself this way, which I find interesting because you are completely incorrect in your self-evaluation. You are a very linear thinker, as are Nate and Westexas. You are confusing linearity with creativity or outside-the-box problem solving.

When you say you can't write, what is actually the case is that you don't use punctuation. The only consistent errors in grammar I note are in the use of articles, which is a common second language error.

If you mean by your description of dictating, then writing, that you literally are not able to sit and put pen to paper, but can speak, then listen and dictate, then it is virtually certain you have a cognitive learning issue. That is not the same as not being able to write. Being a poor writer is not being able to write. Your problem lies in accuracy, and possibly the aforementioned disability.

Your adaptation appears to be working for you, but if you can add a way to get your punctuation improved, you'd have no problem. Contact me if you'd like to explore having an editor. You're quite prolific, but perhaps we could work out something for you. After all, I, like many, jump past many of your posts because it's too much work to cipher them in situ, but you have something to contribute, so..

Outside the box then perhaps ok I'll buy that.

Looks like you would have to contact me your profile has no email.
mine is in my bio.

Thanks for the editing offer.

One question thats bothered me however and perhaps causes me a lot of problems is whats the point ?
Editing is great and all but are we really wasting our time ?

Clearly in the US we started with good intentions and a powerful constitution and eventually ended up morphing ourselves into the very thing we despised =>,<= eventually the old adage it takes money to make money wins.

In attempting to think outside the box all I seem to have determined is that there is a box :)
Indeed the vast majority of people are happy enough to stay inside the box. Those willing to consider that perhaps the box might have problems spend most of their time figuring out how to save the box.

In our long struggle through civilization we have certainly missed many possible paths especially ones were you evaluate older methods with a better technical understanding. Recently for example I have spent a lot of time reviewing the industrialization of the clothing industry since it really spawned the industrial age. Clearly we tossed aside all kinds of alternatives in our head long rush to implement economies of scale.

Whats far from clear however is if any alternative was ever viable. I think its worth trying to do things differently and now we have the knowledge base to do so however I see no compelling reason for different to ever really be better.

Indeed in the end it just seems your building a slightly different box to jump in too.

I'm not convinced its worthwhile to try and convince people that they have little hope of ever seeing things really change for the better no matter what they do. As far as I can tell the only viable answer is to build many boxes if you will and make sure that one box does not destroy the others. Your noble savage living via hunting and gatherings needs to coexist with your organic farmer who needs to coexist with your technical society.

People are going to live in boxes but perhaps if you make many boxes then thinking outside the box and creating ever smaller more tolerant boxes solves the problem. Eventually in time this concept of boxing ourselves in is forgotten ?

Heck humanity in general does not even think it has the power to consider such a problem. We are so used to entrusting our elite that no we don't even realize that we can collectively decide our own fate. We don't have to use our current power structures to decide our future. Indeed if you really want to solve our problems it seems to me the first step is to simply ignore the current power structure. Not rebel or fight or try to change it but simply ignore it.

What stops this from happening is people are unwilling to pay the required double taxation. If you really want to do something different well you have to continue to pay taxes to the current power.

“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”

Clearly this concept could be expanded to add and additional concept beyond Caesar and God.
A third choice is possible. Perhaps render unto your tribe what is your tribes and you define what a tribe is.

Caesar and to some extent God in the sense of religious organizations or special interest groups take so much that people are not even aware that a third choice is possible. Somehow between the extremes of government and religion there has to be a middle ground that can be collective or organized.

I'm just not convinced that this concept of building many small boxes if you will is something people are willing to try.
Is the message that simply trying something different is the solution a viable one ?

I honestly don't know its all I've come up with. Somehow in the end it seems to make sense i.e the right answer is that there is no single solution but creating a way to foster many solutions with the only constraint being co-existence.
But how can you enforce this co-existence clause ?

Sound good in theory but in practice its dubious to say the least its a "hippie flower child concept" we know how that turned out.
And we are eventually back to Caesar and God with all other choices gone. And we know how those choices eventually end.
Further the vast majority of people are either satisfied with their box or believe they have a good chance of being satisfied if they stay in their box and play the game. The number that even dare really critique the box itself are vanishingly small.

Sadly my final conclusion is humanity is not worth trying to save. Sometimes you just have to realize another quote from the bible is correct.

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.

My only remaining question is well thats fine, but what if its the whole friggin planet ? Leave to where ?

How can I collect myself with such a conclusion ? Thanks for your offer of editing but in the end whats the point ?
We have trapped ourselves in Hotel California.

Sound good in theory but in practice its dubious to say the least its a "hippie flower child concept" we know how that turned out.

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda .... You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning ....

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave ....

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark —that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

LOL... OK, I left out stream-of-consciousness...

At least you're laughing about it. Some others here have zero sense of perspective.

As I'm reading all the responses to Mike's posts and his replies to the replies, I'm thinking to myself,

One day I'm going to look back and tell people about this fabulous web site that chronicled the peak and decline of oil. One of the characters there included Mike, aka memmel, who liked to explore in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way with as little punctuation as he could get away with. He made interesting and sometimes startling connections. But his style drove some people there absolutely nuts and, because they couldn't muster the generosity, they often expressed their desire that someone — anyone — stop him from posting. Crotchety old men, I think they were.

Then there was westexas, who, by his own admission would answer the question, 'How is the weather today?' with 'Did you know that net oil exports are likely already in decline?'

Can't forget Leanan, the board moderator whose deft hand kept things from spinning out of control. And lots of other characters from India, South America, Australia, Europe, Canada and an uncountable number of other places. It was quite the place to hang out. It was utterly unique.

In other words, relax and enjoy the show! You won't find this cast of characters anywhere else.

I dunno. When Memmel says "Sadly my final conclusion is humanity is not worth trying to save", like he did above, it makes me cringe.

Please tell me what perspective that is? The null perspective?

I'll let someone else handle your very serious question. I'm still chuckling at garyp's comment:

Still no commas though, not a one.

Web at some point people need to stand up and start asking the right questions. As long as they are content to let BAU rule well nothing is going to change. People have had a very easy life the last several decades and it shows. The have clearly lost both their vigilance and desire. I don't necessarily agree with many of the positions people took in the 40-50's but at least they gave a damn and passionately cared about their position and their future. Thats what I mean when I say humanity is not worth saving.
The vast majority of people in the world have been reduced to budding little con artists trying to work their angle.

Heck I try to explain it to friends and family they tend to drift away for some reason after the first couple of hours for some reason :)

Seriously though if all the crap thats happened over the last several years is not enough to wake people up and make them realize the need to be proactive then yes they really are not worth saving as nothing can save them. They will go blindly to their deaths still thinking about how they can con somebody to get what they rightfully deserve. Its perhaps a sad conclusion but I think its the correct one.

Words have meaning.

Why did you write what you wrote if you didn't mean it?

Sorry, I can't wrap my mind around incoherent ramblings mixed with fatalistic pronouncements.

Maybe that is what has always personally bothered me about your comments.

In this office, words and actions always have consequences! --Professor Gopnik
Yes, often they have consequences --Clive
No. Always. Always they have consequences --Professor Gopnik (a.k.a. A serious Man)

You see this? This is not nothing, is it? --Professor Gopnik
Yes, that is not nothing. It is something. --Clive (student accused of bribing, needs a C to live)

I think I understand what you meant me to understand --Professor Gopnik
Mere sir miser --Clive
Mere sir miser? --Professor Gopnik



I think Clive was intended to represent a young George W. Bush.

My favorite gibberish soundbite of Bush's was when he uttered something that sounded like "freence preence" during a speech.
Only now did I figure out he was trying to pronounce the name of the future chair of the Republican party.

That's a direct and quite fatalistic point. Saying "not worth saving" or "rightfully deserve" is on the far side of extreme opinions, to put it mildly. Many times in history some charismatic figure showed up, decided to "save" - or doom the people, and more often than not, it did not work. History shows that one has to tread carefully. shows a more optimistic view, forward to 7:20.

Well sadly the consensus American opinion is that they do rightfully deserve a lot of things. Indeed I think this attitude is prevalent worldwide I've seen it in every country I've visited over the years and clearly its grown stronger with time.

As times grow increasingly troubled the population can respond in one of two ways. The can accept part of blame for the problems.
In other words they are as culpable as their leaders since they elected or at least supported them. In other words its a systematic failure and things need to change to fix the system. Or they can claim that what was rightfully theirs was stolen from them and seek a charismatic leader thats going to fix things and not only do they not have to change but good times are just around the corner.

In the first case the population educates itself on whats going wrong debates the problem and supports leaders that offer real solution even if they require some pain. Everyone shoulders the burden and works to fix the system. Perhaps the truly wealthy don't help but they are excised from the process in revolution painfully. In other cases the wealthy simply lose control and their demands are simply refused.

They never of course shoulder their fair share of the burden but like it or not they are given a stark choice of playing along with the changes are suffer the consequences. Leaders are forced into direct accountability to the people not the wealthy.

Or the people simply as I said seek some sort of savior more often than not this savior figure cuts deals with the wealthy i.e he/she is unable to control the current broken system and fix it. Sometimes this figure cuts deals with the wealthy sometimes the figure simply replaces with his own system. No problems are solved in either case simply power is transferred. The people see variants of the bread and circuses trick and are mollified.

You cannot force the will of the people if you will either they change or the don't. If they are unwilling to attempt to save themselves then there is nothing that can be done. They will get the savior promising gold.

Your in a way misconstruing my comments I did not mean this sort of false figure I meant it in the sense of teaching a man to fish.
I.e the people realize whats wrong and develop solutions and implement them. A grass roots movement with a real solution that as often as not requires some sacrifice on their part. If they simply refuse to take on our issues and demand credible action well as I said nothing can be done. Clearly infinite growth, swelling trade imbalances and debt are no longer possible. Clearly commodities are a persistent problem now. Etc etc etc... We have a whole slew of issues that need real debate real consensus and credible action even if its painful.
None of this is happening.

Your in a way misconstruing my comments I did not mean this sort of false figure I meant it in the sense of teaching a man to fish.

You said "Sadly my final conclusion is humanity is not worth trying to save".
That has absolutely nothing to do with fishing and looks to me more like a sociopathic worldview.

My own worldview was shaped by fishing and the outdoors as a kid. I decided to pull in an extended editorial excerpt in the as an epilog. This was a piece by the publisher of Fishing Facts magazine written in 1976. Mr. Pazik had met Hubbert and they both shared a love of fishing, and Pazik apparently felt it was his responsibility to spend some ink on telling the story of oil depletion (it still wasn't referred to peak oil back then). I remember first reading this piece a long time ago and it stuck with me; ever since, I never, ever got the feeling that we can't turn this ship around. Sport fishing is a classic kid's pasttime and it gives me hope that the people with a love of the outdoors will exert their power. That's the way it works here in Minnesota. When you look at a kid's smiling face with a fishing pole in his hand, you don't think about dismissing humanity.

That has absolutely nothing to do with fishing and looks to me more like a sociopathic worldview.

Web I suspect if a few of the founding fathers of the US had a chance to come back and see the mess we have made they would join me in my sociopathic world view.

Here is a page of quotes on the topic many famous.

Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves. ~D.H. Lawrence

To chastise many in the world and Americans in particular for letting their allowing themselves to rot to the point they are indeed not worth saving is not sociopathic but a quite common and sad evolution pattern for many societies.

We have become a nation of pigs both mentally and physically. If anything I weep for all the people over the years that have sacrificed their lives for and ideal only to see it tossed in the gutter.

I have no problem with what I said we are now a cruel and corrupt nation that is simply not worth saving. People need to wake up and realize this. If they do I'll change my opinion but I doubt it. We where a democracy we chose our own rulers in the end we are the problem.
The blame for our current situation rests entirely with us not with the bankers not with elected officials but with each and every one of us.

My cringe meter registers exactly the same when I read your stuff as when the news media reported on Loughner's ramblings. It's all the same to me: oddness with grammar, non-sequitors, stream-of-consciousness, and crazy talk. This has bothered me over the years and for the record I want no complicity in condoning any of your spew.
Bye for good.


You, to my knowledge, have no training in psychological profiling and boy does it show. Stick to numbers please.

Comparing memmel to Loughner isn't doing you any favours.

And all those people who idly stand by and say nothing? I told memmel long ago to get some help.

I was saying in another thread that it might be useful if the comments layout was adapted. It's not just Memmel that creates very long posts and it can sometime be quite tricky to follow an argument through.

Perhaps a limit to the number of words that are immediately displayed in each comment, and then a 'below-the-fold' type link to reveal the rest of the words if required by the reader.

Would save me an awful lot of scrolling back and forth!

You're way off base. Mike isn't saying anything different than what many regular people have thought. I wouldn't go as far as he does but straight talk is often what is needed to wake people up.

Plus, we explained to you his condition several times.

You are really creating quite the reputation for yourself.

I'm beginning to think it's your account that should be restricted for your repeated inability to be civil when Mike has done absolutely nothing to stoke the fire other than express his thoughts in a civil manner.

Fair enough. The committee can do what they want with their site.

Web what do you gain by attacking me.

By that I mean I'm a damned easy target to attack. I can't write clearly. I can barely collect my thoughts in a coherent form.
Am I abnormal almost definitely. Your attack are like pointing out that the Elephant man is ugly. Well I hate to break it to you but I'm beyond ugly. So far beyond it does not hurt anymore. I won't try to be normal I'm not. I assure you it was not my choice to be different.
I did not try to be a fuck up. Or poor writer it was not my goal in life. And I'm past your attacks I assure you that you cannot hurt me through the internet any more that I have been hurt living life itself. Your attacks serve no purpose they do nothing but make you look like and ass. This does not by any means mean I will "better" myself simply that attacking me serves no useful purpose. It does not hurt me and it detracts from your real contributions. If you ever bother to read what I write I've never once degenerated your basic contribution indeed more often than not I support it. I think you have made some basic mistakes but its not my fault that I'm a poor sparing partner. Its like the water boy on the side of the ring realizing that the champ has a fundamental flaw that can be exploited.
I'm just a water boy but that does not change my message as its beyond the weakness of the messenger. I suspect you have no idea of the real strengths of the person your attacking. I do know for a fact that the welts and scars don't hurt as much as they are lashed once more.

Nice sob story. I can almost hear the violin strings in the background.

Notice how suddenly Memmel starts writing in understandable short sentences, like he finally actually wants to be understood?

If the admins on TOD can't put 2+2 together, there is nothing more than I can say. That's why I said the powers that be on TOD have to make up their mind on what to do about the situation.

Simple troll, agent provocateur, whatever.

Your poor taste seemingly knows no bounds.

When I met your personality type during the hiring process I passed them over immediately. They were never worth the aggravation with their arrogance and holier-than-thou attitude. Let someone else deal with their insecurity.

Yes, at the end of the day that is what drives your comments, in my experience. It's a driving need to continually demonstrate intellectual superiority and it's extremely tiring for the people around you.

People comfortable with themselves allow other people to have their opinions. I think it's fair to say that you have demonstrated yourself to be one of the most insecure people posting on TOD.

So I react badly to trolls. Big deal.

This comment and the one below are, of course, completely consistent with your arrogant world view — that you know better than anyone else and certainly more than Mike.

However, it's just you trying to absolve yourself of your poor behavior.

When are you going to take responsibility for the age of the conversation you are speaking? Forget Mike. Just think of your own responses in all of this. They have been rude and childish.

Bring your conversation to the adult level, please.

Better yet, when you see Mike write something, just keep scrolling and let us enjoy our conversations with him in peace.

