Oil price volatility and possible consequences

Over the course of this past week I happened to be at lunch with a senior state official who is closely involved in the development of alternate sources of energy for the state. As we discussed some of the current fluctuations in the market, and their impact on upcoming decisions by the state on investment, the current drop in oil price brought back, to both of us, memories of the `80's. Back in those days industry and the Federal Government were investing heavily in alternate sources of energy. And then the taps were opened in KSA and the price of oil dropped, and all those programs stopped. The investments were written off.

So here we are, with the world beginning, yet again, major investments in alternate sources of energy, and the official was becoming nervous that we are about to see history repeat itself. The concern is sufficient that a significant state investment is being postponed a year to see how the events of the next few months play out. Are we again going to see companies lose large amounts of money chasing technologies that will no longer be needed ? While I argued against such a decision, the nervousness and resulting caution is not restricted to one state official. I commented earlier in the week about the concerns I have heard from those in the oil industry, about the possible drop in prices. They've been here before, and barely survived the last drop and so are much more cautious this time.

It is a caution that is not restricted to the United States, Spiegel in Germany has an article about the strength of the coal industry in Germany. It is a story that carries with it very much a mixed message. German equipment manufacturers are seeing large orders, but they are from China where the demand for energy is barely being met by existing production. Thus, while the Chinese are investing in renewable resources such as wind, with one wind farm anticipated to house 167 turbines about 4 hours drive from Guangdong, up to 70% of their energy needs are still coming from coal.
China, the most important coal-producing nation, uses coal to cover about 70 percent of its energy needs. About 26,000 of the 28,000 registered mines are small firms, which use mining techniques last seen in Europe during the 19th century. It's a deadly trade: According to official estimates, more than 6,000 Chinese miners lose their lives in work accidents every year; the actual figure is probably about twice as high.
The move is toward the larger mechanized mines such as those that Germany can equip from their long experience in the business. And this is one of the European problems since many of the good seams have been mined many years ago, and current seams are deep, and not of as high a quality.
After all, this is no business for idiots," says Strakerjahn as he crawls along a mining face 1,100 meters (3,609 feet) below the ground. Along the mining face, coal chunks are being torn from the rockbed with a giant planing machine. (Ed. Note The machines are called plows, photo here).

The technology that the Chinese - but also the Russians, Iranians and Iraqis - are inspecting at Auguste Victoria/Blumenthal is the most up-to-date available. German mines are among the most modern in the world: Instead of hammers, the miners hold mini computers with barcode readers, using them to exchange information via the mine's own wireless LAN system. . . . . . . .(but) . . . . . the decline of German black-coal mining, however, isn't something he particularly enjoys talking about.

In 1860 there were 277 mines in the Ruhr region alone. Now only eight are left, of which at least two will be shut down in the coming years. Germany has become a dwarf among black-coal producing nations: It produces less than 25 million tons of black coal a year, out of a global total of 5,000 million tons.

And this brings us back to the perceived reality of the current situation. The coal industry in Germany is heavily subsidized, but a global rise in demand, and price could be used to argue for sustained funding and development. There were plans for growth
One -and-a-half years ago, CEO Werner Müller announced that a new German mine could be opened for the first time in decades, on the eastern fringe of the Ruhr. But the record-price of coal soon turned out to be a short-term phenomenon: The price of coking coal dropped again, and no investors have been found for the mining project yet.
There is thus some concern as to what will happen with the price and availability of oil. Historically this has been controlled to an extent by OPEC, and certainly the world's memory recalls the flooding of the market by KSA. So what are their current plans?

In Friday's discussion Cry Wolf asked about rig counts. And long-time readers of the site might remember that I find occasional interest in multiplying the number of rigs in KSA by the number of wells each can drill, and multiplying this by an estimated average production to determine potential production gains for the country. One of my sources for this has been the Annual Statistical Bulletin It was not so long ago but that the Kingdom was suggesting that it would be more open. But in the current bulletin they are not making the break between oil, gas dry and other wells that they made in 2003 (when the break was 214; 58; 11 and 46). The total number of wells drilled last year was 335, just 5 more than in 2003. If we assume that 220 of these were in oil, and one assumes that each produces an average of 4,000 bd (which one can argue may now be a little high), then the total oil increase (not counting NGL from the gas wells) would be 880,000 bd. Now you take a guess on what the depletion rate was and take that away, and you have the increase in overall production. Incidentally there were, on average, 44 rigs drilling in KSA in 2005. That means that each drilled, on average 335/44 = 7.6 wells. A quick glance at Baker Hughes rig count shows 50 oil rigs and 24 gas rigs working, which is a significant increase in number. Were this to be the average for the year then 74 x 7.6 = 562 wells, 2/3 of which would be 376 oil wells, and using the same 4,000 bd would provide a total oil increment of 1.5 mbd. But of course these numbers do make some assumptions.

The coal boom is ON. Remember when every ton of coal is burned there are up to two tons of CO2 that the biosphere cannot absorb.
Remember when every ton of coal is burned there are up to two tons of CO2 that the biosphere cannot absorb.


I'm kindof interested as well in how 1 ton of coal magically becomes 2 tones of CO2 in the air...
Carbon's atomic weight is 14.  Oxygen's is 16.  1 molecule of carbon bonds with 2 atoms of oxygen for CO2 - producing a molecular weight of 46.  The hydrogen part of the hydrocarbon bonds with more oxygen to produce water in combustion.

Coal is described of having a carbon content by mass of 50-95%.

Even clean-burning methane (CH4 + 2O2 → CO2 + 2H2O) generates more mass of carbon dioxide than the hydrocarbon itself weighs.  It sucks the oxygen needed to do this out of the air.

*1 atom of carbon
*coal is described as

I wish there was an edit feature, if only for 15 minutes after posting.

Carbon is 12. Hydrogen is 1. Coal is CH, on average.
Question?  If we are taking all this oxygen out of the air by makig CO2 then there should be a drop in the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere.
Has anyone heard of any studies that show there is a decrease in the oxygen content in the atmosphere? Just curious.
oxygen is 20.9% of air, co2 is .03%. Burning hydrocarbons is taking oxygen and making co2. There is some concern regarding the possibility of doubling the co2 content to .06%, not as much concern that this might reduce the oxygen content 20.84%
Yes. Ralph Keelings group at Scripps is
monitoring Oxygen to Nitrogen ratios in
the atmosphere and oxygen is showing a
downward trend in relation to the
unchanging nitrogen.
Check out  http://bluemoon.ucsd.edu/images/ALLo.pdf
Thanks for the URL.
Very interesting information. I wonder how much of a drop in oxygen it will take to start to affect combustion processes - As in internal combustion engines, gas furnaces, etc....?
Hello Jon Kutz,

In regards to atmospheric oxygen levels: we, and most other species, would die of carbon monoxide poisoning long before it affected the performance levels of ICEs, gas furnaces, etc.  Sadly, lots of people already die this way from leaking furnaces, burning kerosene heaters inside their houses, or committing suicide by running their car inside a sealed garage.  It is a moot point.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?


our atm is around 21% O2.  19.5% is considered oxygen deficient.  CO is formed from incomplete combustion.   Internal combustion engines run at much lower O2 concentrations (torr not %.  Besides CO breaks down naturally in the presence of O2. Our total atmospheric O2 will never drop to a low enough level barring nuclear war or asteroid impact for that to happen.  There is not enough fossil or organic carbon out there to use up all the O2.

Yes, there is lots of oxygen out there. We are in
no danger of running out! I should have put my
post in persepective.
 But it is interesting that the depletion of
oxygen in the atmosphere, mostly from combustion
process, is measureable.
Nitrogen is changing also, as evidenced by the isotopic ratios nitrogen ratios.  We are removing a substanitial amount of unreactive, triple-bonded nitrogen from the air and incorporating it as reactive nitrogen.  Again, the mass of 'availabe nitrogen' is quite large but the nitrogen flows through the biosphere have been substanitally increased with man's activities.  
plant more trees    stop chopping down rain forests     and bam (by all means  - note the reverse acronym)   dont cut down damn willow trees to make biofuels  like some biofool is proposing (incidentally i made that term up biofool)
If coal were 100% carbon, then combining

C+ 02 => CO2 in combustion

would roughly increase mass by a net gain of twice (Oxygen being about the same atomic weight as carbon).

I want to get a better


The carbon dioxide emission factors in this article are expressed in terms of the energy content of coal as pounds of carbon dioxide per million Btu. Carbon dioxide (CO2) forms during coal combustion when one atom of carbon (C) unites with two atoms of oxygen (O) from the air. Because the atomic weight of carbon is 12 and that of oxygen is 16, the atomic weight of carbon dioxide is 44. Based on that ratio, and assuming complete combustion, 1 pound of carbon combines with 2.667 pounds of oxygen to produce 3.667 pounds of carbon dioxide. For example, coal with a carbon content of 78 percent and a heating value of 14,000 Btu per pound emits about 204.3 pounds of carbon dioxide per million Btu when completely burned.(5) Complete combustion of 1 short ton (2,000 pounds) of this coal will generate about 5,720 pounds (2.86 short tons) of carbon dioxide.

But this of course asumes 100% conversion, does it not?
Thx for helping me out Squalish. Rather than anecdotal numbers I decided to redo the calc based on the flow figures in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_cycle.
Let's assume anthracite with carbon content (elemental and volatiles) of 80%. The molecular weights of C and CO2 are 12 and 44. If I've read the chart right then net atmospheric carbon additions are 3.3 Gt pa. Fossil fuel emissions are 5.5 Gt (though I've seen higher figures) and I've arguably assumed these account for most of the net additions. I know Ronald Reagan said trees were to really to blame. This approach gives
 1 X (44/12) @ 80% X (3.3/5.5)  ≈ 1.8
So I'm covered by saying `up to two'. What this means is that when oil is gone coal must not take its place. In fact much of the coal industry will need to be mothballed but that's a separate topic.
The race is much more urgent than that.

We need to stop burning coal (without carbon sequestration) long before we pump the last barrel of oil (in practice, we'll never pump the last barrel of oil, so you have to define a moment when oil 'runs out' eg production has fallen 90% from its peak).

I'd have to check, but coal is roughly 1/3rd of all human CO2 emissions.  On the basis that electric power is 40% of world energy consumption, and coal is about half of electric power generation and twice as dirty in CO2 terms as natural gas.

There are also significant CO2 releases from coal in domestic heating (China, North Korea, a few other places) and steel making.

It's entirely possible we've passed midnight on this, that nothing we do now can stop radical planetary climate change.

But the rule of prudence dictates that we do as much as we can, now, particularly in the rich countries, to try to slow the onset of this thing.

When one looks at the melting glaciers, ice caps, etc., we have already experienced radical global warming.  Now, it is a matter of how many millions of acres and how many billions of people will be inundated or pushed out by rising sea levels. It is also a matter of how many species will become extinct, how many square miles of land will become desert, how miserable the planet is going to be, and how quickly we will see the end of natural phenomona like the tundra of Rocky Mountain National Park, where I live.  The radical changes have begun; it is now mainly a matter of how bad things will get, not whether they will get bad.

There is little evidence that we are going to do anything positive of global significance with the next ten years. I would love to be surprised and I would love to see a radical breakthrough, which would mainly be a radical political breakthrough.  Within the United States, for example, neither political party is likely to do anything approaching the magnitude that is needed.  Only painless approaches will be tried, a little ethanol here , a little promised magic of hydrogen there.  We will do some research on coal sequstration, but will see little in the way of meaningful projects.

For starters, we need a world wide moratorium on coal fired plants and the expansion of existing plants. Most readers here can provide a laundy list of at least 20 others things we should do immediately. Very little of this will be done and we will be left with geoengineering, an approach fraught with uninintended and poorly understood consequences.

We will continue to waste billions on the military and other measures doing things like fighting in Iraq and fighting terrorism, a phenomenon that is not amenable to a military solution. We will continue to get our priorities wrong as a nation  and as a people.  The natural world is not a priority.

Mostly agree but

the world has yet to see anything radical from global warming.

Total temperature increase to date attributable to human greenhouse action is less than 1 degree centigrade, central estimate around 0.6 degrees.

The real consequences of Global Warming have yet to come.

What you are hearing is the first cracks in the dam, and we live in the village right below it.

we will see the end of natural phenomona like the tundra of Rocky Mountain National Park, where I live.

More info please.

anything that's not in this article?

Count on Rocky Mountain News to peddle the irrelevant.

Many factors are involved -- the failure of the tree line to cover Trail Ridge is not proof of the absence of global warming.  Only that local circumstances are different in different localities.  An irrelevant tautology.

Of course, prior to the Pleistocene the earth was much warmer -- there may have been no glaciers in the mountains.  And of course, there were no human coastal cities at that time.

One of the side effects of coal mining is to release methane, which is a minor contaniment in the coal.

Methane is a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2.

AFAIK in practice you get 100% conversion of the carbon

but not all of that is atmospheric release.  You also get ash, some of which goes up the chimney (black particles are actually a very serious contributor to solar absorption and hence global warming) and some of which is carted away as a solid.

A lot depends on what you use the coal for.  In a power plant you are aiming for maximum combustion so I would assume you get maximum CO2 release.

Haven't found a number yet for amount of CO2 released per tonne of coal burned.

But the above tells you how 1 tonne of coal can produce at a limit over 2.5 times as much CO2.

The amount of CO2 depends upon the coal and the ultimate analysis which gives the percentage of carbon and other elements(a typical ultimate analysis gives us moisture, ash, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, hydrogen not related to free moisture, and oxygen).  For complete oxidation, every pound of carbon gives you 3.6667 pounds of CO2 (when we do boiler efficiency calculations we use this ultimate analysis to do a mass balance).  

Anthracite coal (most carbon is 'fixed', non volatile carbon) tends to have the highest percentage carbon if the ash content is low, next comes bituminous (various ranks), ssub-bituminous, and finally the lignites.  Burning lignite is a little like burning dirt.  