FWIW, I see the WHT/memmel bickering as the latest iteration of Neats vs. Scruffies:

As might be guessed from the terms, neats use formal methods – such as logic or pure applied statistics – exclusively. Scruffies are hackers, who will cobble together a system built of anything – even logic. Neats care whether their reasoning is both provably sound and complete and that their machine learning systems can be shown to converge in a known length of time. Scruffies would like their learning to converge too, but they are happier if empirical experience shows their systems working than to have mere equations and proofs showing that they ought to.

To a neat, scruffy methods appear promiscuous, successful only by accident and unlikely to produce insights about how intelligence actually works. To a scruffy, neat methods appear to be hung up on formalism and to be too slow, fragile or boring to be applied to real systems.

(emphasis mine)

I do not find memmel's posts too hard to read (but then I do have some experience reading stream-of-consciousness literature), and while I often end up rejecting his theories, they are entertaining. However I can see how WHT could find them morally offensive, and I think he should be granted some leeway in this: It is because he cares deeply about the subject under discussion. Plus, I think his theoretical achievment is perhaps THE most valuable thing to come out of TOD.

My point, I guess, is that I think it takes both to keep TOD alive and humming.

That is certainly a valid deconstruction, but we are also not developing software here, where often all that matters is whether the software works or not. Memmel jumbles together all these inconsistent statements, claims they follow his own theories and graphs (that no one ever sees), and then expects us to digest it like we were a C++ compiler, only we have to ignore all the error statements. This is pure delusional stuff, not only do not any of his statements parse, but there are gaping holes where we can't track to his foundational work, or he sends us down some rabbit hole with a bunch of irrelevant links. For the gullible out there, the scenario that Memmel has set up is like a classic misdirect scam and he doesn't even come close to the level of a scruffie. Even hackers can get their software to eventually work -- his ideas don't even parse on the first pass and he doesn't care to do any debugging. You wouldn't think twice about it if Memmel were going to school, and the instructor gave him a big fat F. My problem, which I freely admit to, is that I add editorial comments to his failing grade, which apparently is not civil and so a lot of people have to run to the fainting couch.

But that said, I like the way you put this. In the end, I can describe the situation in two words:
Opposites Repel

Fine Web.

Your methods are fundamentally flawed you cannot aggregate across producing basins like you do. Its simply wrong.

To add multiple producing basins together you must adjust the time variable such that all of them start production at the same time
or if they have peaked all the peaks are aligned.

The time that a basin was discovered and put into production is an irrelevant random variable and has no influence on the ultimate URR.
If you don't correctly normalize the time variable across basins your work is simply garbage. There is no coupling between basins and no reason to average them based on real time. Its junk math. No simple function exists in real time to describe the aggregate production profile.

The US simply happened to have its larger basins developed about the same time in real time. Hubbert's original analysis worked simply because the error in the normalized time and real time was small.

Here is time line for Sudan clearly there is no intrinsic real time function tying discovery to production or to any other basin for that matter.

It's not just that, kode.. That's the surface level issue or as some organizational development consultants would say "the presenting situation" i.e. it is how the situation presents itself but it is not what is really the issue.

It gets one nowhere to interact at that level because it stays within the realm of the intellect and that kind of tension will never be resolved.

This is at the level of fundamental human behavior. On one hand we have Mike who has distinguished himself by never escalating the issue (that I've seen; I haven't seen every post, certainly).

On the other hand, we have WHT who is singularly distinguishing himself to be without compassion and empathy. He also continues to escalate matters with meanness. It's completely within the realm of normal human behavior, in my view, so I won't go so far as to say that it's pathological because it's not. But I sure wouldn't want to be married to him.

WHT's relentless attacks on Mike also demonstrate a kind of immaturity that is close to that expressed by the schoolyard bully. In this case the schoolyard is this forum and the bullying is via words and intellect rather than muscles. It's common for insecure people to lash out like WHT is doing because a) he can with relative impunity here and b) he gets something out of it.

Until WHT starts asking himself why Mike's words get him so frustrated and angry, not much will be accomplished. As long as WHT says to himself, "Mike's making me angry" as though Mike were doing something to him (instead of simply expressing an opinion) and that he is somehow not responsible for his reactions, he will be trapped in his anger. But I'm not sure WHT is interested in that level of introspection.

I do hope he starts to look's tiresome watching the five year old in him lash out.

Memmel is a poseur who's playing the readership of TOD like a violin.

See above web the cumulation of my work is dead simple a functional treatment of oil production using real time is simply completely bogus. Its junk science. Hubbert was simply lucky with the lower 48.

what work?
what cumulation (sic)?
what is dead simple?
what is functional?
what is bogus?
what is junk science?

WTF are you talking about?

Once again Memmel is playing us like a violin. Can't you communicate normally? It's almost written in the style of someone sending classified wartime cables. I don't fall for this sh*t.

The blame for our current situation rests entirely with us not with the bankers not with elected officials but with each and every one of us.

There's an element of GIGO you have to consider here. Western populations in general (and the USA especially) have been fed a load of garbage - much of that directed by mainly elderly men whom I do consider to be genuinely sociopathic. It is not entirely surprising that much of the output of the target population is garbage. In my humble opinion anyway.

It is actually in the interest of some of these with influence to convince as many as possible that we are by nature "sick".

Excellent points undertow. The old fashioned definition was propaganda :)

I was absolutely stunned when I found this link yesterday.

All those containers we send back to China ?

Many are literally full of garbage. The Chinese need their boxes back they don't have enough paper.

This is something that known. Whats done about it ?
Nothing. Small wonder so many writers who care about democracy write about the dangers of losing your vigilance.

Heck any reasonably competent newspaper could easily have exposed just how messed up the trade situation with China is.
One has to imagine similar obvious imbalances are also underneath NAFTA.

I'm by no means against free trade far from it but you don't have to be a genius to understand that imbalanced trade is not free.
It has to be free and balanced trade. Indeed to get somewhat back on topic we have similar problems with oil. The oil trade has also been highly imbalanced for a long time.

Fixing this is trivial simply say we will trade freely and openly with any nation as long as the net balances to zero every year.

The propaganda machine deftly ignored the basic economic need for balanced trade. The people if you will accepted the propaganda.
The list of distortions and GIGO in the US is so long its impossible to write them all. And clearly and ever more deft propaganda machine has played a big role in the process. Heck in the US simple personal finance and money management is seldom taught.

Much less gasp and explanation of how fiat money and fractional reserve lending work :)

At the root of this GIGO situation seems to be leveraging the fact that people seldom think long term. They don't look back into history nor forward very far into the future. A vigilant nation in my opinion is one that fosters and encourages its citizens to look into the past and consider the implications of the past for the future. If a population focuses only on what happens today or for many Americans the last few hours then they are easily hoodwinked.

Heck one can probably deduce the end of a nation by its attention span if so then America died with a tweet.

Allow me to rephrase this argument in terms of Darwinian evolution, evolutionary psychology, and intraspecies competition.These are the factors, well understood by those knowledgeable in the field of biology, that are best used to arrive at an understanding of our behaviors.

For the most part, in respect to this discussion, we no longer compete directly with other species , but rather only among ourselves.Evolution is the driving force or engine-freed of competition from other species, our struggle for survival shifts to a battle between individual groups of humans.

The process is fluid, in that the groups can merge, diverge, and morph into new groups, depending on historical, economic, geographic, technological , and other factors.Chance plays a large role, sometimes the determining role, in the way these various groups come together.

That there should be a more or less constant struggle between them is to b e accepted as a physical law- intentional and directed cooperation is no longer necessary, for the most part, remember, except when a power struggle is taking place; the groups which are most effectively situated (overall, in terms of resources, numbers, organization, allies) are most likely to prevail and emerge as the new elite.

In terms of "current events" such coalitions may retain their "top of the hill " position" for quite some time;in historical terms, a thousand years or more, in the case of the largest groups, referred to as states or countries.

In evolutionary terms, such groups last for only a moment, or maybe only an eyeblink.

At any time things seem to be especially stable in human affairs, we can be sure that some particular group of allied groups has seized power and is enjoying a run of luck in holding onto it.

Turmoil will return. Nature created us to act this way, and any expectation that we will ever act otherwise, over the long term, is a fantasy.

We aren't made that way.

Right now we are entering into a period of time when turmoil is the name of the game on any and every scale, from individual lifestyle to empire.

to me it looks more like you don't like to distill your original words and are racing to get your thoughts down before they vaporize. I tend to try and relate context with brackets, parenthesis and dashes. That makes some of my sentences look more like equations than verbal statements. I doubt many take the trouble to add water to those tough to read concentrates ?- )

Save the brain power:

Yes, that’s really the question, is it not? For natural gas and for coal, the basic resource endowment is not the primary factor; above ground investments and location of the resources vs. markets are critical. Stranded gas and stranded coal reserves are the norm, not the exception. And, they are reserves, not resources, because they are technically extractable, just not economic to bring to market. We know about them, we can extract them - just not bring them to market.

This is important because both shale gas and the Canadian oil sands are effectively co-located with the largest single energy market and can leverage the infrastructure used to supply that market. Even with this long run development and especially longer term production rates of both are and open question.
Even with conventional oil, the proximity of a large market makes a difference. It’s doubtful that small stripper well production is viable in many places, yet it accounts for 2mbd of US production. Even here, if you read, issues other than oil price have an impact on future production.

All of this becomes important if one looks into the future. We might not know exactly when, but one day the US will probably be using only 10mbpd of oil. At this point, just how useful is all this infrastructure that was leveraged today for alternatives? Obviously, it will be older than it is today, and clearly, if you read about all the problems, it’s already falling apart.

Next, a lot of it is of marginal use below certain flow rates. That’s an intrinsic problem with pipelines. Clearly there is a sweet spot where alternatives can leverage the existing infrastructure, but maintaining it and replacing and optimizing it for a new usage pattern has not become a problem. The same issues even apply to wind power, for example, as it leverages the existing electric grid.
Overall, simply looking at alternatives from an infrastructure perspective, one gets the result that resources are far more likely to become increasingly stranded, not less stranded, as time progresses. The time period where the existing infrastructure can be leveraged to expand, and where its age and the intrinsic difference between the needs of the new resource base and the old result in stranding problem, seems to be measured in years. As an example, we have already leveraged as much as we can of the existing infrastructure to process the Canadian oil sands.

Further expansion will require new pipelines and, eventually, new refineries piping Canadian crude down to the gulf of Mexico is a desperate measure, not a robust alternative. The fact that development of the Canadian oil sands has not justified the development of optimized infrastructure for processing the oil is, in my opinion, a screaming red flag that something is wrong.

I'm not saying we won't develop them. Indeed, all the alternatives will probably be utilized for a long time. I'm simply saying that once they are actually viable as resources worthy of full investment, including all needed infrastructure, I doubt seriously that they can act as substitutes for our current oil usage pattern.

Indeed, if one reads, it seems that they already have failed to do so. The Canadian oil sands development has already hit the infrastructure wall. Utilization of wind in many areas also faces the same challenge. The duct tape is already failing

And he's gone and written a reply to a reply, that dare I say, looks like its got 808 words too...

But I like memmels' posts - come on memmel, find that comma key on your keyboard

Still no commas though, not a one.

Panda: Eats, shoots, and leaves.

Read the book by Lynne Truss, it's hilarious, at least for someone with an interest in punctuation.

Panda: Eats, shoots, and leaves.

One comma too many.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation is a non-fiction book written by Lynne Truss, the former host of the BBC Radio 4's Cutting a Dash programme. In the book, published in 2003, Truss bemoans the state of punctuation in the United Kingdom and the United States, and describes how rules are being relaxed in today's society. Her goal is to remind readers of the importance of punctuation in the English language by mixing humour and instruction.

...A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

'Why?' asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

'Well, I'm a panda,' he says, at the door. 'Look it up.'

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. 'Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'

If a Panda comes into your café packing a Glock 17, don't say anything about commas. Just give him his bowl of bamboo shoots, and let him leave whenever he wants to.

"Eats, shoots, and leaves" means the same as "Eats, shoots and leaves" but not the same as "Eats shoots, and leaves" or the same as "Eats shoots and leaves".

It's all about knowing your English punctuation. Commas are intended to put significant pauses in sentences, but memmel doesn't pause in his sentences, ever. Significance is irrelevant in his ramblings.

Then there is the Australian Panda :- Eats, roots and leaves.


at least it's not eats, ruts and leaves.

I'll let ScrubPuller fill you in on Antipodean slang ;)



Omnivorous North American Panda: Eats shoots ducks and leaves.

Fill in the commas as required. If you don't, no one will be sure what it means.

Thank You for another article based on IEA and EIA data--I find it misleading especially for those who are new to trying to understand our whole energy situation. Micheald and Memmel both hit the nail dead on and their postings our greatly appreciated.

The article intrigued me to imagine how a steady plateau might play out a decade in the future (disregarding the effects of the price of oil and economic growth). To make my point I use simplified numbers and imagine a planet with an oil production of 100 mb/d, half ot that exports. Let's assume export, following the ELM, will decline for 1% a year. That would sum up (more or less, by the rule of 70) to an export decline of 12% in a decade. EROEI of the whole oil production decreases from 20 to 10. Finally, I assume the decent case of a big uprising country, let's call it Chindia ;-), that at the beginning of the decade accounts for 20% of the exports, but at the end of the decade has risen to 40% of the REMAINING exports.

So, how does this play out?

At the beginning, there are 47,5 mb/d available on the market, assuming that what is left of the oil at an EROEI of 20 are 95 mb/d for other purpose than oil production itself. Due to growing consumption in the producing countries, after ten years the exports would have fallen to 42,3 mb/d. But there is also the decline in EROI. After a decade, there are only 90 mb/d left for other purpose than oil production itself. To simplify, I assume, that the exports therefore are exactly 40 mb/d. Chindia, that first consumed 9,5 mb/d of the available exports, at the end of the decade consumes 16 mb/d of the then available exports. So, for all the other importers, the available amount of oil shrinks from 38 mb/d to 24 mb/d which is a loss of roughly 1/3 - all this with flat oil production over one decade.

Assuming an increase of energy efficiency of 1% yearly, those 24 mb/d would be equivalent to almost 27 mb/d a decade earlier. Which is still equivalent to a loss of more than 1/4 of the available oil.

The situation you outline is in effect a unintended market mandated unattributed depletion protocol applied to the current importet nations.
As usual the unintended is occuring. The paradox here is that the invisible hand(whatver that is?) of the market crowd have unleashed on the world the sort of policy they steadfastly would oppose if it was not so oblique in how it has manifested itself.

thats the joke

capitalism, central planning by other means

the 70's peak in us ng was achieved under a different regulatory regime than existed afterward. up until about that peak, natural gas price for sale interstate was controlled by ferc. interstate natural gas was deregulated starting in the mid '70's.

in the early '80's mobil got approval for infill drilling in the hugoton gas field based on deregulated gas price for such infill wells. as late as '86 we were still drilling these infill wells. i don't know exactly when interstate gas was completely deregulated.

that sort regulation is not unique to the us. saudi arabia has their $ 0.75/mmbtu price out there increasing demand and reducing supply 24/7/365(or 366).

here, found it:

The Natural Gas Act of 1938
In 1938, the federal government became involved directly in the regulation of interstate natural gas with the passage of the Natural Gas Act (NGA). This act constitutes the first real involvement of the federal government in the rates charged by interstate gas transmission companies. Essentially, the NGA gave the Federal Power Commission (the FPC, which had been created in 1920 with the passage of the Federal Water Power Act) jurisdiction over regulation of interstate natural gas sales. The FPC was charged with regulating the rates that were charged for interstate natural gas delivery, as well as limited certification powers. The NGA specified that no new interstate pipeline could be built to deliver natural gas into a market already served by another pipeline.
By 1974,……, the FPC set a national price ceiling of $0.42 per million cubic feet (mcf) of natural gas.
The Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978
In November of 1978, at the peak of the natural gas supply shortages, Congress enacted legislation known as the Natural Gas Policy Act (NGPA), as part of broader legislation known as the National Energy Act (NEA). Realizing that those price controls that had been put in place to protect consumers from potential monopoly pricing had now come full circle to hurt consumers in the form of natural gas shortages, the federal government sought through the NGPA to revise the federal regulation of the sale of natural gas. Essentially, this act had three main goals:
• Creating a single national natural gas market
• Equalizing supply with demand
• Allowing market forces to establish the wellhead price of natural gas
The Natural Gas Wellhead Decontrol Act of 1989
…. it wasn't until Congress passed the Natural Gas Wellhead Decontrol Act (NGWDA) in 1989 that complete deregulation of wellhead prices was carried forth…... As of January 1, 1993, all remaining NGPA price regulations were to be eliminated, allowing the market to completely determine the price of natural gas at the wellhead.