Under typical combustion you get a few hundred ppm of CO at the low excess air conditions used to maximize boiler efficiency.  And you do get some carbon loss in the ash.  A typical PC boiler will give you a LOI (loss on ignition) of 2-10%.  For a coal that is 10% ash, that's 2-10% LOI of 10% ash.  Very, very small losses in total.  

Good old college (used to be high school) chemistry.
Stoichiometry is still tought in HS around here - it's just dumbed down a little and kept theoretical in relation to actual experiments.  They don't get much beyond the calculation of masses by fraction involved above, and balancing equations based on valence.  Things like electronegativity, and the reasons that some reactions happen preferentially to others, isn't gone into at all in HS(while college provided me only a very hazy understanding).  They tought orbitals, concentrations, stoichiometry, quite a few subjects in isolation...  it was just never tied together into something that was non-theoretical, like giving a student half a dozen unlabelled chemicals and asking how to get a certain concentration of ammonia, as was done in college chem labs.  

And thus, it remained probably the least popular subject among students, who promptly forgot 90% of it.

VT - you got your sums spot on.  But to take the discussion up one level we need to consider moles.

1 mole of C = 12g
1 mole of O = 16g
1 mole of CO2 = 44g

It would then be easier for everyone to start off with a mega mole of C = 12 tonnes and to quote all energy transformations in SI units - Joules I believe.

I mention this from the angle that I seem to spend half my days converting one set of units to another and looking for , ensuring I have got correct conversion factors.

By way of example, going from meters cubed (M3) to barrels.  I Googled that and got 8.5219 bbls / M3.  Used that quite happily for a day and was mystified about disagreement between numbers so produced and those in BP stat review - and then I learned that BP use 6.2898 bbls / M3 - quite a difference.

I last did chemistry in 1981!

This emission stuff makes my head hurt! ;-).

On the barrels to oil, my thought is the density of oil might be a factor?

Magically?  Maybe you should study some chemistry before you make smart ass remarks in this group.  Your credibility is getting into negative numbers....

Education may be?

Carbon is atomic weight 12
Oxygen is atomic weight 16
12 grams of carbon + 2 x 16 grams of oxygen = 44 grams of CO2
Thus, actually 1 ton of coal = 3.6 tons of CO2, neglecting of course the "interesting" pollutants sulfur and heavy metals.

I think thatBoof is correct in his first
post about the two tons of CO2.
The biosphere (forests, soils etc.)and
the oceans soak up about half of fossil
fuel combustion CO2 emitted as shown by CO2
stable isotope studies.  
It's actually quite complicated to analyze how much human-caused carbon emissions remain in the atmosphere versus being taken up by organic and inorganic processes. This RealClimate article from last week talks about some of the issues:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/10/attribution-of-20th-century-climate-change-to- cosub2sub/

The problem is that there are many sources and sinks of atmospheric carbon, and you can't necessarily blame the excess on any one of them. You can do things, for example, like adding up all of the "natural" (non-human-caused) CO2 sources and compare with the buildup of CO2, and find that the natural sources completely account for the buildup (apparently Crichton does this in his presentations). But this ignores the fact that with multiple sources and sinks, counting just sources gives you a mistaken impression.

It's a good article and made me realize that the headline numbers about how much warming is due to human activity are really rather meaningless.

Education may be?

Does insulting other people make you feel smart?  Numerous people pointed out the atomic weights 5 hours before you did.  

That being said I misread his statement.  Didn't see the "up to".  I was more concerned with studies that calculate how much of our CO2 emissions the planet can absorb.  
That being said I'd still like to see some CO2 conversion studies as others have noted a reasonable amount of carbon is locked away as ash.  

i thought that 14 atomic weight for carbon was a little heavy      
This review of KSA's frantic effort to increase production shows that they believe the price of oil will not fall dramatically.  It shows that its leaders believe that the market can support increased production, or that KSA needs an "ace in the hole" for the day when its overall production starts to decline in significant percentages, say 8 to 10% per year.
About a year or 18 months ago the former KSA oil minister (head of Aramco?) named Husseini was interviewed on the subject of oil production capacity of the Saudi peninsula and offshore areas.  He said that KSA was close to maximum production for current facilities & infrastructure, but was willing to spend large sums to increase production.  The interviewer asked how much production could be increased and Husseini responded that 12 or 12.5 million barrels per day could be reached if enough investment was made over a several year period.  The interviewer then asked if 15 million barrels per day could be obtained, and Husseini replied "unlikely".  So according to the former head of KSA's oil ministry the world may never see more than 12 MBPD from the Saudi fields.  Note that the US's Energy Information Agency (DOE arm) has counted on KSA eventually producing 18 MBPD.  
So, where is the truth in increased production?  Will the tens or hundreds of billions of $$$ spent for KSA to reach 12 MBPD give a sufficient return if oil goes to $40 per barrel in four or five years?  I don't trust the powers in charge in US or KSA.  Brace for $100 per barrel not $40.
I don't see the KSA activities to be "frantic."  They have stated that they intend to increase production by certain amounts, have hired companies to develop the resources that they need for those amounts, and await the results.  Bear in mind that the total number of flowing wells in KSA only went up by 95 (1795 in 2005 over 1700 in 2004) while those on artificial lift went up 8 (from 120 to 128).

They need to increase the number of rigs that they have if they are to make the stated targets.  One of the things to watch is as to whether they can succeed in getting those rigs.  While I believe the latest target is 120 rigs, I also seem to recall that they are having some trouble finding that many available.

For those interested in doing the arithmetic, the OPEC Statistic is that KSA produced 9,353,300 bd in 2005, over 8,897,000 in 2004. Those numbers suggest that each well produces around 5,200 bd. Given that the production from some of the more recent fields has been reported as less than this (hence my choice of the 4,000 bd) nevertheless it does suggest that some of the older fields remain very productive.

The proof is in the pudding.  They have been expanding rigs steadily for 18 months, and production has been going down since Jan.  They might want to reduce production now to shore up prices, but this would not have been true for the first eight months of this year.  It looks to me as if they are making strong efforts to overcome natural decline, and so far are failing.
You have to overcome this prejudice. We will need more than 18 months. We really don't know reasons for cuts. You may be right. Wedon't even know if they happened. But you are still assuming. Check this. Move forward tabula rasa. Plans but no baggage and definitely no preconceptions.

I'll go out on a limb here. Oil drops tomorrow.

don't forget to reddit-ize and digg and whatever else you do to HO's article!  (the icons are under the tags and the title of the story...thanks.)
I understand the fears of an extended return to cheaper oil, which have led my SolarWorld shares to decline about 30% since early March.  However, even if all the megaprojects have no further schedule slippage AND the world has a major recession, depletion of existing fields will reassert itself.  Westexas' repeated argument about the decline of the 4 greatest fields still holds.  The current situation is similar to the phoney oil glut of 1999, which turned out to be a combination of poor data transparency and wishful thinking.
I have a variation of a previous argument.  

Three points:

(1)  Mathematically, the world is now where the Lower 48 and the North Sea peaked and declined (all crude + condensate, or C+C).

(2)  Through July (EIA), we have produced about 142 million barrels less oil than if we had simply maintained the 12/05 production rate.   This is a shortfall of about 675,000 bpd.   During this time period, we saw the highest (nominal) oil price in history.

(3)  We are virtually certain that all four fields currently producing one mbpd or more are in decline (we are certain that three of the four are in decline).

Given the foregoing, what is the probability that the observed production decline is a coincidence, and not the onset of a permanent decline in conventional C+C production?

Peaks, particularly in a 'plateau' type period, can happen for various reasons, some of which are random - the arrival date of a few supertankers can make a significant difference - and some of which are on account of poor measurment.  So, comparing longer periods is better than short ones, which is why stuart's charts are averaged over 13 months.

It is therefore wrong to compare a long period with a short period and talk about reduced production, even worse if the short period, dec. 05, is not repeated in the long period, jan-jul 06, not least because there may be natural seasonal variations, possibly including a desire to book costs in a particular fiscal year.  A more convincing comparison would be the first 7 months of 06 vs. the first 7 months of 05.  

In a little while we will be able to compare 06 with 05... do you predict we will produce less oil in 06?  If not, will 06 then clearly be peak year?  Helpfully for 05 (but not 06), it looks like opec may cut production a bit in 4q.

A more convincing comparison would be the first 7 months of 06 vs. the first 7 months of 05.

Relative to 12/04, the cumulative production for the first 7 months of 2005 was about 5,000,000 barrels (about 24,000 bpd) less than if we had just maintained the 12/04 production level.   

Relative to 12/05, the cumulative production for the first 7 months of 2006 was about 142,000,000 barrels less (about 675,000 bpd) less than if we had just maintained the 12/05 production level, all while oil prices traded in a historically high (nominal) price range.

Next question?

IMO, the clincher is the virtual certainty that all fields currently producing one mbpd or more are in decline.

You didn't answer either question and, by introducing 12/04, you reinforced my suspicion that dec is routinely a strong production month. TO repeat, my questions are

  1. are the first 7 months of this year higher than last year? I don't know the answer, but your dodging this leads me to suspect 06 is higher.
  2. do you think that 06 production will be less than 05 production? Surely if 12/05 was any kind of a peak then 06 would be lower? By dodging this question I suspect you suspect 06 will be higher even if opec cuts 4q production.

imo you lean far too hard on a single month, something stuart carefully avoids, and which can be wrong, high or low, for a myriad of reasons, including weather, supertanker deliveries, observation errors and tax, among many others.
I haven't checked, but I suspect that the first seven months of 2006 are slightly higher than the same period in 2005; however, we measure from the peak.  Texas peaked in 1972, but production did not fall below its 1971 level until 1976.  

Yes, I suspect that overall 2006 will be slightly less than 2005.  Texas was down by 0.6% from 1972 to 1973.

Again, expecting production to keep increasing when all of the oil fields making more than one mbpd or more are almost certainly all declining or crashing is like trying to stop an avalanche by grabbing pebbles and throwing them back uphill.

I agree with many of your points, including, to some extent, your export model. However, looking at a single month from a single source, eg eia as opposed to iea or eia + iea, the latter quite reasonably favored by stuart, looks biased, favoring Deffeyes guess whether intentional or not. One might just as logically argue that some month in 06 is the peak per iea.  Anyway, all months are subject to extensive revision, maybe for years.  And, consider this... for all we know, each ensuing dec could see a higher peak for each of the next ten years - in this case, would you confidently say in mid 2016 that dec 2015 was the real peak?

No single month will ever be recognized as 'the' peak because most accept that the data is not sufficiently accurate... certainly not when the two major reporting agencies disagree.  Some time in the future we will have passed peak, and looking back we will recognize a peak year, imo probably not 2005.  Consider that you yourself refer to texas peaking in 1971 and not, say, dec 1971.

Many diligent po laborers, eg chris and colin, are expecting peak somewhere between 2007-11, not least because of coming large ng and byproduct ngl production. True, Deffeyes has written some very readable books, and he called for late 05, but has he, recently, spent as much effort as chris?  And if not, why would he be a better guesser? HL might be good at guessing a region, but everybody agrees that the world is much tougher, with some regions being developed much later for political reasons.  While I do suspect that SA may have peaked - in large part because of your recollection of texas surprised at the local experience in spite of a major effort to increase production - this, if true, would only indicate that peak is probably near, not necessarily here yet. Brazil, Nigeria, the various stans, maybe even russia might well stem the tide for a bit.  My own guess is 2007... we'll just have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, tod doomsters thinking that we're all the walking dead notwithstanding, I will continue to guess that a) oil will return to its upward trajectory by and by, and b) the more dollars you have the better off you are, regardless of what happens to the dollar or even society. So, will stay the course with my little US e&p's with cheap and growing reserves/production, expecting/hoping they will continue to reward my faithfulness.

Seems like that there are reps. of KSA/ oil interests on this board masquerading as "Peak Oilers".

Ronald Rapier does seem to argue senselessly against the three very clear points that you have. He also seems afraid of biomass to ethanol/butanol/hydrocarbons_oxygenates. The ferocity of his attack on Khosla's attempt and on proposition 87 reinforces my view.

IMO biomass to ethanol/butanol/hydrocarbon_oxygenates will come and will be produced by a non-fermentation synthetic route, ex. pressure, temperature, catalyst in some reactor geometry. However, direct conversion of solar to electric is likely to more efficient - though it may not be the initial winner.

Well, North Korea just announced that they have tested a nuke. That is likely to add to the volatility.

Link: North Korea says nuclear test successful

I thought so too but oil and gas dropped a few pennies since that was announced (though still up smartly from Fri) I think it might weigh on stock mkt rather than impact energy. Now IRAN testing nuke would be different story...
Although, if Iran tests a nuke, it makes war with the USA that much less likely.

The particular threshold of danger is when Iran looks like it will test a nuke then the US will have a window of opportunity to attack.

At which point, oil will go to $150/bl.  Whether that is just a spike, or whether it will stay at that level, depends very much on a number of imponderables-- scope and size of US attack, nature of Iranian response, what happens in the Gulf, reaction of other muslim countries etc.


has Daniel Ellsberg's eloquent piece on the possibility (not online, unfortunately)


I thought so too but oil and gas dropped a few pennies since that was announced (though still up smartly from Fri) I think it might weigh on stock mkt rather than impact energy. Now IRAN testing nuke would be different story...

I had an internal debate with myself on this one, trying to determine how it would impact oil prices. If it seriously destabilizes SE Asia, it could make oil prices drop. I had a hard time coming up with a scenario in which it made oil prices spike, other than introducing more nervousness into the markets. But I agree that Iran testing a nuke would have been a whole different story.

So I see OPEC going to drop production, then North Korea tests a nuke. I look at the Asian oil price and it's dropping like a rock.

Hmm ...

Can you tell if its really a nuke and not, say, a really large amount of TNT.

I wouln't trust the dear leader to tell me what the weather is like.