You people are much too concerned about the shape of the "curve" and no-way near enough concerned about the volume under the curve(s). Like the "Hubbert Curve" - more precisely - like production curves of all types on finite spheres, The tip of a needle, or the top of the mountain shows a funky shape if you zoom WAY in. Say you have a stack of pins, bumpier still. There IS a Mt. Everest. You all are zoomed way too far in and hopefully have not forgot the garden or the kids. ~:)

Prudoe bay are the droids(example) you are looking for.

all this above ground stuff is a sort of analog of a virtual geo-economic pipeline of fixed diameter.

PDV – You’re absolutely right: me and my people couldn’t care less about the volume under the curve. Doesn’t matter to me if we have 200 billion or 2,000 billion bbls of oil left to recover. OTOH the max daily rate of oil production over the next few decades will have a significant impact on me, my 110 daughter and most of the world.

Yep…you caught us.

Hahahaha! Sorry! I am gibbering this morning....

As we all know, Deffeyes*, using the HL (logistic method) put the global crude oil (C+C) peak between 2004 and 2008, most likely in 2005.

Since 2005, global annual crude oil production has so far failed to exceed the 2005 annual rate, despite the fact that annual oil prices have exceeded the $57 level that we saw in 2005 for five straight years, with four of the five years showing a year over year increase in oil prices. In fact, the cumulative shortfall between what we would have produced at the 2005 annual rate and what was actually produced is around a billion barrels of oil. This is all in marked contrast to the large increase in production, over 6 mbpd, that we saw from 2002 to 2005, in response to rising oil prices.

It's pretty clear that Deffeyes' estimate of 2,000 GB for URR for the world was for only conventional resources. My take on the post-2005 situation is that slowly rising unconventional production has kept us on something of a plateau.

Regarding natural gas, my understanding is that the HL method does not work very well on gas reservoirs.

Regarding global net exports, I've recently used a modified version of the Titanic analogy--Consider the difference between the first 15 minutes of the sinking of the Titanic, versus the last 15 minutes. In the first 15 minutes, the fact that the vast majority of crew and passengers did not know that the ship would sink did not mean that the ship was not sinking.

A rough rule of thumb appears to be that post-peak CNE (Cumulative Net Exports) are 50% depleted about one-third of the way into a net export decline--this is what the ELM, Indonesia and the UK all show. Regarding the top five net exporters in 2005, Sam Foucher's best case is that they will have shipped half of their post-2005 combined CNE by the end of 2014. We are maintaining something close to BAU (still in the first "15 minutes") only because of a sky high post-2005 CNE depletion rate (probably on the order of 8%/year for the 2005 top five).

And then we have the "Chindia Factor." Their combined net oil imports, expressed as a percentage of global net exports, have risen from 11% in 2005 to 17% in 2009, and probably to 19% to 20% in 2010:

Regarding Saudi Arabia, here is the HL based (C+C) chart that Sam Foucher and I posted in early 2006 (when we had annual production data through 2005), with the 2006 through 2010 data points added (estimate for 2010):

Original paper:

And finally, here are the actual production, consumption and net export numbers for the (2005) top five net exporters through 2006, with Sam's post-2006 projections shown (low, middle and high case using the HL method for production and a Monte Carlo analysis for consumption) along with the actual 2007 to 2009 inclusive data points:

Note the large increase in net exports from 2002 to 2005, in response to rising oil prices--versus declining net exports, relative to 2005, starting in 2006, in response to generally rising oil prices.

*Deffeyes made an erroneous observation about a global peak in 2000, but he never backed away from what his model showed, i.e., a conventional peak between 2004 and 2008.

I think the point is that for importers the world has peaked in 2005. And the decline is not smooth having in account the thirst and growing share of Chindia. The devolped countries respond by wealth shrinking, first of all in the middle class with all those destabilizisng effects on a democratic and market oriented society.

But look at the "Good news." Here in the US, we wanted, and it looks like we are well on our way to getting, "freedom" from our dependence on foreign sources of oil.

good news indeed! Ahhh, Freedom.

Me and Bobby McGee

"...But I'd trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday..."

and of course, that leads to "Yesterday"

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it look as though they're here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday ...

Same here in Spain. Only a question of time and we get back to skyhigh housing prices, endless borrowing and fiesta all night long. There are waiting millions of unemployed in the starting holes to begin the run on the new jobs. And Germany is growing like mad. They will bail us all out. They have to! (Well, I'm a german and most of my compatriots think they don't have to...) Everything will be milk and honey, soon!

I reiterate mr.Hirsch: Peak will happen in 2012-2015.

The exact date is pointless. The economy can't grow as more and more money flow into the energy share. This always creates recessions.

I've stopped believing in "The Big Sudden Crash" however. This may happen, but it will not be by natural reasons. A sudden war between Iran and Israel might create it. A huge natural disaster or a specific terrorist act against infrastructure in Iraq, or a civil war itself in Iraq or an Arab revolt in an oil-rich country(essentially Tunisia but this time for a place like Iran, a recurring Green revolution).

The so-called 'X factor' might bring about a sudden stop. This might happen in countless imaginable and unimaginable ways, still, Peak Oil will not be an Old Testament-esque Doomsday. It will be an uninspiring grinddown as the living conditions gradually worsens bit by bit. As the poorer world falls first, oil consumption will decrease, leaving space for the West, Russia and China(and to some degree India, SoKorea, Japan etc). Together with effectivization(carpooling, mandatory public transport use in European cities and so forth), total oil consumpton can be brought further down.

The Peak Oil times are already upon us, but they have to be understood through a long range of years, and a gradual worsening, until the World is either returning to Imperialism/Colonialism or mutual warfare.

Both are plausable scenarios, but I do not believe in the Imminent Apocalypse.

Even in the mutual warfare scenario, it should be seen as a series of mostly disconnected struggles bound by the same underlying reason: dwindling(not collapsing) resources.

In such a scenario, forget "peaceful decline". Stronger nations will exploit the weaker to feed their populations. This inevitably means that Africa, as always, loses.

The same thoughts occurred to me as I was watching the "Prophets of Doom." As long as any of their disasters hit one at a time, civilization can deal with it. Only if several things go wrong at once will it implode.

The worrisome point is that several scenarios are naturally connected, like finance and the oil industry. Either can take down the other.

I think it is wise not to underestimate the ability of human beings to transform a slow, grinding decline into a precipitous and disastrous collapse. As to the reinforcing impact of multiple disasters, aren't we facing that now: peak oil, climate change and global financial crisis? We are in the opening innings of each of these.

They are all connected and all already happening. That is a message people on all sides need to understand. There are significant voices out there that do not understand this, so advocate lines of action that do not solve the problems we face. Some that do see all lines believe one to be far more important than the others either in time or in magnitude, or that one cancels out one or more of the others.

All are flawed approaches to the issue. The only solutions we can pursue are those that address all aspects of the problems we face simultaneously.

Re: Texas and Saudi Production graph

It's remarkable how smooth the downside curve for Texas is. I'm sure someone has commented on that before, since it's so visually striking.

I wonder why so smooth on the downside, and if that is a general pattern in other places...

The Saudi curve is jagged because Saudi Arabia acts as "swing producer" and varies its production up and down to control world oil prices.

The Texas curve is smooth because all the producers always produce at their maximum rate. So, the Texas curve follows the Hubble theory much closer than the Saudi curve does.

Politics can always change the shape of the curve. It just can't prevent production from peaking.

The reason for comparing the two regions is that Texas was (until the early Seventies) the prior swing producer. Also, if the two graphs had the same vertical scale, the Saudi production swings would not look nearly so dramatic. Note that the initial five year production decline rates are almost identical, -2.5%/year for Saudi Arabia and -2.4%/year for Texas.

The thing about Texas is that after 1970 the production allowables came off and producers were all producing at the maximum rate they could. This results in a very smooth curve since there aren't any government constraints.

OTOH, the consumers were wondering what happened to all the extra oil that the oil companies claimed they could produce if allowables were removed. It just wasn't there when allowables were removed.

One wonders if Saudi Arabia isn't in the same situation. They claim they are producing at reduced rates and could produce more if they had to. But could they? Their failure to boost production in 2008 when it was really needed was disconcerting, to say the least.

I believe that Texas went to a 100% allowable in 1972, with two exceptions--the East Texas Field and one field in West Texas. And to clarify, there were government constraints. Operators could not produce at more than their allowable, but this was not a factor in the vast majority of cases.

Regarding Saudi Arabia, of course the crux of our argument in 2006 was that Saudi Arabia, in 2005, was roughly at the same stage of depletion at which the prior swing producer, Texas, peaked in 1972. IMO with a five year production decline that matches the initial five year Texas production decline, the assertion that the post-2005 Saudi decline is all voluntary is beginning to look pretty weak, but we shall see what happens.

Supposedly H(t) = 1 / (2 + 2 cosh(t)), which is the first derivative of the logistic curve, characterizes the shape of the exploitation of a given oil field.

If one sums a substantial number of such curves, appropriately parameterized for width, height, and delay, then wouldn't you expect a bumpy plateau as the result?

That is what you get if you sum H(t-1975), H(t-1980), ..., H(t-2010).

Gold is also on a bumpy plateau. See graph of world gold production since 1970 about half way down

Also, US gold production since 1840 doesn't look much like a Hubbert Curve.
On the other hand, there are clearly peaks associated with the California and Alaska gold rushes. In between, the tendency appears to be a gradually declining slope.

It should obviously be a plateau because we are looking at aggregate information involving numerous oil fields. In which case, the peak will look flat because it's a zoomed-in graph, but wait several decades, then zoom out, and the top of the bell curve will look sharper.

Yes, I agree with you too. Also I suspect the timing of the peak is relevant because the plateau will probably be roughly symmetric on both sides of the peak. The plateau may be a little longer on the rising edge and a little shorter on the falling edge due to the peak occurring after 50% of the URR is consumed. Thus the time between reaching the plateau (2004) and the peak allows us to estimate the time from the peak to the precipitous falling edge.


Good summary of the situation. I will have to take a look at your Energies paper, thanks for the link. But I interpret what you say here that using the EROI considerations, you still end up with essentially a bell curve result. When I worked with Charlie Hall last year I built a model based strictly on a fixed, finite reservoir of energy units and a computation of declining EROI based on feedback from declining net energy which leads to an exponential decline (a little more severe than Cutler's data). Based on modern investment costs in exotic location drilling I think this idea bears looking at more closely. In any case the model looks at the dynamics of extraction of any finite energy source over time and provides what should be viewed as an upper theoretical bound that ignores the flattening effects of economic feedbacks. Presumably, with the latter, the peak isn't as high and somewhat squashed, leading to a slightly longer right-hand tail (though probably not changing the slope very much). But the area under the curve would not be changed.

In any case I get a very different curve than a bell shape. It is logistic on the up side but steeply declining on the down side. You can view one version of it at my UW energy research page: Would be interested in thoughts.


Yes, I had seen your post. But I couldn't find details; so, I'd like to know more - do you have a paper or something? I have written a paper on net energy which is published somewhere in the proceedings of the Barcelona sustainability conference. it is here:

It shows that, indeed, the net energy curve goes down sharply, but the shape of the curve doesn't look very much like yours - but perhaps it is a question of details?

Am sending the equations in an e-mail attachment. I had a chance to glance at your Lotka-Voltera modeling. My model doesn't start from a known curve. Rather I get the behavior from the dynamics of the feedback loops, "best-first" and diminishing reserve. Also, this blog is a brief of the whole abstract economy model, showing the relation of net energy to asset production (in emergy units for consistency). It shows why we can no longer borrow from the future.


The fundamental flaw in all this modeling, whether it is Lotka-Voltera or feedback-based is that feedback is not the driving factor. Dispersion in a constrained environment can mimic feedback and that is why everyone has gotten twisted up in knots thinking about this over the years. They confuse disorder with feedback mechanisms.

There are a few of us who do understand the second law and its ultimate implications. But a few of us also understand that when a bounded system is undergoing energy flow that work gets done internally. The models deal with that aspect.

I'm saying the variances are usually so big that it becomes difficult to marginalize the probability distributions. It affects all the empirical observations.

I suppose you can look at a small enough scale but then you have other problems.

Like looking at the metabolism in a single cell and wondering how life originated?

I meant in the sense of a small sampling population. The smaller the sample, the more determinism you might see, but that might not necessarily reflect the mean. So then if you look at energy consumption among differing locales you will get varying results. Applying this to a larger sample, consisting of many different locales, only then will you start seeing huge variances or dispersion. It makes the true nature of the effect less observable.

I have a good recent example of this in the study of topographical slope distributions. See p.524. On localized terrain, say within a DEM quadrangle, the distribution might be exponential damped, but on a continental scale, it turns into a BesselK. You can actually see this transformation take place by looking at the distribution of the quad means; when that is an exponential too, it leads directly to the BesselK, which looks nothing like an exponential.

It's the same reason that birth-death models work best on isolated populations, like the reindeer on St.Mathews Island or bacteria in a petri dish. You can understand the local dynamics but will it help to understand the wider, global situation?

This is not to put a damper on your ideas, it just explains why I have problems with Limits to Growth System Dynamics models, in that they don't account for dispersion.

I would suggest there are different ways of defining worldwide peak. For example, if it was defined as the maximum production per capita at the lowest price per barrel, then wouldn't May 2005 register as the peak?

Population goes down 25% over 20 years.
Production facilities remain in good condition.
Price lowers slightly in real terms.
Your peak definition becomes 2037. Possible?

We cannot say with certainty which shape the decline will take, but some models such as those of The Limits to Growth that take into account the whole economy indicate that decline might be abrupt.

To the best of my knowledge, all models that assume some form of decreasing returns to resource investment lead to results similar to those in LTG. Sometimes the decreasing returns are expressed in terms of EROEI; sometimes as increasing financial capital requirements; sometimes embedded in the economic production function. IMO, that one difference in assumptions accounts for almost all of the difference in predictions made by the classical economists on one side and nonlinear simulation people on the other.

The greatest weakness of the LTG model is, again IMO, that it's a global model. The decline is likely to be uneven in different parts of the world. The area composed of Oregon/Washington/British Columbia has a vastly different allocation of people and resources than, say, India. The US is a large net exporter of food calories; declining grain production in the US is more likely to have impacts in Africa, where almost all countries are net importers of food calories, than in the US.

Is anyone doing good work at modeling global futures including regional effects? I'm particularly interested in work where the regional definitions evolve as out of the model(s) themselves, rather than being imposed on the model on the basis of current configurations.