Yes you can pretty well.

The seismic reading of an atomic weapon is quite unique, apparently.  Billions of dollars and decades were spent in the Cold War perfecting this to track the Russians and treaty violations.

And there is usually some increment in the radioactivity, downwind, even from an underground test (very small increment), apparently.

And yet the guy from the USGS interviewed on CNN last night didn't seem to have a clue.  Maybe he was just being careful or maybe they don't have their best and brightest on the night shift. Could be that announcing nuclear tests was above his pay grade.
My thinking here is the specialists are high security classification people, and won't be talking directly to the media.

The venting I mentioned of radioactive materials does occur, I think, but is not always detectible from afar.

The explosion was small enough that it could have been made with conventional explosives.  But 550 tons is one hell of a lot of TNT.

So I concede the point, but my understanding is still, from the days of the old Soviet Union, that we can tell the difference between a nuclear test and a small earthquake, underground (different wave form).

My hypothesis, which needs checking, is that is also the case between a nuclear blast and a conventional one.

One of my college chemistry profs was the one that figured out how to detect a nuclear blast from the atmosphere.

I of course can't remember his name. But the test is trivial stick a petri dish or piece of paper covered with petroleum jelly on the roof for a few days bring int down and send samples through a mass spec and do radiation checks. Radioisotopes show up like a sore thumb.

If I remember correctly he did the test and published and the US got a bit miffed about it. It was a long time ago
but I remember the test well. And the guy use to teach
how to build atomic bombs. Later I ended up working on the strong nuclear force and surprised to find out that it was
the shape of the nuclei that leads to radioactivity.
The theory is a quite simple cluster analysis and explains why it was possible to understand radioactivity without solving a complex n body problem.

A similar trick of using uncommon metals as tracers is common in a lot of types of tests. Feed conversion ground water flows etc.

the russians are claiming the blast amounted to equivalent of 10 megaton TNT  which is the minimum credible size for an actual nuke   more sophisticated technology can produce a blast = to less than 10 megaton but it is apparently doubtful the n koreans are that sophisticated  "others" ( and i dont know who the "others" are) are claiming the blast was much smaller
Hello Elwoodelmore,

Megaton = 1 million tons of TNT.  I think you meant kilotons, but please provide source if it is actually 10 megatons.  thxs

kiloton is correct   i heard this all on npr and they are saying something else or maybe they have a different "expert" talking today    the russians are still saying 10 Kton    
Take a look at this post.



WC-135W has just taken off and is wheels up.

For those who don't know... a WC-135W's mission is the following:

The WC-135W Constant Phoenix atmospheric collection aircraft supports national level consumers by collecting particulate and gaseous effluents and debris from accessible regions of the atmosphere in support of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963. Source - www.af.mil/factsheets/fac...p?fsID=192

Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix is probably flying right now to analyze the particulate matter released--even though it was presumably detonated in a shaft 700m deep.  Standard procedure--it will not only confirm that this was a nuke, but it will tell us the fissile make-up, what reactor it came from (presumably Youngbyon), etc.
Change in Goldman Index Played Role in Gasoline Price Drop

Article Tools Sponsored By
Published: September 30, 2006

LONDON, Sept. 29 -- Politics and worries about oil supplies may have caused gasoline prices to go up at the pump earlier this year, but one big investment bank quietly helped their rapid drop in recent weeks, according to some economists, traders and analysts.

Goldman Sachs, which runs the largest commodity index, the G.S.C.I., said in early August that it was reducing the index's weighting in gasoline futures significantly. The announcement did not make big headlines, but it has reverberated through the markets in the weeks since and some other investors who had been betting that gasoline would rise followed suit on their weightings.

"They started unwinding their positions, and those other longs also rushed to the door at the same time," said Lawrence J. Goldstein, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation.

Snip ......

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/30/business/30trading.html?ex=1160539200&en=a89a353c1d5b9709& ei=5070

More Synopsis at Lew Rockwell

Snip ......

A sell-off of more than $6 billion in gasoline futures contracts? Let's put it this way, a $6 billion trade is not decided on at the lower levels of the firm.

Keller provides some insight into the curious timing of this trade:

    President George W. Bush nominated Henry M. Paulson, Jr. to be the 74th Secretary of the Treasury on June 19, 2006. The United States Senate unanimously confirmed Paulson to the position on June 28, 2006 and he was sworn into office on July 10, 2006. Before coming to Treasury, Paulson was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs. So what does Goldman do just weeks after Paulson is sworn in as Treasury Secretary? It announces a subtle move that drives down gasoline prices, short-term. Nice move, coming just months before the election.

Now it may be hard to swallow for some that market manipulations go on, but they do at all levels. Penny stock promoters cook up their schemes, and power players have their schemes. In traders jargon, it's called painting the tape. Indeed, the Washington Post has revealed that the government has formed something that is casually known as the Plunge Protection Team. PPT is supposed to jump in and buy stocks when things are unruly. Ronald Reagan formed the PPT when he signed Executive Order 12631. It's just another way of painting the tape (Using your tax money, or newly printed Federal Reserve dollars, of course). Goldman is a member of the secretive PPT.

Snip ......


So, is a 6 Billion move in gasoline futures enoungh to drive down the pump price short term?

Hell yes -

I dont buy the Paulson thing. But for whatever reason if they chose to drop the gasoline from their index that would explain much of the meltdown in gasoline futures (which sold off almost twice as much as crude oil in % terms)

Im telling you, the commodity markets are not liquid enough to have the large leveraged players moving in and out - there will not be a happy ending here. There will be regulation, but probably too late.

(Now, if GSCI puts gasoline back in their index after the elecetions, I will stand corrected)

Any reason known why they did it in the first place?
The article suggests they were concerned about the liquidity, given that the reformulated gasoline contract was starting to trade (RBOB). After further thought, I think the GSCI trade exacerbated a technical selloff but did not cause the selloff.  At $2 gasoline futures (now at $1.50) $6 billion is a notional position of approximately 3 billion gallons (at 42 gallons per barrel, thats about 7 million barrels of oil equiv).  Each gasoline futures contract is 42,000 gallons so a $6 bil position is about 70,000 NYMEX contracts. The open interest in November futures (not a peak driving month) is about 225,000 contracts and Fridays session had only 14,379 in volume.  So perhaps if more money is coming into their fund and they perceived some change in liquidity due to RBOB, they decided to reduce exposure.  One other thing to note is that unlike Crude Oil and Natural Gas futures, which trade all the way out to 2012, gasoline futures just have 3 months in the futures markets, currently Nov, Dec and Jan. If you want to buy  longdated contracts you have to continue to roll forward.

My previous comment wasnt directly related to the GSCI and gasoline, but more a predictive remark that if the financial press/ momentum players ever REALLY believe in the Peak oil concept, that the amount of virtual dollars chasing finite energy might overwhelm the short term functionality of some of these markets. It hasnt happened yet, and we can consider the Amaranth example a warning (Nat Gas futures have rallied 20% in last 10 days, since that situation looks to have been cleared up)

Thank for the explanation, and yes, there is some reason there.
But the next question then would be: do/did they do this on a regular basis, or at least more often, in similar circumstances?
It semd to me to be quite a large move.