Another distinction to keep in mind (I admit I am an amateur) is that production rises in gas may have been limited by demand rather than supply or economics. Gas used to be flared off so one might expect that production increases could have been made by simply diverting gas from a flare to a pipeline. This would skew the production history from which the curve is estimated. If supply was limited by demand this would also account for errors. It would be relatively easy to maintain or ramp up gas supply if it were really demand that controlled supply rather than either cost or resource. On the other hand, oil may have been more historically controlled by supply and cost rather than demand. Up to this point global oil demand may have been controlled by demand and cost rather than supply. As we switch to a demand-controlled situation rather than a cost controlled situation supply can be ramped up for a time but eventually this will be exhausted.

One might also want to consider the rate of depletion of fields currently compared to previously. We can maintain production if our rate of extraction from a given resource increases fast enough until there is nothing left. Then the resource will collapse much faster than under conditions (such as 1973 in the US) where production techniques did not allow very rapid depletion of a given resource.

Peak oil has been often predicted to occur within the first decade of the 21st century, however, up to now, we are not seeing a well defined peak but, rather, a plateau that has been going on from 2004

And so begins another article that utterly and completely misses the point. The Hubbert analysis has always been an exercise in curve fitting, nothing more, nothing less:

Go here:

  • Select "World Oil Production" from the "Fit Data" drop down list.
  • Enter "2010" into the "Peak Year" field.
  • Enter "30" into the "Peak Width" field.
  • Enter "230" into "Total Reservoir Size, Gton" field.
  • Now hit the "Tell the future" button.

Presto! A curve with a well defined peak roughly spanning our much ballyhooed "plateau". Do all of the data points have a perfect regression to the curve? No, of course not, nor will they ever. That is a ridiculous expectation.

Congratulations to TOD for yet another pointless and totally irrelevant post filled with sloppy and misleading graphs that only go back to year 2002.



This kind of "precise" mathematical model is completely detached from a reality filed with unpredictables (finance bust, earthquakes, la niñas, ...).

Yes we are at peak oil: The original model is a fantastic approximation of reality (from the part of the oil, taking out all unpredictables). It got the gist of things right (hint: oil is not infinite and maximum extraction is not a the end but ROUGHLY at the middle). And he even got the timing right (as right as he could).

Find an interview from King Hubbert on youtube where he states the prediction of world peak around 2000 AND SAYS that because of the 70's shock it might slide to 2010. What is happening between 2005-2015 is noise...

Some people really need to read the Black Swan. I heart for the time when computers were much less powerful and human intuition and critical reasoning (which is much better with unpredicables that rigorous mathematical modelling) filled in the rest: that was the right balance.

Like with our current society where we over-consume, we over-model.

I wish it would draw asymmetric curves.

Or enter

Year: 1990
Peak Width: 20
Total Reservoir 150


WHT summarized derivation of Hubbert curve in a neat post here:

One does not need any mathematics, it can be safely skipped. If you only read the text part and look at the graphs, it shows where the Hubbert curve came from and what are the limitations. Hubbert applies only to crude oil.

Good timing. I have an epic tome available for reading on :

This covers the classic Hubbert curve inside and out. The "5 Easy Pieces" explanation is on page 279.

I ran out of ink and paper. :-(

I've only printed it out twice, and that was two-up. It's almost more convenient to keep it on the computer as then you have the hyperlinks. It also reads OK on a Kindle, apart from the missing colors.

Ink and paper?! People still use that?

Yes, I am finding it more intimate to flop on a couch with a piece of paper in hand. e-readers and laptops just don't cut it for me. Plus I can go to a binder and have a leather spine with golden letters and put it a coffee table :-).

I took care to reduce the PF doc size to print to 7" in case somebody wanted to print it out as a book.

Ay carumba, 750 pages!

That's going to take me some time...

I went through it and found at least 36 topics that I could extract an original research paper topic. So that amounts to a little over 20 pages per topic. That is why these missives get so big.

Lots of figure too.

Well it certainly looks interesting, and comprehensive!

I'm looking forward to reading it, though I think it will be a little at a time...

Just a quick comment as I read the commentaries.

Comparing a single oil field or even a single nation to the world is clearly a fallacy. When NatGas production declined in the U.S. they were able to meet the demand from abroad.

The world, as you correctly stated, cannot take oil from another planet. Even if technology might increase the flow of oil in the future, it's too far ahead to be realistically contemplating. And the talk of EROEI is spot-on, LNG is just 65 % of what Crude Oil is in this area. Tar sands and other sources have even poorer returns. Just mixing it all up is yet another fallacy. Without net energy, it's pointless. Sometimes we forget that the economy does not run on oil or even liquids, but energy. And different kinds of energy is needed in different sectors. Transportation is different than the electricity grid.

When the world peaks, even if there is a theoretical chance of a return to previous(or higher) flow rates, and goes into decline, there will be no other source to draw from. Famines, not increased imports, will ensue. The world cannot be compared to a single country or a single oil well.

As the decline happens, there are any number of wars and other scenarios which could fuel the decline(just think of a long, protracted war in the ME) which can add to the decline and even speed it up. Even if the 'ultimate level of production' can theoretically increase, the facts on the ground might make it impossible for decades due to political changes which would come very, very quickly as a result of, by now, even a minor (but still noticeable) decline.

The graph of "all liquids" is very misleading because of double counting. LOTS of crude oil goes into the production of biofuels and yet we get to take credit for both the crude oil and the biofuels. Suppose we took ALL the crude oil and used it to produce biofuels and synthetic oil from tar sands. The total liquids number would be HUGE but there would be substantially less to actually use for other purposes. We need to start looking at graphs of net energy and net energy per capita. Accounting with gross quantities just clouds the picture. As Mark Twain said: "Researchers have cast much darkness upon the subject, and if they continue their investigations we may soon know nothing at all about it."

Next critique there are known works that discuss corrections to the logistic curve under the assumption of some other constraint that limits production. The exact nature of the constraint is irrelevant simply that it results in rationing of the resource limiting usage to below whats possible technically.

L. F. Ivanhoe has developed this constrained curve concept.

This is the source of your undulating plateau claimed by CERA for example. You don't need 14 trillion in remaining reserves to produce it simply assume 2 trillion with a constraint.

Consider that graph with a 1.5 trillion endowment. And next also consider the same graph if R/P ratio's for ME providers are.

Its critical to understand the implications of these graphs.

Once you introduce the concept of constrained production introduced near the peak of resource extraction it become very difficult to determine the final URR. The differences in production between 1.5 trillion barrels of remaining reserves and 2 trillion are impossible to deduce over the period of constrained production. You simply cannot know with certainty how far you where away from peak when production became constrained. Eventually of course it makes a huge difference the undulating plateau period is cut in half if its the 1.5 trillion case vs 2 trillion. More optimistic reserve projections with constraints extend it dramatically.

Next once your in a constrained production environment well obviously some of the producers are not producing at maximum R/P ratios. However again the exact number is impossible to guess with precision. All they must do is constrain production to a significant degree. Clearly something as low as say constraining by 20% vs unconstrained production is going to generate the same result as constraining by 50%.

Once you constrain production past a reasonable by relatively small constraint you can claim any R/P ratio you want only in the end will the real number be discovered.

And last but by no means least there is a very nasty twist to the plot. If the initial cause of constraint is and artificial price spike demand collapse well it leads to cutting production well below unconstrained production levels. The problem is this assures you of constrained production for several decades at the new level. The problem is technology developed in regions where production is still unconstrained is available to the constrained producers. Initially they may have constrained production based on demand that resulted in simple demand constraints. However over time they can readily employ new technology to keep production levels near what they consider constrained production.
The reality is that technical advances are now artificially allowing them to emulate the original demand constrained production.
In reality they are likely to be using technical advances to artificially extend the plateau production period beyond and perhaps well beyond a simple demand constrained production curve. In short its easy to fake it under such conditions.

All the above also applies to unconventional production it suffers the same massive uncertainties and same intrinsic problems.

Real URR estimates are then in my opinion only possible from looking at secondary factors how oil production responds to changing constraints leaves the critical clues required to deduce the real URR. If URR is ample and demand becomes unconstrained and technical advances have expanded production capacity well when price signals that demand is not only unconstrained but also unmet the oil should flow. Alternatives that incorrectly assumed resource constraints should become uneconomic.

If this does not happen well your dealing with a different problem.

586 words :)

My sort of thinking these days

the constraint is the above ground context.... which acts globally as a virtual fixed diameter pipeline of supply. Think Prudoe bay analogy

same point less words

Ahh but sounds like you have not really grasped what I'm trying to say. The logistic assumption is essentially seldom correct.
Once you figure it out then you can tell me when its actually correct.

For example your missing that early production was constrained and not following the logistic curve there was a real above ground constraint.
This was the initial low and effectively constant price for oil. Capacity was well in excess of demand and production was constrained.
This means production was rationed at a constant price.
Inflation adjusted oil prices were basically flat from 1947-1973 or 26 years. And probably before this.

Thus the logistic curve needs almost constant correction from day one for the effects of variable constraints.
Real production is almost always under some constraint that cannot be ignored. Most of the time but not all the time
these constraints are indeed constraining production i.e rationing and flattening the production curve.
In some cases once you figure it out they are counter constraints and lead to over production.

Fairly early in the game reserve estimates based on discovery are simply junk. Its not surprising to me in the least that the oil industry itself does not support the concept of peak oil based on reserves and URR. In general attempt to determine peak oil based on URR or back dated discoveries is simply junk science for the most part. If you don't understand the constraints on the logistic more often than not even this approach is also junk. Now that I've come to understand it a bit better I fully understand why peak oil theories are considered junk science because for the most part it is.

Now thats not to say everything is wrong and the theory has no merit Hubbert did get the right answer for the US it was not a fluke at all.
The way constraint interact with the logistic tends in many cases to a sort of canceling effect.

Eventually the real constrained production curve is simply one of the Logistic curves that can be calculated. In some cases like the US the distortion is minimal. Once you understand the constraints then you understand why one of the possible curves is almost certainly correct.
If you read Hubbert's papers in full you will understand why he almost invariably presented a set of possible curves not a single one.

Indeed I think this is a great read about how he actually did it :)
Not a lot different from my napkin approaches :)

Whats important to understand is not Hubbert's prediction but this.

Eventually he got a chance to write the energy portion of a natural resources study by the National Academy of Sciences for President Kennedy. His analysis, while more mathematical than that of 1956, suggested a Lower 48 ultimate comfortably in the 150 Gb to 200 Gb range, validating 1956.

It got published in 1962, but not before an estimate of 590 Gb emanated from the U.S. Geological Survey, influenced heavily by Vincent McKelvey who some years later became USGS director.

Why did McKelvey get the answer so badly wrong ?
Then why did Hubbert get it right ?
Indeed in my opinion Hubbert in a lot of ways got lucky he had the right data at the right time however as time progressed all that happened was he was able to confirm his earlier educated guess.

Constraints matter. Clearly Hubberts original approach would be highly offensive to some posters here. Later more rigorous treatment was done knowing the right answer a priori. Not that it does not have its merits but it was simply window dressing around what was and intuitive guess.
Righting some nice reasonable equations that give you the answer you already know is not science. Hubbert was certainly a brilliant man and in the end his intuition turned out to be right however I don't think he ever really hit on why he was right. Much less people that followed in his footsteps. Plenty of people Hubbert included dance around the reason but seldom address the truth that it was a intuitive guess and thus fail to address the real problem of why he was intuitively correct.

Its a shame as I think the solution to peak oil is embracing not rejecting Hubberts original simple methods and understanding why it worked.
It was not blind luck and the later mathematical methods are only peripherally important if you don't really understand the original work.
Ivanhoe certainly figured out a lot of it.

Constraints and timing as timing is everything correct peak oil predictions can only be made withing a certain time window.
Since people fail to understand the effect of constraints they also fail to realize that there is a finite period of time where you can correctly predict peak oil. Hubbert I don't think ever appreciated that he just happened to hit the time window.

But picture yourself in the movie There Will Be Blood and replace drainage with constraints :)
And of course the line I drink your milkshake also fits :)

hmmm the early constraint thing is not so much a problem for me... yes if we could backdate the best EOR to the beginning of the resource exploitation we would have a better shot at the curve.

my position is it doesn't matter because as you get with-in that crucial zone where depletion vs extraction cost feedbacks into geo-economic above ground issues your plateau is going to stay where it is.


how long you can hold the plateau will be a function of the true shape of your bell given all the tech as you suggest.


WHT suggests that the curve itself is a function of technology and is "built in" but I don't understand that properly.

I would say that the particular Logistic curve is "built-in" to the discovery profile if a set of premises is met. One of those premises is that you need accelerating search technology that exponentially advances.

By being built-in to the discovery profile, this means that it can never re-emerge as a production profile. Production is the convolution of the discovery profile with an extraction process. The "easy" mathematical proof is that a Logistic does not compose as a convolution of any two known functions, therefore it cannot appear as a real production profile, unless you invoke the trivial case of the discovery stimulus as a delta function. If you do invoke a delta function, then you can apply the "5 easy pieces" to explain how a Logistic might also come about, but this can only work on a single field, and again, under a specific set of assumptions.

This may seem foreign language to a lot of people but we have to realize that climate science is also essentially built on applications of convolution. The atmospheric CO2 levels as predicted is a convolution of the CO2 fossil fuel impulse convolved with the CO2 response function (i.e. residence time). This simple idea explains the whole concept of greenhouse gas latency and people's counterintuitive ideas of how dangerous CO2 actually is. The only thing that emerges is the near-equilibrium measure of CO2 that we measure. The stimulus->response of CO2 is the exact same process as the discovery->production math.

It scares people because they do not understand math. And I know that I will get whacked over the head because I use foreign terminology. The excuse I have this time is that people can read and get the word out to people that can digest it and reinterpret if they think can simplify the thinking.

Hubberts real approach was dead simple figure out a realistic URR. It just so happens that there is a time period between when discovery as fairly complete and when extraction has progress where a realistic URR can be determined. The logistic is only one of and infinite set of curves that could represent the extraction profile. Plenty of others are possible. Indeed if you look at all the country curves all kinds of profiles are possible and common. Pretty much every curve in the book. On a global scale all kinds of constraints influence oil production.

Hubbert just happened to assess the US endowment of oil at the point where discovery was complete enough to make a realistic estimate of the reasonably extractable reserves.
What matters is if you got the area under the basically curve correct not the shape of the curve itself. Constraints can readily alter the shape.

As far as I can tell all that matters is that you asses the worlds oil endowment at the right time which is after discovery is fairly complete and before questionable reserve expansion starts. The essay of the resource base has clearly investigated all basins to a reasonable degree and most have at least a few test wells and further searching is finding less oil than previous searches. The exact nature of the search is irrelevant simply that the results a basically reliable. Have we looked and do we have a good idea about what to expect ?

With that constraint the worlds oil endowment is certainly 1.3-1.5 trillion barrels. Its certainly no less than this.

It does not really matter if your assessment of the worlds oil resources is correct then the area under the curve is a constant.
It trivial to adjust the curve as needed to ensure the area remains a constant. Obviously your constrained by a reasonable ending i.e a tail function no matter how the curve is constrained eventually you will get a declining tail of some sort.
As long as this is possible you have no reason to reassess the result. Thats not to say your assessment is correct simply that there is no compelling reason to adjust the number until after its clearly wrong.

Replicating Hubberts work is trivial if you recognize the timing constraint on when to make the assessment. And he got the right answer. If the timing constraint is valid well we are in a world of hurt.