And would they have known what the consequences of that move would be? Since they must have been aware of the percentage of the specific market they were holding/controlling, that seems inevitable. They can de facto force parties to sell off assets. That's a lot of power.

Various indices change composition frequently, which naturally causes anyone holding those indices to change the composition of their assets. On that basis, anyone who controls an index can "force parties to sell off assets".

But, if they did this for political reasons, people would very quickly abandon the index. Investors only invest in or according to an index because they believe it benefits them.  

So, there is a long term cost in messing with the index. But, there might well be a useful short term gain... consider who was appointed treasury secretary. And, the gain for the individual is likely to be very good for the company... consider who was 'appointed' VP in 04, and how well his company has done since.  The higher long term value of the index left alnee is pretty insignificant compared with the real and potential benefits... indeed, goldman clients might want to stay the course, thinking that they might be privy to insider information - er, advice. Might some have been advised to sell energies, at least thru the election?
Of course, the majority of goldman clients are republicans, many of whom would agree that maintaining republican majorities is paramount.
I keep a spreadsheet that has a simple relationship between the WTI price of oil (weekly average based upon settlement price) and the weekly prorated overall gasoline pump price.  I maintain it with both reported values and relative to a benchmark average price (1992) ratio.  

Based upon data from the past 16 years AND from 2002 to the present, the reported gasoline price is lower (about 10 %) than the relationship between oil price and gasoline price would predict.  

Furthermore, since early 2004, gasoline prices have been significantly less than would be expected based upon the price of oil.  As a model, this is a simple relationship and it does not account (directly) for stocks on hand.  If I was willing to run it through SAS with more data, I might tease out a different relationship.  This means that if oil prices are stabilizing that gasoline price drops have "overshot" their price point.  

Now it will be an interesting matter to see how fast those prices "recover" relative to the election.  At current gasoline proces, the WTI price "should be" about $53.35/barrel (conversely, the weekly average price for WTI the week of 9/25 was $61.40 with an average gasoline price of $2.360/gallon.  The predicted cost is $2.567/gallon prorated over all grades).  Obviously, "something" has changed this relationship compared to historical trends.

Politics?  Maybe, but probably not exclusively.  

The underlying assumptions are what matter now.  

IF the world believes that KSA CAN (not that they necessarily DO) raise production, then alternatives energy and even advanced or difficult drilling efforts get the short end of the stick.

And if the world believes that advanced or or difficult drilling CAN ( not HAS but can) work, then alternative energy drops to third place.

This of course is the break point of the whole "peak" discussion, is it not?  We know that Matthew Simmons, Colin Campbell, T. Boone Pickens, the Iranian Dr Bakhtiari and others (notably our own TOD friends such as Westexas) take the position that KSA CAN'T (not that they won't but that they CAN'T) increase production greatly, and that deep offshore cannot (not will not, but cannot) deliver the goods.

The other side of the argument (CERA Yergin position, I will call it) is that it is simply an economic/geopolitical issue, and that when prices go to a certain point, the conditions change and the flood hits, and you have 1982 all over again.  In other words, we are not facing geological peak, but merely a logistical peak, or a standard swing in the commodity cycle.

Either position is hard to prove easily.  If one holds faith, as many here do, in Hubbert Linearization, it gives a mathematical model, if not exactly proof, that KSA and the world are at the top, or getting close to top, on production.

On the other side is history.  KSA and OPEC have surprised us before, as has difficult offshore drilling (i.e., the North Sea).  This was the importance, which was much maligned here on TOD of Jack 2 in the Gulf of Mexico.  

No one but an idiot believed that "Jack 2", a test well, was going to save us from anything, but what it implied, in being able to drill and hit oil at that great depth, was that we now had to put areas long dismissed into the equation.  There is no way that M. King Hubbert could have known in his lifetime that drilling at that depth would ever be possible.

People look at that kind of drilling, and calculate that the OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) will (not may, but in time WILL) be opened up, and look at examples like Brazil, where even the nitwit MSM are beginning to figure out that in is not an ethanol miracle that made them energy strong, but an offshore oil boom, and put two and two together, and investors can see the possibility of another North Sea non OPEC boom some years down the road (and time marches quickly, doesn't it, 10 or 20 years in the energy business is an eyeblink).

But there is a difference this time.  This is the first sustained energy price crisis we have had since the birth of the internet.  The alternative energy technologies are benefiting from massive information and ideas exchange.

And we are beginning from a higher "informational base, as the ideas that were pioneered in the 1970's provide a starting point that is far above where they had to try to begin from in those days.  The experience of the silicon valley is recently behind us, so the idea of "confluence" of ideas and massive fast increases in efficiency and price decline in high technology does not seem at all alien to us.

All this to say that this time, the conventional energy industry may not have moved fast enough, and may have allowed the cat to get out of the bag. The confluence of ideas may now be unstoppable even by an oil/gas price decline.
(I have been surprised at how many people, even in government and industry, are just plain sick and tired of being "single sourced" by the petro industry, at any price!)

This is why I have always felt that tying the need for alternative energy to the "peak" argument is an error.  It should be tied to a multitude of arguments, including national security, cleanliness and greenhouse gas emissions, convenience, efficiency and modern design.  

This way, if "peak" does not occur exactly on schedule (always a risk, believe it or not) and prices of fossil fuels drop out through the floor (always a risk, believe it or not) the alternatives still have a card to play.

Only time will tell, but again, this is why we must be aware of risks in both directions.  A massive drop in oil/gas prices may seem like a great thing, but if your concern is CO2 emmissions and balance of trade issues,survival of alternatives, or stability in the oil producing nations (n small factor, as the shortage of money from an oil price crash poses great risk to them, and by extension, us), then a massive price drop poses its own set of risk factors.

The underlying assumptions you make determine one more thing:  How you invest your money in this period could determine your personal prosperity going forward (the assumption of impending doom and belief in ever ascending oil prices broke many people financially and destroyed careers in the 1980's, both in the oil/gas business and in alternative energy industries).

It's your money.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Invest your money.  Some thoughts, in declining order of utility (increasing order of risk):

  • 'no brainer' invest in anything that saves money long term (eg insulation, a better fuel economy car).  The result is a risk free payoff

  • pay off debt (same)

  • invest in your human capital especially 'practical' skills like plumbing or cooking, that will always have a local demand, and which you can use to save yourself cash in a downturn

  • invest in a diversified portfolio of bonds and equities using index funds and ETFs (see Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel and The Four Pillars of Investment Wisdom by William Bernstein-- both excellent books).

  • invest in 'value' stocks, which tend to hold their value more in downturns than 'growth' stocks and pay a higher dividend yield (yields are much less volatile than prices of stocks).  There are some good index funds doing this (Vanguard) but beware the tax implications.

  • invest in the shares of producing uranium companies, (not exploration stocks), if you really believe in Peak Oil.  Those and companies with substantial gas reserves per share, especially North American gas reserves.
Invest in hydroelectric merchant power companies and hydroelectric utilities in likely to be stable countries (diversify).