I'm betting Hubbert also nailed the world URR. Not only that but I think Hubberts own number of 150GB was correct not the 200GB estimate. I.e the answer he favored will eventually be shown to be closer. The shifting of the peak date from 1965 to 1970 was and artifact of changing constraints not higher URR.

The real importance of 1965 over the technical peak in 1970 can be seen in this paper for example.

Constraint changes that lead to lower and lower R/P ratios can readily move the technical peak date but its too late to reformulate the peak oil concept to include R/P changes. The correct solution is to calculate peak at a constant R/P then shift the curve using constraints. Thus his initial assessment of 150GB for the US is correct not 200GB.
Now of course US production is currently over the 150GB bound I claim its at 176.4 today.

And you have papers like this:

However one needs to delve into the data and look at the role lease condensate and oily gas wells have played.

I'd argue that a lot of the issues can be resolved by noting the extensive overlap between NG and oil reserves.
These mixed fields deserve their own analysis and inclusion of condensate and oil from such fields is not correct as
these fields follow the ability to sell the gas not the oil and condensate. And of course these are the most prized gas fields.
And of course well after a region has peaked follow on more intensive searchs EOR etc are all likely to result in the original
estimate being succeeded. But that does not invalidate the original simply it means that Hubberts methods are probably not correct decades later well after peak.
One can look here:

Clearly by 1980 other factors where driving production not the original 150GB that I claim is the natural endowment if you will.
However its also clear that these only become important well after production has fallen well off from its peak value.
Eventually Hubbert's approach fails and it will fail for world production but probably not until after a significant decline.

Furthermore Hubbert's NG analysis where fatally flawed he was off by a mile. This does not detract from his work it simply highlights that he got lucky on the timing of his oil essay. And of course he blew it on oil and condensate production from what are primarily gas fields. Timing is it seems is everything.

All the math thats required is to simply identify the correct assessment of the total primary URR thence no matter how the blocks are arranged as long as the patterns are reasonable you simply just wait.

Heck even Galileo used this trick.

Attempts at a deeper analysis are just as likely to confound the problem as provide more insight. Clearly in the case of the Cycliod above a deeper mathematical treatment was justified but thats not always true. A very simple approach seems more than sufficient the estimate the period of high oil production and initial decline constraints will distort the curve.
Later on this early assessment may not be accurate but it fails at production rates well below the peak value. However that seems to simply be a different problem basically outside the scope of the original procedure. Indeed I suspect one of the big failure modes of more detailed mathematical models is incorrectly combining what are really two distinct problems. And of course for global production attempts to model the tail of production based only on geology is probably not worth the effort. One is better off to focus on URR up to say 15-20mbd past peak or say a 20%-30% decline from peak production ignoring any oil production past that point as tail constraint driven. This is exactly what Hubbert's approach does it worked once and I expect it to work again.

The increase in refinery gains means they are using more and more heavy oil. That's a bad sign.

More Ivanhoe on Hubbert.

"Hubbert wrote virtually nothing about details of the “decline side” of his Hubbert Curve, except to mention that the
ultimate shape of the decline side would depend upon the facts and not on any assumptions or formulae. The decline
side does not have to be symmetrical to the ascending side of the curve - it is just easier to draw it as such, but no rules
apply. The ascending curve depends on the skill/luck of the explorationists while the descending side may fall off more
rapidly due to the public’s acquired taste for petroleum products - or more slowly due to government controls to reduce

I agree that technology and the fact that oil is largely inelastic. But when you look at the fact that the majority of liquids produced is crude the basic Hubbert model should apply to a fair degree. There are just too many large old wells that make up the basic crude. There is no doubt that other sources are going to come in such as the tar sands and put off the fall temporarily. But in the next couple years when the decline rate is so high nothing will be able to stop the fall. We just have to learn to use less. The shortage may be temporary if we can really ramp up the other fuel sources, but they can only alleviate the major problem for so long. If you look at the US's curve it sat on a plateau for a while, too.

I'm seeing in my mind not a peak on top of a single mountain (think Mt. Fuji), but a "volcano" peak with a large "caldera" in the center, more like Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Once you've traversed the caldera and have climbed up to the rim on the other side--look out below!

At least it's easier for me to think of it this way rather than actually "doing the math".

Exactly, while the nuanced among us argue over the detailed shape of the curve and act like Hubbert was a tragic-comedy figure with little prophetic value I am reminded of my trips out West.

A plateau is a peak with a flat top.

I am less comfortable seeing the flat top myself.

I think we are double counting oil since it takes more energy to make oil these days -- but alas these are not the figures we are examining today.

"oil is largely inelastic" ?
Why is that ? The future will most probably show the exact contrary, the consumption will shrink, so oil consumption will indeed show to be highly elastic. In a way you don't like ? Yes maybe but still it will show the consumption of oil to be indeed highly elastic.
Not to forget that, take a 2 or 3 tons 4 or 5 liters junk SUV or something, shrink it to 800 or 1000 kg and 1 or 1,2 liters engine, and you have a highly elastic oil consumption level.
Conclusion : The US not increasing its totally ridiculous gas tax level just shows that this retarded airheads tribe has decided to commit total economic suicide.
Not much more

(besides, a lot if not most of elastic materials today being made out of oil, this would also point to the fact that oil is indeed elastic ..)

I tend to think of oil demand as thixotropic rather than inelastic.

We can wean ourselves off it slowly with relative ease, given enough time. It's the sudden reduction we can't deal with.

So the question becomes - is the rate at which we will reduce our consumption likely to be greater than the rate at which production is falling?

Again, with the low-hanging-fruit, it should be fairly easy, but as time goes on things will only get harder to migrate, and therefore slower. All the while, the rate of production will be decreasing.

At some point the wheels fall off the whole affair and we have a rather awkward situation to live through.

At some point the wheels fall off the whole affair and we have a rather awkward situation to live through.

An awkward situation sounds so benign. I keep seeing these kinds of generalized visions of a post peak oil era from posters and articles in which it's perceived as simply an awkward situation to live through. Always with the idea that it will be somewhat difficult, but just on the other side somewhere will be a new tomorrow. Also inferred is we all make it through this transition.

What's there on the other side? Do we exit some big glass double doors into a world with high speed trains, EV's, charging stations in parking lots fed by solar arrays, an atmosphere cleansing itself of carbon by flourishing flora and sea algae? Do all of our homes have solar? Do we take a high speed train into a major city for sushi while listening to techno?

Or, do only a fraction of us pass through such great hardship we can't even fathom it at this point, only to live in a commune with a couple hundred people tilling the soil and trying to make sure everyone gets fed and has clean water to drink? Making cloths by hand, losing people due to a lack of medicine and poor hygiene?

Hmm, food for thought.

My own take on the "awkward situation" is that it will be fairly sudden and, to many involved, quite catastrophic.

I think that the UK humour of understatement might not always travel too well.

I can imagine a vast range of possibilities through those glass doors, but I also suspect that those doors are pretty well locked.

The actual outcome will depend on the gradient of that downslope. I fear that even with the best of intentions we won't navigate it calmly and at some point there will be a collective stumble.

I seem to notice more and more that the graphs of decline are showing a "best case scenario". In that the above-ground conditions can only make things worse. The tipping point comes before there is a technical crunch as both individuals and nations go into panic mode causing BAU to grind to a halt.

The US not increasing its totally ridiculous gas tax level just shows that ... has decided to commit total economic suicide.

Does a hungry man commit suicide because he can´t find food?
Unfortunately, he will probably become less human and more animal, and do whatever it takes to have access to food. When that happens many of the now critics of MSM will let themselves be brainwashed again, and again, and again...

"oil is largely inelastic" ?
Why is that ? The future will most probably show the exact contrary, the consumption will shrink, so oil consumption will indeed show to be highly elastic.

Both are true. Oil consumption is inelastic in the short term, but highly elastic in the long term.

It is basically a function of how long it takes to replace the automobile fleet. In the short term, you can't modify your Hummer (10 mpg city) to use less fuel, but in the long term you can scrap it and buy a Toyota Prius (50 mpg city) or some other vehicle with a tiny fraction of the fuel consumption of a Hummer.

Unfortunately, most Americans misinterpreted the economic signals, and bought vehicles that consumed too much fuel and houses that were too far from work and shopping. Many or most of them suffered for this mistake.

Lesson for future reference: Rising prices are an economic signal. Pay attention to them. If you buy a very small car with very high fuel efficiency and a house that is very close to work and shopping, you probably will be okay. If you don't, you probably will become a victim of economic inattention. Or demand inelasticity, to be more technically accurate.

There can be no doubt that the Hubbert model is limited. As CERA correctly points out, the Hubbert model has no input parameters for oil embargoes, drilling technology advances, economic slow-downs, advances in 3D seismography, etc. However, that certainly doesn't mean it is useless.

The Hubbert model relies on the Central Limit Theorem to average out these factors which can accelerate and slow oil production. And largely, that has worked well. However, it remains to be seen how well that continues to work. I suspect that the peak point will be later than many peakists believe since the market will use the pricing mechanism to push the peak further to the right and extend the tail. Or perhaps pricing may cause a long plateau such that we appear to now be on.

The Hubbert model may work well for making predictions within individual countries but only because the availability of oil from other countries allows the downslope to begin. But for the planet as a whole, it will probably not work as well. When you back is against the wall, you tend to work a bit harder to solve problems. Thus, the price goes up and gets people working harder on finding & extracting oil as the economists like to point out. However, this cannot create new oil . . . it can only stretch the existing oil supplies a little further.

So 'both sides' will score points here . . . desperation will extend the oil supply (as the economists point out) but ultimately oil is a finite resource that will enter decline (as the geologists point out).

Not to be too redundant, but as noted up the thread global crude oil production has so far not exceeded the annual rate that we saw in 2005, and in fact we have seen a cumulative shortfall between what we would have produced at the 2005 annual rate and what was actually produced, which is consistent with what Deffeyes predicted--and then we have the net export component.

Given that the population has increased at about 90 million per year for each year since 2005, the per capita consumption of oil has taken a hit. The question is, to what extent has this resulted in reduced living standards, and where have these reduced living standards occurred. Or did the world somehow compensate through efficiency?

Contrast this with a statement I heard today on CNBC. "Equity markets are in a state of Nirvahna." This state of nirvahna may be an artifact of financial viagra. The market is up while the true physical health of the subject is in danger of extreme sickness or early death.

Your message is redundant but has the advantage of being widely heard and maybe even widely understood.

Hmm your mixing in the later mathematical treatment with the original formulation. He did not have a model originally simply and estimate of total URR and he drew a reasonable curve through it. The model came much later in the fashion of the ends justifying the means. The theoretical justification for his model is weak at best not that the logistic is inherently wrong in many cases simply that it was not the way the actual peak was originally calculated. When people attach a theoretical framework to and empirical process you should be skeptical.

The real Hubbert model without all the claptrap added later is dead simple once initial discovery is complete you can calculate the URR and a symmetric curve is a reasonable estimate of peak and the production profile. Even in the original empirical form the curve was not a primary result.

Indeed he stressed this one of his early papers.

11. The only a priori information concerning the magnitude of the ultimate cumulative production of which we may be certain is that it will be less than, or at most equal to, the quantity of the resource initially present. Consequently, if we knew the quantity initially present, we could draw a family of possible production curves, all of which would exhibit the common property of beginning and ending at zero, and encompassing an area equal to or less than the initial quantity.

Thats it. Thats the single assertion thats at the basis of peak oil theory.

And later in the same paper he covers how he draws his curves.

The same treatment for the world production of crude oil is shown in Figure 20. Here the ultimate potential production is taken to be the 1250 billion barrels shown in Figure 15. The unit rectangle of the grid represents 250 billion barrels. Consequently, the total area under the curve will contain but five of these rectangles. In Figure 20, the curve has been drawn on the assumption that the maximum rate of production will be about two and one-half times the present rate, which places the date of the peak at about the year 2000. As in the case of coal, variations of this assumed maximum rate will advance or retard the date of the culmination.

That is all there is to peak oil theory by the guy that got the answer right no more no less. Your mixing in later works with the fundamental basis of his theory. Why add anything else ?

Hubberts wrong because 2000 already passed and oil did not peak ?

Well clearly he states that variation in the rate will retard or advance the date. Can he still be right in 2011 sure nothing so far has invalidated his forecast as he defined it. Oil production is however almost twice what he originally forecast lets hope he made made a huge mistake in his URR estimates clearly 1956 was a bit early later work thats likely more reliable extended the URR to 1350-2100 billion barrels. Initial discoveries peaked later on in the 1960's his 1975 paper was where he actually presented a reliable estimate of world peak and it was before the quota wars.

Sadly the link looks dead and its the only one I know. the graph is here however.

Note 1350 was his own estimate in the later paper. And it gets the peak rate about right compared with our current production.
Obviously this requires our curve to be asymmetric. And I've seen 1500 several times in what I call early reliable estimates.
I generally use 1300-1500 as the "pure" Hubbert estimate he never fully endorsed the 2000+ billion barrel estimates although he included them.

In any case using the fundamental theory not its questionable mathematical dressings we have not yet hit the point that it can be discredited. Of course this may imply a hell of a decline we just have to wait and see.

Its still just a little too early to call it.

As a matter of interest and comparison, I went through memmel's above posting, editing and punctuating to improve readability. Check for yourself how it compares.

Memmel, I know what you are talking about, in terms of presenting a (jumping) stream of conciousness - it's what I can also suffer from when writing quickly. However, it's always worthwhile going back over your transcript at least once; catching errors and giving a first order tidy to the words. If someone else is paying, multiple passes maybe best.

While writing well is a skill (one I don't have), it's important to realise that setting words down is ONLY useful if they get communicated to another brain. Without that, you might as well not bother at all.

One pass, that's all that's needed.


Hmm, you're mixing in the later mathematical treatment with the original formulation. Originally he did not have a model, simply an estimate of total URR which he drew a reasonable curve through it. The model came much later; to justify the defined result.

The theoretical justification for his model is, at best, weak. It's not that the logistic description is inherently wrong, in many cases it's simply that it was not the way the actual peak was originally calculated. When people attach a theoretical framework to an empirical process, you should be sceptical.

In the original Hubbert model, once initial discovery is complete you can calculate the URR; fitting a symmetric curve as a reasonable estimate of the production profile and thus peak characteristics.

He stressed this one of his early papers.

11. The only a priori information concerning the magnitude of the ultimate cumulative production of which we may be certain is that it will be less than, or at most equal to, the quantity of the resource initially present. Consequently, if we knew the quantity initially present, we could draw a family of possible production curves, all of which would exhibit the common property of beginning and ending at zero, and encompassing an area equal to or less than the initial quantity.

That's it. That's the single assertion that is at the basis of peak oil theory.

Later in the same paper he covers how he draws his curves.

The same treatment for the world production of crude oil is shown in Figure 20. Here the ultimate potential production is taken to be the 1250 billion barrels shown in Figure 15. The unit rectangle of the grid represents 250 billion barrels. Consequently, the total area under the curve will contain but five of these rectangles. In Figure 20, the curve has been drawn on the assumption that the maximum rate of production will be about two and one-half times the present rate, which places the date of the peak at about the year 2000. As in the case of coal, variations of this assumed maximum rate will advance or retard the date of the culmination.

That is all there is to peak oil theory, by the guy that got the answer right. No more, no less. You're mixing in later works with the fundamental basis of his theory.

Is Hubbert's wrong because the year 2000 has already passed, and oil did not peak?

Well, clearly he states that variation in the rate will retard or advance the date. Can he still be right in 2011? Nothing, so far, has invalidated his forecast as he defined it. Total oil production, however, is almost twice what he originally forecast.