Invest in railroads.

Invest in companies that export needed goods from US factories.

Best Hopes,


The first is almost certainly right except electric power and water are subject to regulation, so in an emergency situation the company may not benefit.  Not sure if there are any quoted hydro electric plays in the US?  Scottish and Southern Energy in the UK has hydro resources (about 1300MW in Scotland).


Scottish Power doesn't have much hydro (I don't think) but is becoming a big wind investor.

Railroads?  Tough call.  The US the quoted railway companies ship freight not passengers-- in a severe economic dislocation there will be less freight shipped.  You are clearly in a better position than you are in the case of airlines, say, but the overall effect is unclear.

The railroad (Union Pacific?) which ships coal from Wyoming to Georgia is probably a no-brainer in a PO scenario.

Exports - I am a bear of the US dollar.  In a really severe downturn, someone like Boeing is going to get badly hit no matter how good a company it is.  US companies with big international operations (pharmaceuticals) might be a good bet.

THe falling dollar is a boon for large exporters. boeing is killing airbus now because of the weak dollar, caterpillar is also doing very well. imagine if the dollar falls another 25% against the euro...  The us might begin exporting cars to europe from jap transplants.

I like small e&p's with good and growing reserves... ard/gpor/gmxr/upl, the latter two ng, the latter not so small.  peabody good for coal, uranium producers sound good, don't know much.

Hard to see the US doing much exporting to Europe-- the spec of cars is so different (would be true even for the transplants I think).  What has tended to happen is the european producers are moving to Eastern Europe, where the wages are so much cheaper, I think the Japanese transplants are following.

Cameco is the leading uranium producer I know (Toronto Stock Exchange).  Privatised Canadian uranium producer.  Good deposit life and exploration assets.

Not cheap by any measure but relatively safe and solid if you believe the Uranium story.

There is also a uranium company which is a big producer in Australia I think but I cannot remember the name.

Broken Hill Property may be a big uranium producer, but it is anything but a 'pure play'.

It is one of the world's most diversified and largest mining companies (BHP Billiton)

in fact it doesn't produce uranium according to Yahoo


Cameco is an almost pure play.  They own a bit of fuel packaging, and part of the Ontario Bruce nuclear power station, and the rest is mining (mostly on long term contracts, typically 5 years I think).

Union Pacific Railroad cheated me badly on some oil deals in the Giddings field in the 1980's. Although they sold their production to Anadarko (who have always treated me well), their basic company phlosophy has always been to screw everyone, customers, employees and have no morals. To me its a no-brainer not to invest in companies with that philosophy, I.E.  Wallmart, Haliburton. Caveat Emptor ! Generally, if a thief stals from others he won't hesitate to steal from you.
Several Canadian Hydro plays.  Income trusts Great Lake, Innergex, Algonquin, Boralex (sp?) and regular Canadian Hydro Development & Fortis .  Not all pure plays.

CIG, CPL are Brazilian hydro utilities on NYSE

Verbund in Austria is 90% Hydro

Several hydro plays in Switzerland.  Some with nukes, some without.

TrustPower in New Zealand

Norsk Hydro was a good play until they got involved with oil :-)

Any others ??

Railroads will take market share from trucks.  So even if total shipments are down, they can do well.  Just be careful how much of the RR is real estate vs. transportation.

Canadian RRs are also interesting.

Best Hopes


Thank you, a good list.


i agree with much of what you state except i would rate gas reserves waaaaaaaaaaay above index funds   i dont see that your stratergy addresses inflation    a low fixed rate mortgage ( that you can afford )  can be a hedge against inflation
These are very solid investing principles that should be useful to anyone (with the exception of the last one).

Other ideas by Alan, etc. are opinions. They may be good ones (or thay may not), but ideas are a dime a dozen.

You can't make money chasing other people's ideas on the internet. I would strongly discourage people from many any specific investment actions based on this kind of speculation. Even people who get very well paid to make these kinds of opinions to to investors they know, are often wrong.  

Anyone who is making investment decisions would benefit more by reading the Malkiel book than by following any set of ideas expounded by anyone who doesn't know their specific investment objectives.

     But if part of the current cause of the price drop is a slight oversupply caused by demand decline, and if the KSA is finding this out because it cannot sell the heavier crudes that it has on the market, then there are other factors that are in play that make it more difficult to say that we are yet at the true supply peak.

It may not take much of a surplus being available to keep the market price down, and, as you note, investors can get skittish, based on past experience.

As usual, you make me feel less gloomy and doomy, but I would add that we need an insurance policy to ensure that alternatives continue to be pursued. That insurance policy is high gas taxes and/or carbon taxes to ensure that we move away from a carbon based economy. For me, peak oil theory has been a way to buttress one's arguments that we need to pursue conservation, efficiency, and alternatives, including alternative ways of propelling vehicles.  It is a mistake, however, to put all one's eggs in that particular basket.  We could bounce around the peak for years, all the while not doing enough to cut carbon. Even if we accept peak oil as gospel and imminent, this does not necessarily lead to conservation or away from coal. In fact, peak oil fear is probably, on balance, leading to increased carbon emissions.

I think you make a good case for what is possible, but it will take a change our politics to turn the possible into the probable.  


It's very dangerous to 'cry wolf' too early on Peak Oil.

The Harper's article showed that.  Generally a sympathetic publication, Harpers basically compared Peak Oil to a millenarian cult.

What PO has done is bring into the open how ropey the publicly available data is, and also remind all of us that an exhaustible resource, is, in fact, exhaustible.

Julian Simon notwithstanding, one cannot argue as an economist or a geologist, that no resource is ever fully exhausted.  Eventually, for any mineral, it becomes impossible to keep extracting new reserves.

What an economist would say is that by the time a resource is exhausted, the price has normally risen to create new substitutes.  'the stone age did not end because mankind ran out of stones'

What a PO person would say is that 1). we don't know when that exhaustion will be 2). we don't have those substitutes ready and they take decades to research and deploy.

What an environmentalist would say to the economist is that CO2 emissions represent the ultimate uncharged externality.  Basically CO2 is a free pollutant.  Unsurprisingly, you can get a sub-optimal result if you don't charge someone for polluting the environment.

The second point an environmentalist would make, and the Economist special piece on GW made this very well, is that the real possibility exists that we could destabilise the climate so badly that we couldn't live with the result.

So it's not the 'oh well, Bangladesh isn't worth much economically' scenario, it's the 'civilisation won't function' scenario.

On the rule of prudence and insurance, you insure against the cases where you cannot deal with the costs.  The more extreme global meltdown scenarios (which are fast becoming consensus amongst climate scientists) are examples of those situations.

Insuring against those scenarios means taking fairly drastic steps now.

If PO comes first, then we probably drown in the CO2 of fighting off PO with coal and tar sands, etc.

Alternative explanation for GW induced
extinction events from Scientific America

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&articleID=00037A5D-A938-150E-A93883414B7F0000& pageNumber=1&catID=2

Triff ..