Let's hope he made made a huge mistake in his URR estimates. Clearly, peak by 1956 was a bit early; his later work (that's likely more reliable) extended the URR to 1350-2100 billion barrels. The alternative is for a precipitous fall from our current production level.

Sadly, the original link looks dead (and it's the only one I know):

His graph, however, can be seen here:

Note: '1350' billion barrels was his own estimate, in the later paper. And it gets the peak rate about right compared with our current production.

In any case, using the fundamental theory (not its questionable mathematical dressings) we have not yet hit the point when it can be discredited. Of course, this may imply a hell of a decline; we just have to wait and see.

It's still just a little too early to call it.

I'd already done that twice. Are you thinking the third time being the charm, he'd magically change?


The Hubbert model relies on the Central Limit Theorem to average out these factors which can accelerate and slow oil production.

This is not true if the Hubbert model is a Logistic, as a Logistic does not describe a stable distribution of the CLT. Only a normal Gaussian will follow the Central Limit Theorem for thin-tailed statistics and functions like the Cauchy for fat-tailed statistics.

So there is a kind of CLT operational but not quite like you described. I refer to the http://TheOilConundrum online book, check starting on page 100.

Web read Hubbert's works your wrong. The original work that correctly predicted US peak was as described in the post above the logistic function formulation was added later. It was never used in either his prediction for US peak or for world peak. In was mathematical window dressing. Also as I posted he blew it a few times. His original estimate of global peak was incorrect and his NG estimates where flops. Eventually after decades even his US model is diverging from reality.
Regardless functional form was never a critical aspect of his actual work it became and issue later on which is sad because I think it misses the most important implications of his work which had to do with when he made his URR estimates vs discovery.

Next the US has had ready access to all the latests technologies indeed many where developed in the US to try and solve our declining oil problem none of them prevented the US from declining significantly from its peak production. Not the advances in search, not the advances in drilling and certainly not all the reserve additions. It might have finally arrested its steady decline recently however how long this lasts remains to be seen. Even if it turns out to be fairly permanent we are a long way from our peak production.

If its as important as I think it is then it vindicates my arguments about reserve additions being dubious or at best unlikely to contribute to world production till well after peak i.e out in your fat tail.

And clearly if he was also reasonably correct about the world URR well we have a problem. I don't think a long flat tail at 50% of our current production is exactly a solution for the world.

That by no means invalidates dispersive discovery our your shock model all it says is what I've said repeatedly the problem is the data. If you have a real estimate for URR then the functional form is secondary. If you have a functional form correct but have bad data then its garbage. In the end no matter how you do it you still have to have a correct URR estimate. It all Hubbert really worked with and its all thats needed.

Now a good model with correct data would be fantastic however ...

I know you detest the weigh the paper method, its brute force yes but it works and its solved innumerable tough problems over the centuries. Your claims that he depended on the logistic or even a Gaussian are wrong he did nothing of the sort functional form was very clearly never and important aspect of his work.

In 1974, he presented several production curves for both the World and the United States, but was somewhat reticent in explaining the mathematical basis of his work. He referred to a bell-shaped curve, of which the most commonly used are the Normal or Gauss curve, and also to the derivative of the logistic curve (Bartlett 1999), but he gave no equations.

And later

It is interesting to note that the Hubbert graph in his famous 1956 paper (Figure 1b) has a fatter top than computed with the above formula. Hubbert did not publish a formula for the graph , and it is likely that in those before computers he simply drew the graph by hand (with templates) and calculated the area below the curve to obtain the Ultimate.

As far as I can tell so far from reading the logistic was assigned to Hubberts hand drawn curves by J.H. Laherrère.
I not found a direct reference back to Hubbert himself. I don't have all his papers perhaps he did eventually write about the logistic if so I cannot believe Laherrere did not reference it instead of deriving it.

Unless someone shows otherwise it was Laherrere that introduced the mathematics and its not like he does not have his doubts about reserve growth.

If you read about issues with US data clearly Hubbert had a knack for wending his way through the arcane reporting methods to derive a excellent estimate of URR. Indeed if anything one wonders what data he actually used given the positions he held.
After a while Hubberts work reeks of insider information or at the very least and expertise in understanding what the numbers really meant :)

One last thing read this link.

Harry Wassall took an interest in the Peak Oil issue, seeing its wider significance. Petroconsultants read my first book The Golden Century of Oil, which got much wrong because I had not then appreciated how unreliable public data was. It invited me to make a similar study but based on its database, and I was joined by Jean Laherrere, who had retired from TOTAL. We made a major study based on the comprehensive information that was made available to us. The result was eventually suppressed under pressure from an oil company,


So far as studying Peak Oil is concerned, the best approach is to revert to the earlier Petroconsultants database as a starting point, and track subsequent changes, revisions and additions, discounting any anomalies and inconsistencies. Despite the difficulties that make it is virtually impossible to secure comprehensive information, it is feasible to determine and track the general patterns of depletion.

Web read Hubbert's works your wrong.

Where are the commas? I see that you can supply an apostrophe, yet you can't use a comma anywhere.
Hence, I have no idea of what you are trying to say.

Are you trying to say:
"Web, read Hubbert's works your wrong."
That still doesn't sound right

How about:
"Web read Hubbert's works, your wrong."
So I read Hubbert and I read someone's "wrong". Who's "wrong" did I read?

How about:
"Web read Hubbert's, works your wrong."
Is "working a wrong" like "exercising your abs"?

By the way, I discovered your commas in this comma reservoir:

Should last you awhile. Come back when you finish consuming them.
I can find more for you when you need them.

By the way, I discovered your commas in this comma reservoir:

I hereby challenge anyone to produce a funnier comment in the remainder of 2011.

Sorry Memmel, you may be a genius or a fool but in order to ascertain which, I'd actually have to read all the way to the end of one of your posts without my brain melting.

Rov - I think memmel has been spot on with his vision of the forthcoming PC (Peak Commas). We should be thankful for his efforts to push society towards being aware of the dangers of PC. PC is the real threat to our society today IMHO. Many of us are looking at PC with more and more contempt.

In Hubbert's Congressional testimony (which was rather wide ranging)he didn't address the specific numerical formulas of the curves, but just the area under the curves. While he correctly indicated it was the area under the curve (and the way his curves were drawn, peaks would always occur at the midpoint of resource recovery), there was no mathematical formula that I've ever seen explicitly associated with his curves.

What is clear from his diagrams was the use of graphical integration (the number of blocks or boxes on the graph paper under the curve.

He also had a fair amount to say about exponential growth and how some things suddenly change.

If you look at the Youtube video from 1976 where he "predicted" a peak in 1995, he essentially kept the same exponential growth rate in oil production/consumption as had existed since 1946 (through 1973) of about 7.25% per year. Assuming that, a symmetrical curve and 2000 GB recoverable reserves, you get the 1995 date (and he hedged that, too, acknowledging the effects that OPEC had begun having on world supply). But if you look at his curves you see 40 GB per year production (or ~110 Million BPD) at the peak.

Although Hubbert acknowledged that both the volume and the rates of extraction could shift the curve, he did not anticipate the world production decreasing and then once it began to grow again, growing only at a rate of 1.3% per year from 1983 to present, even with the recent flat point in production. Oh, he had seen it in other industries and knew it could happen, it probably did not seem that the oil production curve would inflect so much.

As an interesting aside, if you take the approach of what is now called the Hubbert linearization and look at where the curve(s) sit and how they've changed over time acouple of interesting patterns show up. I'm using a starting point of 1983 for the linearization and as much data as I have been able to gather to come up with some estimate of the total oil production. Some of the early data really does not matter because the linearization stays "consistent" with the dataset.

The linear least square curve to the tail of the p/q ratio vs q gives you an estimate of the ultimate recoverable resource, the so called H/L curve. As JL points out in many of his works,there is no guarantee that this will be the amount of oil that can and will be recovered, but it works well enough for many pools and systems to be informative.

The curve p/q vs q curve is positively sloped until 1970, has a brief negative slope period until 1973 when it goes positive briefly and then (generally) begins to fall. Part of that fall is clearly the two OPEC oil shocks, but even when oil production begins to grow again, albeit at a much slower rate, the "tail" of the curve begins to become evident. I and others have commented on the "dogleg right" that seems to appear as a peak shows up, and on a relatively few number of points, this dogleg can have a strong impact on the URR value.

On the dataset I've worked with over the years, the H/L curve for the data up through 1998 indicated a URR of just above 1925 GB or just about what Hubbert used in 1976. In the run-up to 2005 there is a very distinct "dogleg right" from 2002-2005 (inclusive) which has the effect over altering the slop-intercept of the H-L curve toa URR of 2180 GB. The data through 2008 pushed that URR up to 2300 GB where it has squarely sat since 2008 (using 2010 estimates).

So where are we in the total oil production from my dataset?

1184 GB or just slightly beyond the halfway point.

The curve suggests a "reserve growth" of ~375 GB between 1998 and 2010 while we consumed 335 GB over the same period. Even if production remains flat over 2011 and 2012, the H/L curve will stay pointed at essentially the same URR. A deceline in production (because of the much smaller p/q) will eventually draw the H/L curve back towards a smaller URR.

And at that time the peak will become more evident in the rearview mirror.

Now we get into the heart of the problem.

The 2000 GB estimate results in a 110mbd peak production in 1995. Shocks will simply shift this curve to the right i.e later in time however in doing so it means technical advances precede production. As you approach peak and are well past the discovery phase the demand for better technology is persistent.

If one assumes reasonably that the various oil shock slowed production then clearly the peak will occur at a later date. However its reasonable to assume that the delay allows technology to in a sense get ahead of production i.e once demand finally recovers our technical prowess will be more advanced then it was in 1995. Since our ability to discover oil also increases over time we should have and increasing inventory of fields which where development is delayed. So we are a lot better at extracting and we have a larger larder if you will of choices as demand finally catches up with supply. Above this one can expect that a fair amount of spare capacity exists in the system.

No matter how you slice and dice it the delayed peak should easily approach the 1995 peak if its not delayed too long. Ten years is in my opinion not nearly enough time to induce a substantially lower peak. Indeed its just outside the edge of uncertainty. Next suggesting that peak was delayed ten years is questionable. Clearly by 2005 prices where already substantially higher. The tightening of supply vs demand would have preceded this by a fair amount. Thus even if peak production was actually time shifted 1995 would have clearly already been a period at which supply and demand was tightening.

I'll keep it short I can expand on this later but suffice it to say we can safely throw out any hope of 2000GB of oil. Hubbert's own personal estimate of 1350 is far closer to the truth. I suspect a bit low thus I used 1300-1500 but the above approach can easily restrict the Hubbert URR to that range. Notice I call it the Hubbert URR.

Next I did this explicitly because clearly Hubberts approach becomes invalid well past peak. At the field level regional level etc. Depleted fields that remain in production eventually enter their tail phase declining slowly at a low production rate.

Now for the bombshell :)

Single function peak oil theories are simply wrong you cannot aggregate world peak. You can clearly see this in HL analysis as it steadily points towards ever larger URR's from the composition. Your problem is your blinded by your mathematical approach. This entire class of analysis is simply wrong.

The source of the problem is plain. The decision to extract a region after it peaks is regional not global. In the US we did not stop extracting oil simply because it was cheaper to buy ME oil. We already had significant infrastructure to support extraction even as the region moved well past peak. Indeed continued extraction supported technical innovation to allow continued extraction. Thus the US moved steadily to its tail region. Russia, China and yes even in the ME similar changes happen. As fields peaked and decline on a regional basis the oil industry simply continued to extract.

The problem is single function aggregates of world oil production place these long tails after peak. They lose the significance of regional peaking. Thats whats not happening at all. Whats really happening is as the worlds oil endowment is depleted fields and then regions are increasingly being produced in their long tail region. We are literally eating our own tail if you will.

This is pretty clear in HL type aggregation as it keeps kicking URR from the HL method further and further out. The reality is you don't have a lot more oil instead your consuming oil today that would have been produced much later in single function solution.

In a way its not that HL is invalid simply easily misinterpreted. Simply put you cannot aggregate declining regions with ones that have yet to peak.

A much better approach is to at least bin the regions and do and alternative analysis for those that are past the point where HL is valid.
Sadly I have to suggest WHT fat tail approach with caveats :)

In any case you really don't need to do sophisticated math on these regions as they are in simple linear decline for the most part. Its not that complicated. All this oil produced in this manner is your long tail thats not gonna happen.

Next thats not all the oil in the world we still have new field development indeed a real analysis would segregate production at the field level and bin based on maturity. Here technology again plays a huge role the delay in producing oil allowed technology to get ahead if you will. Esp important is horizontal drilling which allows high production rates from both new and old fields. To digress the long tail I mentioned above is being extracted even faster with horizontal drilling its slope is not as gentle as it could be.

In any case for new field development R/P ratios steadily decline the time between initial production and decline shortens. Also in general since your on the second or third wave of searching you are finding ever smaller fields as you pick over the bones. Cherry picking if you will is not important during initial development of a basin however once that phase is over further searches do result in cherry picking.

In some cases like Saudi Arabia some of the original discoveries had their development slowed substantially once Ghawar was found. Thats and extreme case but clearly mega-fields once found thence distort the regional production decisions.

In any case as we proceed to eat our own tail we are also aggressively developing the best of new discoveries first. Technology esp horizontal drilling is allowing inflated production rates at the expense of falling R/P ratios. Indeed since smaller fields can be produced easier at lower R/P ratios your getting HL inflation from this effect.

The net effect of all of this is a sort of solid floor production that changes little day in and day out with fast and furious production on top that can generally increase production year over year if it can offset production entering the mature phase and also offset their own rapid decline. Its a treadmill.

HL and indeed almost all attempts at single function solutions simply show URR steadily increasing.

Underneath all this mistaken analysis the geologic endowment never changed. The real URR is what it is.
All we really are doing is sucking in the long tail that was supposed to happen post peak and aggressively cherry picking any new prospects ensuring that as the years go by that we really don't many reasonable new fields.

More likely than not technical advances are as I said also working to steadily suck in the long tail at and ever rapid pace. Its not immune and it also suffers from ever higher depletion rates.

How all this eventually works out is pretty clear rapidly increasing decline rates across the board. Sure the old field go from 1%->2% but they also make up a lot of the base production at this point. A doubling of the decline rate even if its a small number is a lot of oil.
For new field development the lack of replacement fields becomes and abrupt problem. Suddenly the population of new fields falls off a cliff. The rapid decline rate of existing new field development is no longer supported by replacement and the underlying tail production is also falling.

Initially I though this lead to a plateau and a sharp cliff. However now I realize this cannot be the right answer. To many variables are at play. Its impossible for them to work such that a plateau forms. Instead we are technically advanced all that technology did not simply go away. For small fields instead of cherry picking you simply produce everything you can find. Rising prices bolster this decision. A bigger factor is simply the desire to replace reserves at almost any cost. For the larger more mature fields application of new technology and rework suddenly take on new importance. You advance your projects.

Clearly this surge overwhelms the oil industry and costs shoot to the moon as everyone is clamoring for rigs. Production does not simply fall off a cliff the problem is alleviated over the short term. It does decline but at a fairly low rate. Upstream beyond the oil production side increasing efficiencies such as complex refining and alternatives and simple conservation take substantial pressure off.

URR estimates go wild as in many places the decline rate is lower than what it was before. And old field experiencing a 1%->2% transition is reworked and decline falls to 0.5%.
Mission accomplished oil as far as the eye can see. Overall a slow linear decline sets in but this can be fixed up with alternatives.

Frying pan meet fire. All you did was make the underlying problem far worse not better. Clearly it does not take long at all for this mitigation to come back and bite hard. Not only did you not solve the problem you doubled the already steep impending decline rate.
No your old fields go from a 0.5% decline to 3-4%. Overall new field production declines that where say approaching 4% suddenly go toward 8-16%.
The long tail everyone expects well we already burned most of it up.

And yes this is a long post but sometimes you have to simply tell the whole story. In this case I'd argue its important.

Mike/Web/Et Al - here's an exercise some of you better math heads might want to take on. To your point: Hubbert's curve represents something akin to a "natural production stream": no declines due to demand destruction and no increases due to technology improvements. Why not tak his curve and subtract the actual curve. IOW subtract the area under the actual from his projected curve. That volume would represent the net between delayed production (for whatever reason) and increased production to new tech/plays. Now if you guys are nearly as clever as I think you are then perhaps you can patch thet differential into our current spot on the curve. Then we can see the adjusted Hubbert projection and where we're heading.

My original intent was to understand all the gyrations in the global production curve. The significant twist is I don't use the Hubbert curve, but instead apply the Oil Shock model, which generates a production curve out of a discovery data model. What you describe is akin to residuals, which in the Oil Shock model I refer to as perturbations. These perturbations are the changes from the average extraction rate over time. Invariably, as we track sudden changes in production that have occurred in the past, i.e. oil shocks, you notice the mean extraction rate going through close to step changes. The perturbations tell us where we are heading in the near term, but of course we can't say where exactly they will occur in the future.

The other element that you are after is the inferred reserve volume; this is one phase removed from the actual production. The reserve profile comes out of the model automatically as the mean extraction level draws from this volume.

It is a comprehensive mathematical model fully described in the book. Memmel has got nothing, just ambiguous wording that will mean just about anything to anybody that chooses to try to decode it (ugh).

Web whats ambiguous about my conclusion. Its simple models that don't normalize time correctly between production areas are fatally flawed. Addition of production from a growing region with one thats heavily depleted is wrong. Time shifting backdated discovery is wrong as it includes additional reserve estimates from a depleted field as if they where new.

The only correct way to generate statistics is to only add like to like adjusting the baselines to say match peak or start date.
Best practice would be to do so at the field level first collating similar sized fields at similar points in production.
It seems reasonable that and aggregate of smaller fields can be then be safely added together with larger fields.

Attempts to directly aggregate in realtime are simply wrong. Your model does not apply to the problem period and its garbage.

I hope you can decode I think its pretty clear.

Clear as mud. I ain't going to do any decoding, but from the words you use, it sounds as if you don't understand the concepts of convolution and dispersion.

I figure not to waste my time anymore:
1. Other people claim that you evidently have some sort of grammatical disability that interferes with trying to get your point across,
2, I think you appear to be either a troll or a poseur

Aggregation of production or discovery data based on the time of discovery and or production at some point in time has zero predictive value. I don't care if you model using dispersive discovery, Hubbert Linearization some custom algorithm. The aggregate production has no defined functional form. It is what it is.

Obviously a field won't be produced until after its discovered but other than that when a field is produced and how its produced is entirely dependent on a huge number of factors. At any point in time the reason a particular set of fields are in production is effectively arbitrary you cannot capture this using a simple formula.

Web I understand what your doing and I'm not singling out your approach every single peak oil theory except for Hubberts original analysis is wrong. Every single one is fundamentally flawed in one way or another because of incorrect aggregation of the data.
Everyone is incorrectly aggregating the data.

One need start with and extreme example. The Canadian oil sands.

In 1888, Dr. Robert Bell, the director of the Geological Survey of Canada, reported to a Senate Committee that "The evidence ... points to the existence in the Athabasca and Mackenzie valleys of the most extensive petroleum field in America, if not the world." [5]

In 1926, Dr. Karl Clark of the University of Alberta perfected a hot water separation process which became the basis of today's thermal extraction process. Several attempts to implement it had varying degrees of success, but it was 1967 before the first commercially viable operation began with the opening of the Great Canadian Oil Sands (now Suncor) plant using surfactants in the separation process developed by Dr. Earl W. Malmberg of Sun Oil Company.

Indeed the deposit was actually known before this by the Indians and Europeans entering the area 1719.

Taking 1888 as the discovery date and first real estimate of size we have 1967 - 1888 = 79 years.
Serious development did not really start till about 2003 or 115 years later.

This is and extreme and the deposit itself is also huge but its sufficient to prove my point. Every single oil field found and put into production has a large number of variable the determine when and how its produced.

Indeed the discovery process itself also has a similar set of wide ranging variables controlling the process.

Any attempt to simply and assume some sort of universal governing equation regardless of form is simply flawed and unlikely to have and substantive predictive value indeed a educated guess is as likely to be correct which is effectively all Hubbert did.

Lets take dispersive discovery in particular you have argued because of its nature a super-giant can be found at any point in the discovery process.

Fair enough according to your model. Well right now we have used about one trillion barrels of oil. The most pessimistic commonly accepted remaining amount is 1 trillion barrels. Recent USGS estimates have pushed this to I believe 4 trillion.

Where are all the super giants in the remaining trillion plus barrels. Indeed why have we not found one in decades ?
If we simply assumed the distribution in the remaining trillion is similar to the first a number of super giant and giant fields are yet to be found. Today we average about 10GB per year in discoveries. Where are all the super-giants yet to be discovered ?

Of course with your theory you can probably claim they are still out there or tweak some parameters to show they are not. Dispersive discovery is akin to the Magic 8 ball than a crystal ball as far as I'm concerned.

More likely given the complex forces that govern discovery we just happened to find them all fairly early. Its not dispersive its not cherry picking or large fields found first or any arbitrary simplification of the discovery process. Its simply the overall complex set if interacting "things" that go into discovery found the big fields early when we actually search a region. Indeed if you actually bother to read real discovery data the largest fields are generally found within a few years of actively searching a region.
One has to correct for obvious above ground issues such as WWII. More often then not the largest fields are found within 10 years of agressive searching and almost always within ten years of the first confirmed discovery.

And interesting exception if it really is one is Nigeria.

If one actually takes to time to review the real history of oil discovery this rule of thumb holds with surprising accuracy.
But this is simply a way to put a bounding number on the basic assertion that we seem to be surprisingly good at finding oil once we expend the effort of preforming a reasonably through search.

Indeed the explosive expansion of the search for oil itself is tightly intertwined with WWI and WWII. We had some excellent reasons to run all over the planet looking for oil and finding gobs including the largest fields fairly early in the search.

There is no intrinsic reason to assume that some sort of fundamental equations are at play. Your own work was simply and attempt to produce a better fundamental set of equations to replace some that had a weak theoretical foundation. However you never once bothered to considered if the solution you where replacing itself had and validity.

Doing a better job at something thats fundamentally wrong in the first place is not science. At best you may have done the equivalent of the Bohr atom.

I suspect given your weak knowledge of the history of real discovery this is being generous but perhaps not.

Regardless if the underpinning of the earlier logistic model are non-existent i.e these aggregate models are intrinsically invalid well no amount of mathematics on the planet is going to solve it.

But of course thats because you refuse to even consider what I keep pounding on day after day week after week which is simple check your data understand your data and verify our data before you even consider developing a mathematical framework based on the data.
Jean Laherrère recognizes the data problem.
Does not make his approach correct but at least he understand his data very well.

You have clearly not done this and refuse to do so and its not surprising in the least that you have taken a invalid set of assumptions to some sort of mathematical conclusion which has zero bearing on reality.

Not that its not neat mathematics it is, just it has nothing to do with oil.

However a lot of the readers of the oildrum and other peak oil literature have assumed the various oil production models touted by peak oil theorist and anti-peak oil counter theories such as CERA's as having some sort of validity.

I just want to go on record as suggesting you might want to consider throwing all of them out since they are all invalid.
Every single one of them makes a different but still fatally flawed assumptions about oil production.

Not that its not neat mathematics it is, just it has nothing to do with oil.

It works! I discovered a comma in his writing. The more you harass and try to corner Memmel, the more he will try to come up with a coherent argument.

Too bad the content of the argument rests on deterministic principles and that oil, like many other natural phenomena, follows a stochastic arc. He doesn't seem to grok this.

Web you decided it followed a stochastic. You have no proof for your argument.

Hey Paul Mann a real geologist has done some fantastic work on giant oil and gas fields.
Looking at the real geological data and distribution.

Nothing stochastic about it. They exist where geological constraints are conductive to the formation of large fields.

Since you never consider real data you even think about the relationship between oil and gas and discovery.
If your finding giant gas fields more often then oil fields well your out of oil.
You have searched the oil window for a region. Go look at the physical distribution of gas and oil fields in a region.
This is simply a matter of the geology for a given region and the size of its oil bearing region vs gas.

Heck the fact you fail to include NG in your analysis alone invalidates your work.

Indeed a high school level class in petroleum geology coupled with a graph of NG production and Oil production is sufficient to deduce that oil production will peak and decline. Its not exactly rocket science.

You dimwit, that is a stochastic process. OK, dimwit is harsh, it's just that you don't possess the slightest bit of intuition when it comes to disorder and the nature of probability and random processes. From all your writings, for as much as I can decipher, you have a need to pigeonhole everything you see into some deterministic and causal chain. Tough when it doesn't work out the way your linear mind wishes it to happen.

Nothing stochastic about it your gonna hold to your model to the end.

Perhaps consider a similar process the formation of stalactites and stalagmites in a cave.

The formation of a particular stalactite is internally stochastic the distribution of stalactites is not.
Your assumption that the process is overall stochastic is incorrect and therefore wrong.
The stochastic growth of a single stalactite has no bearing on the distribution in any particular cave.
In the case of a cave its controlled if you wish to call it controlled by the cracks, water movement etc etc or just simply geology.

Or even simpler it is what it is. One can certainly investigate a particular cave and find the location of the stalactite's just as you would search for oil. Thats also not a stochastic process. If you understand the various processes involved well these help immensely in your search.

Your model is not even wrong its completely irrelevant to the problem.

What a buffoon. You reference a paper that has one citation and written in a journal which is "the leading journal for readers interested in the application of contemporary science and technology to the arts".

Hmm I'm not so sure you quite understand your own work and where you made a logical fallacy.

Mathematical modeling of a wide range of phenomena by a number of methods creates virtual simulations.
Its so common in computer aided graphics I thought they would serve as and easy explanation for the box you have gotten yourself into.

Sometimes in certain constrained cases they can be used to model a real system. A good example is turblent flow in say a jet engine.
In this case inaccuracies in the model tend to not matter so much. Sometimes of course they do in practice say and engine develops a hotspot not predicted by the model for example etc.

No one ever assumes that this sort of modeling is in one to one correspondence with any particular real system. Esp if the constraints are probably unrealistic i.e you make to many simplifying assumptions as you attempt to scale up from first principles.

As and example consider modeling a coastline or mountain range using fractals to "match" any real coastline is virtually impossible without using what are in effect empirical constraints. To some extent this is what your shock model does.

The problem is not so much what your doing as your assertion that its of some predictive value for a real system. The mistake is pretty simple but also fatally flawed your assuming you can map one to one with a real system via a set of simple constraints.

Worse your assuming predictive value i.e you can use a subset of the data to accurately predict the future behavior.

Clearly your practically blind to the several mistakes you have made. Probably the worst is blindly assuming simple scaling is applicable.

This is a neat article that I'd like to read as it addresses to some extent the sort of mistakes you have made.

Hmm perhaps showing where its been neatly solved helps.

Its a solved problem in Quantum Field Theory. Indeed solved long ago. I doubt such tricks are applicable to real macro scale complex systems esp ones involving humans as the laws governing the system change as you scale up. If you really want to go from first principles if you will the correspondence principle ensures that bulk quantum systems are not described by simply scaling the laws of quantum mechanics up instead the quickly blend into all the rich relationships of classical physics.

Its very very similar to renormalization that occurs in quantum field theory to fixup up quantum mechanics. And of course once your classical similar renormalizations occur as your scale changes. In many many cases the relationship between the mathematics and the system understudy result in the restriction to what are simply qualitative models. Even if you do scale/renormalize correctly.

If you don't then your unlikely to even achieve this level of correspondence much less a model that predictive of a particular real system.

I hate trying to explain it this way as I don't think its particularly intuitive.

I think my first attempt was much clearer.

All go ahead and add it again but differently.

A bit of a long quote but it captures everything I'm trying to say.

Whether or not natural landscapes behave in a generally fractal matter has been the subject of some research. Technically speaking, any surface in three-dimensional space has a topological dimension of 2, and therefore any fractal surface in three-dimensional space has a Hausdorff dimension between 2 and 3.[6] Real landscapes however, have varying behaviour at different scales. This means that an attempt to calculate the 'overall' fractal dimension of a real landscape can result in measures of negative fractal dimension, or of fractal dimension above 3. In particular, many studies of natural phenomena, even those commonly thought to exhibit fractal behaviour, do not in fact do so over more than a few orders of magnitude. For instance, Richardson's examination of the western coastline of Britain showed fractal behaviour of the coastline over only two orders of magnitude.[7] In general, there is no reason to suppose that the geological processes that shape terrain on large scales (for example plate tectonics) exhibit the same mathematical behaviour as those that shape terrain on smaller scales (for instance soil creep).

Real landscapes also have varying statistical behaviour from place to place, so for example sandy beaches don't exhibit the same fractal properties as mountain ranges. A fractal function, however, is statistically stationary, meaning that its bulk statistical properties are the same everywhere. Thus, any real approach to modeling landscapes requires the ability to modulate fractal behaviour spatially. Additionally real landscapes have very few natural minima (most of these are lakes), whereas a fractal function has as many minima as maxima, on average. Real landscapes also have features originating with the flow of water and ice over their surface, which simple fractals cannot model.[8]

It is because of these considerations that the simple fractal functions are often inappropriate for modeling landscapes. More sophisticated techniques (known as 'multifractal' techniques) use different fractal dimensions for different scales, and thus can better model the frequency spectrum behaviour of real landscapes

In any case this is not exactly virgin territory.

The literature of this sort of modeling is rich in particular the concept of a Hurst exponent neatly encapsulates my argument in terms of mathematics and the above bridges what I'm trying to say to your flawed mathematical approach.

As I said all of this is well known and not even close to being new. Its all qualitative stuff and or resorts to empirical mappings.

Indeed if you forget about oil and say consider simply lakes rivers and oceans and terrain i.e landscape modeling as described above you can I hope see how simple stochastic processes fail to scale to a "real" solution. Regardless even if you finally get something that looks real you have so many "knobs" that can be used to empirically map to a real landscape it has no predictive value.
In fact this is one reason computer games resort to physics engines to provide realistic effects. They in effect cheat and use known physical equations and introduce a lot of empirical data into the modeling. Sorry to switch back to computer graphics but the intrinsic issues are in my opinion trivially clear in the area where they are in my opinion obtuse in other areas. The failure mode of your approach is as far as I can tell virtually identical with fractal modeling.

I'm neither an oil guy nor enough a modeler to tackle this, but I don't think that we are discovering new technology any faster than we used to (which is to say, I recall a story about my Calculus Prof doing either expert-witness or fun-problem work on a slant-drilling lawsuit back from the early 60s or late 50s); I sort of assumed that doing-stuff-smarter-in-the-future was part of the Hubbert curve.

Having more choices for extracting oil ought to change the economics somewhat of where to run your rigs -- the more tricks you have, the more certain the (moderate) payback on reworking an existing field. This would change your response time to price spikes, too -- additional production from an existing field can appear more quickly (since infrastructure is in place already).

The acceleration in discovery technology is also taking place virtually. You can rule out huge volumes of earth to look just because of the knowledge you have gained, and thus you don't have to drill as many test bores. This is also a cumulative effect. Think in terms of Google search; it just gets faster and more comprehensive over time without ever going backwards.

One more point: the effects of peak oil can still be felt even with increasing production, i.e., if it can't catch up with increasing demand.

ralfy - We were just discussing that concept in another thread. It isn't so important whether we're heading towards a production cliff or a more gradual decline. The impact on different societies hinges more on oil availability than max production rates. Considering the ELM model as well as other economies (such as China) increasing not only their oil consumption but also their ability to out maneuver the US for those remaining resources. For the US (and all other economies) PO isn't going to be the critical factor but PI...Peak Imports. Besides a decline in global production, increased consumption by the oil exporters and other expanding economies will drive up the price the US consumer will have to pay. And at the extreme end of possibilities our economy might not be able to acquire the oil it needs even if we can pay the price. Granted we're still one of the strongest economies despite recent setbacks and should be able to compete effectively on a price basis. But that may not be the case in the future. Difficult to be certain but Briton appears to be approaching that point in the next 10 years or so. Time will tell.

I think this is especially true in the West where we have built up entire infrastructures based on cheap oil. Now that there is more demand in other parts of the world, we are having to pay more for oil and it hurts us more. Hence our decline in oil usage while others are continuing to use more oil.

That decline is a painful effect . . . despite the happy-talk name of 'peak demand' given to it by others.

It used to say in memmel's TOD profile something like "I suffer from a severe form of dyslexia which can make my writing difficult to read - please contact me if you require clarification." or something similar. It appears that TOD no longer displays entered bio information so people cannot see this disclaimer. Also memmel has said in posts that he has difficulty with the written word and has to effectively verbalise and then transcribe to create written output.

Taken at face value, I find the constant sniping at memmel for his written grammar to be in bad taste at best. However, as people can no longer see memmel's disclaimer, many are in the dark. Can the biography section of the profile be restored?

That would help for one group of people, perhaps even most people. There is at least one poster here to whom I pointed out Mike's condition and his response was downright mean, something to the effect that it didn't matter.

Personally, I think there is going to be enough meanness out there (already is) and what the world could really use is some generosity toward our fellow man.

Why not start here?

Personally, I think there is going to be enough meanness out there (already is) and what the world could really use is some generosity toward our fellow man.

Hear, hear. Where's the compassion?

Taken at face value, I find the constant sniping at memmel for his written grammar to be in bad taste at best.

I agree. He takes it like a trooper too.

Edit: Althought, I do admit that sometimes it would be nice if the really long posts on here were limited to the number of words displayed with an option to 'reveal' the rest if you'd like to keep reading - would save me scrolling so much!

Honest I'll try to do better. Just had to do another long post that will probably get deleted.

If you bear with me clearly I'm under a lot of attacks from a number of different directions from my grammar to mathematics.
I do have a story to tell and I think I'm right. I think its worth it. All I'm doing is simply sharpening my sword for the real fight :)

I seem to have managed to get my self in the position of declaring most peak oil theorists and the cornucopians completely wrong :)
Bit of a two front battle :)
With the exception of Hubbert and Ivanhoe but they are no longer with us.

Sorry, don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that you should have to change your style because I say so, I'm merely trying to point out that if there was an option to hide the bulk part of very long posts (not just yours) then it would make the layout of the comments less disruptive and easier to follow.

In a way, you could view it as a positive thing that the others have tried to point out the difficulties they've had reading your posts - better that than to read, not understand and dismiss in silence, as that way you'd never know!

For the record, I wasn't sniping - just in case that wasn't clear.

Mr Bardy,

Maybe already explained in other comments, but what exactly means:

In particular, we may expect the production plateau to keep going as long as the economy can transfer to oil extraction resources from other industrial sectors.

First stab at the review of "The Oil Conundrum".

I do not know where to post it. So here it goes, I will maybe post it into next Drumbeat, despite warnings about doubleposting.

I read the first part of the The Oil Conundrum and would like to offer a few comments, first pass comments.

First, WHT, thanks for putting effort to put the blog posts together and turn them from , well, a blog, to a book. It is amazing to see a work of this size from someone who, I guess, is gainfully employed and does this work in his spare time. Science in best 19th century tradition.

I read a lot of WHT's blog on, so nothing here came as a surprise to me. These are really two books put in one file. The first is of interest to people interested in oil, second will attract people interested in general science, wanting to know "how does the stuff work".

So for starters, I do not know where to put it on a bookshelf. Does it belong with general science? Or does is belong to University Press bookshelf at campus bookstore.
It is written in a language and use of math exceeding the science books from Barnes and Nobles or Chapters, but not quite "tight" enough to pass as a scientific monograph. It should make a perfect material for a graduate textbook for applied science courses, though.

It is a good thing that WHT put things in order, it is significantly easier to follow the linear order of ideas, rather than jumping through the blog. But putting it together divided it into three parts. The first part introduces the subject and put premises of WHTs approach and is readable to everyone and is a must read for anyone who cares about oil this way or another.

Even if one stops at page 31, equation 4.1, where the formal stuff begins, one gets an appreciation of the subject. The second part to page 305 is quite and sometimes very technical. The we go back to part three, page 305, a must read for everybody again.

When I delved into the heavier stuff I started appreciated the subtelty of the approach. It is difficult to explain in non-mathematical terms behaviour which depends on subtle variations in mathematical terms. What makes it more complicated is that our thinking is very deterministic and the switch to thinking in statistical categories is definitely non-intuitive. The concept of dispersion (scatter) of matter is simple. Dispersion (randomness) of energy states is something more abstract. The problem starts when WHT starts dispering rates (velocities). And when the dispersion happens to accelerations we end up with a conceptually complex matter.

So I see two ways of reading this book. If your math stops somewhere in high school, keep reading, through the text and focus on charts and graphs. Get what you understand, and do not worry about the rest. Here lies the strength of the book. I think one could erase most of mathematics, or better relegate it to an Addendum, and one can still follow the line of thought. Most derivations end up with a closed formula or summary describing the solutions, so one can keep going. But in order to see the subtler reasons behind the behaviour, one unfortunately (?!) has to go through the math.

And here comes a second level of reading. If you took first year engineering/science calculus/analysis and remember fair bit of it, you'll do fine following the main line of thinking and math reasoning. The complexity is not from the math itself. 90% is differentiating and integrating exponential and rational functions. The problem is that these exponential functions are convoluted ("mixed") with other exponential functions and polynomials. So with first year math, you can follow. If you remember integral calculus, you'll breeze through the math. The most difficult step is around pages 98 and 190.

If in doubt, there is a free web resource called Wolfram Alpha. It will do for you most if not all math from TOC. Go to and try entering a few expressions to get a feel for it. Mathematics will look less scary in five minutes:


will plot a normalized Hubbert curve and a gaussian; integration in point 3 in equation 7.1 can be done by computer too:



The notation is a bit quirky, but self-explanatory. The book clearly shows WHT is using Alpha, too. If you are at an educational institution there is a chance that Dept of Mathematics has a full blown version, there is a student and faculty pricing for it too. Oil industry should have no problem forking two grand for commercial licence :-). Maple from Maplesoft is another package offering same capabilities, but I do not think they have a free on-line version.

We go back to 'easy reading' on page 305.

In a sum, if one is interested in oil, Pages 1-31 and 305 - 371 are a must read for everybody. The middle is a heavy read, but most importantly, there is no handwaving and no
guessing and no curve fitting for the sake of fitting.

A quirk. Ruby as a scripting language, sure OK. But Ada? It is a simple but esoteric language, and as they say - "If it is good enough for the US Army, it is good for you". (That is an

inside joke...)

Both thumbs up.

A nice summary. I enjoyed reading through too, although I haven't attempted to analyse the maths in great detail. However, like you say you can get by preliminarily by just observing the graphs and the rhetoric.

WHT, it's obvious that you've put a huge amount of effort into this, so thanks awfully. In addition, kudos to making it so open-source and not falling victim to the politics which so often befoul this type of publication.

In fact, I may have missed something, but I can't even see that you've credited yourself anywhere on the paper! That may be taking the doctrine a little far! Credit where credit's due and all that...

P.s. Have to sing my praise for Wolfram Alpha too - I use it almost as much as Google these days! (Well, perhaps a little exaggeration.)

I am affiliated with an educational institution so I got a copy of Mathematica for $100, and boy does it make a difference compared to Alpha. They have student editions, so if you or your friends have high school children..These $100 editions are full blown, no limitations.

Now imagine Google buying out Wolfram and merging Alpha to Google...

Ha! One can dream..

Cheers for the heads up on Mathematica. Will have to have a scrounge round for some friends with uni kids..

The one thing I have been waiting for is for them to finish inputting some vehicle data. Often I've forgotten they haven't done so yet and tried the lazy route to working out whether a journey is worthwhile or not (i.e. cost in petrol).

Other than that it's so useful for everyday calculations that I think my mind might be turning to mush. So perhaps it's a good thing that I'm forced to do at least a little mental arithmetic now and then!

Alpha will not return if an expression is too complicated, which I think is there to prevent DoS from bringing down their servers. It is also not very dependable day-to-day, so I can see getting the full-blown version of Mathematica as well.

Man you guys are sharp on detecting the Wolfram Alpha. I started using that late in the process to do verification of the math, and it is indeed a nice tool and surprising in what it can do.

I tend to use every language in the book. I will often do things with strongly-typed languages when I want to get some extra checking and control of the numerics (thus the Ada) but then I will go to the looser stuff later when I think I have it under control (thus the Ruby). I am using Ruby or Python with the scientific and graphing modules lately. The pipe and filter approach from Unix really works good for doing convolutions. I left the Ada in, as it is early stuff and it spells everything out, but the Ruby with pipes makes it much more simple and flexible. What can I say but that software approaches are quirky and all over the map. And I should add that well over 90% of the curve fitting and figures that I did in the book can be done with spreadsheets.

Well, I read your blog, and now browsed, but slowly, through the book. Figure 9-2 is a giveaway; formulas in 7-1 are outputs from Alpha, too I suppose :-) I used Mathematica long time ago, then recently found Alpha and eventually decided to buy Mathematica. As far as scripts, yes, you use what works, Rubies, Sages, Pythons, Shells and Pe(a)rls of this world work, but how come Ada. It is decidedly a vertical market product.

Well kept secret, but it handles concurrency and distributed computing very well (as it is built in) and it interfaces to just about any other language. So besides the strong type checking that works for any project size, when you start scaling it and do massive simulations consisting of lots of components distributed across a bunch of computers it doesn't need huge amounts of debugging. But the problem is that when you talk about doing real concurrent computing (not just parallel algorithms) you eliminate most of the market, so in that sense it is vertical. My background is EE and I learned VHDL early on for logic descripion and Ada looks similar and so that's why I gravitated toward it. A formal engineering background has some impact on how you solve problems I guess.

Darn, I thought you were a solid state physicist; I thought about Ada as an unbreakable strongly typed language. Cool stuff in any case.

But coming back to book. What about publishing on Lulu or Blurb? Otherwise I have to take my 350 pages to a binder...

I will look into it, thanks.

The disparity in Figure 3 is caused by the new fracking process. Putting aside the environmental damage, it wrecked the hubbert linearization because it was a giant nonlinear leap in technological process. The same thing can and will happen with oil IF we make a groundbreaking (pun) discovery. For example if we somehow find a way to economically drill 6-15 mile deep holes in the earth I bet we will discover more or less limitless supplies of oil.

For example if we somehow find a way to economically drill 6-15 mile deep holes in the earth I bet we will discover more or less limitless supplies of oil.

You can drill 6-15 miles into the earth - not economically, but you can do it. The problem is that you will find all the oil down there has been converted to methane and carbon by thermal cracking .

Fundamental problem: Oil is destroyed by high temperatures. It is very hot deep in the earth.

The deep carbon is in the form of graphite. You can see it on deep seismic images. If you go extremely deep, you will get diamonds. The problem is how to get those diamonds to the surface. That's why most diamonds are found in Kimberlite volcanic pipes.

Ico – One small detail: the frac technique used in the SG plays is not realy that new. In general terms it’s the same technology that has been used for decades. What has changed in the last 15 years is the ability to drill long horizontal well bores into these reservoirs. This has allowed the frac tech to be more economically deployed. But that’s what drove the SG boom more than anything else: positive economics. And the base for this was $10+ NG. With current NG prices hz drilling and fracs are not enough to drive the SG plays forward as we saw several years ago.

Or more generally: while tech is always improving there have only been three major techs developed in the last 40 years that have had any real impact. 1) Hz drilling has been around for 25 years. 2) Deep water drilling production which has been developing for over 15 years. 3) 3d seismic that has been around for around 20 years. IOW it’s fine to hang one’s hope on future tech "saving” us but understand that such advances are relatively rare and take decades to refine once they focused on.

Figure 5 is most significant I think. If you have an eroei of 30 in 1970, and an eroei of 11 today, then that means in 1970 it took 3% of production to "pay" for the other 97%. But today if you have an eroei of 11 then it is taking 9% of production to "pay" for the other 91%. So we've lost 6%. If oil production today were the same as it was 40 years ago, then we are actually down 6% in terms of net energy. With the cliff fast approaching...

Good point Ico. There is another aspect many aren't aware of: there is an amount of oil/NG produced today that has a negative return on energy. The dry holes drilled are one obvious source. But there`are many producting wells that will also show a negative return. A well (such as a shale gas well) that might have cost $8 million to drill but will recover only $2 million of reserves. In fact I've completed a number of conventional wells that wouldn't recover the TOTAL investment. I.E. a well cost $6 million to drill, But when I log it after driling I discover it will only recover $3 million in reserves. But it will only cost me $1 million to complete it. So Ii complete it because it gives a 3 to 1 return on my GOING FORWARD cost. But overall it is still a net loss.

Dear Ugo Bardi,

There is no need to abandon Hubbert's Peak Theory. The mathematics of the theory is robust enough to cope with undulating peaks provided the rules governing transition from one Hubbert Curve to another are observed. There are examples of multiple peaks from in one oil producing region (e.g Russian Republic, North Sea after the Piper Alpha disaster). I explain what I mean.

1. The rate of crude oil production is described by the differential equation below (Hubbert Curve). The rate of production is limited by the finiteness of recoverable crude oil reserves, by the finiteness of resources available for oil extraction or simply by planned reduction in productive capacity.


Where K is the growth rate constant and Qmax the capacity limit of crude oil production.
If plots of dQ/dt against Q or dQ/dt/Q against Q yielded good straight lines, the parameters of the differential equations could be estimated by linear regression analysis. Transition from one Hubbert Curve to another may occur for a variety of reasons (e.g. Piper Alpha disaster, collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union).

2. The continuity condition for the production rates between Hubbert Curve 1 and Hubbert Curve 2, are met by the relationship (dQ/dt)1=(dQ/dt)2, from which the initial cumulative production for the second curve can be calculated. This is the cumulative oil production which should have been obtained, had the second Hubbert Curve described the production profile from the beginning of the production period.
3. The undulating production profile is a special case of transition between successive Hubbert Curves, when the first peak production rate (KQmax)/ 4 is followed by others, all roughly at the same peak value.
The undulating behaviour is the sign of progressive resource depletion. As demand fails to keep up with supply at the peak, crude oil prices rise generating sufficient additional resources (Qmax )1 <(Qmax )2 to increase output again, however, at a lower rate (K)1>(K)2. The resources are insufficient and production peaks again generating yet more resources (Qmax )2 <(Qmax )3 to increase output at an even lower rate (K)2>(K)3 and so on, resulting in an undulating production curve until resources are no longer sufficient to halt the a terminal decline of oil production.