What was the trend line for oil discoveries back then when Hubbert made his analysis? What was the trend line for offshore oil when Hubbert made his analysis? If you can draw on line you can draw another.
HO - thanks for posting something on rig counts.

The quick look at ME rigs shows a very clear pattern.  The numbers below show total rigs in June 05 / June 06

KSA 36 / 74
Kuwait 12 / 14
UAE 17 / 16

So the number of rigs operating in KSA has doubled in a year, while there is virtually no change in Kuwait and UAE (Abu Dhabi +Dubai).

So while the pattern is clear - what the Hell does it mean?

For a start it seems that the UAE and Kuwait are not too concerned about being able to maintain their production.

KSA - it seems can mean one of two things.

Either, like many here have been saying, they have peaked and are on that slippery down slope that all the drilling in the world will find hard to arrest.

Or, they are building wittheld capacity, in preparation for a US strike on Iran, that can be switched on to maintain stability of global supplies.

As well tossing a coin - though I do find myself leaning towards the former, simpler explanation.

WRT to your simple calculations on new capacity - worth doing, but need to bear in mind that some of the rigs will be drilling exploration wells, some water injectors, some doing work overs - and this will significantly reduce the number of rigs actually drilling production wells.  Many reservoirs in the ME are also poor quality, so 4000 bpd may be an overestimate.  So combining a lower number of rigs drilling producers with a lower productivity may point to a wild guess of 750,000 bpd new capacity.  If this is balancing decline, points to a decline rate of around 7% (from 2005 production of 11mmbpd)  mmmmm?

KSA has promised to significantly increase production, and thus needs to drill additional wells over and above those needed to sustain existing volumes.  One of the reasons that I was interested in the gas:oil split was because they are anticipating that there will be a considerable increase in the volume of NGL coming into production and counting toward the overall supply.

I am presuming that the water injectors are included in others, but am not sure where they classify exploration and workovers.  There have been a number of times over the past year that the number of 800,000 bd comes up as the decline per year in their current production, I am just too busy this morning to be able to go back and dig them out.

It is also difficult to determine much more in terms of production.  Consider, for example Shaybah where initially 133 wells were drilled to get the 500,000 bd production.  106 of these were initially 1 km horizontal wells, (17 were vertical and the rest were gas injectors (5) salt water disposal (2) and 3 water wells) and these produced around 3,000 bd each.  However by going to Maximum Reservoir Contact and increasing the exposure length with laterals to up to 12 km, individual well production could be increased to 10,000 bd.  (Information from Saudi Presentation to CSIS 2004 (pdf file). If I read the numbers correctly there are 87 wells feeding the new GOSP at Haradh, that is giving a production of 300,000 bd, and this averages around 3,200 a well, and the new Khurais field is reported to require more than 300 new wells to give the additional 1.2 mbd - or roughly 4,000 bd per well.

KSA has promised to significantly increase production, and thus needs to drill additional wells over and above those needed to sustain existing volumes.

A variation of a question I posted up the thread.

Mathematically, KSA is now where Texas--the prior swing producer--was at when Texas started declining.   I would remind you that the Lower 48 and the North Sea--two regions with wildly different field size distributions--peaked at the same point, based on the HL method.  

(And according to Simmons, the North Sea peaked years before the majors working the North Sea predicted that it would peak.   I would also remind you of Shell's promise that they would increase production from the Yibal Field, even as it started crashing.)

Key difference between KSA & Texas:  KSA's largest field accounts, or accounted, for more than half of KSA production, while Texas' biggest field accounted for about 7% of peak production.  Thus, KSA is far more exposed to a decline from its biggest field that Texas was exposed to the decline from its biggest field.

In any case, give the foregoing, what is the probability that the decline in KSA production is a coincidence and not the start of a permanent decline?

Also, one of the largest natural gas useages is sweetening sour oil and providing hydrogen to lighten the gravity of oil. So the increased gas drilling could signal the decrese in quality of KSA crude.
take a look at steam flooding in Oman:


tossing a coin is not rational. SA might be interested in reducing production now with falling prices, but this was not the case through aug as prices hit continuous nominal highs.  So, in 18 months, rig count goes up 150%, and since jan production goes down 5%.  There is no evidence that they are building capacity that they are not using, and considerable evidence that, so far, the new wells are unable to stem the decline.

However, if ghawar were declining at 20%/year, or 1mmb/y, then an overall reduction while expanding rigs as rapidly as possible would be quitle logical.

As an aside, somebody said they are not 'frantic'. Regardless of their motivation, how else can such a rig expansion be described, other than frantic? I do agree that kuwait and uae are not frantic.

The Devil is in the detail

A bit long and chewy. /188718/Howard_Weil_200306.pdf+SAUDI+ARABIA+RIG+COUNT&hl=en&gl=uk&ct=clnk&cd=10

My understanding is that the KSA is looking to get to approx 120 (min) to 140 rigs over time.

Anybody know of any steam injection projects in KSA yet?

Oman is commencing such a project now, and you dont do this if there are better ways to spend your money (on lighter crudes).

Notice that it seems that the only time the Saudis talk about production these days, it is to admit to a new "voluntary" lower production level (followed by announcements that they will  have production up to 12 mbpd any day now).

As I previously pointed out, Texas has been "voluntarily" cutting production for 33 years--we couldn't find buyers for all of our oil.

KSA is more interested in building spare capacity, not actually using it.  That is how they were capable of controlling the market in the past...
KSA is more interested in building spare capacity, not actually using it.  That is how they were capable of controlling the market in the past...

That is also true of Texas, which controlled the world price of oil from about 1935 to 1970.   In Texas in the Sixties, an established field could only produce for about eight days out of thirty (if memory serves).  

Of course, as I said, in 1973, we started "voluntarily" cutting back our production because we couldn't find enough buyers for our oil, when prices (in today's dollars) were around $90 or so.  The frantic drilling program in the Seventies was an attempt to build up our spare capacity. Rest assured that Texas is able to significantly increase our production when circumstances warrant.  

Love the humour.  Point well made, but the '73 average price for oil was around $21 and the '74 average price was around $38 (then in the mid-forties until 1979).
They also 'frantically' built up their capacity before the peak as well.

Apples to Oranges....

Squalish - the mass of a carbon atom is 12 units - BY DEFINITION.
Yeah, spotted that afterwards, need to stop posting when the Nyquil tells me I should be sleeping.
Nice post HO.

IMHO we have a very laissez faire government right now.  This not only allows, but actively fosters, the marketplace sorting things out.  

This abdicates any decision making process using long term knowledge or trends.  Short term volatility is great for making profit sometimes, but not so great for long term investment.

This laissez faire approach impacts all business planning, not just renewables.  As stated, coal and Natural gas investment will be delayed because short term low price swings prevent them.  If you are on the bubble for return on investment, you don't invest when prices drop.  

Some sort of stability is required, which I was taught was the classical reason for government.  To govern, or moderate, the wild swings that can take place in society. The same way governors work to maintain machines from wild swings, that ultimately break them if allowed to occur.  

Ben Franklin in the 1700's espoused this concept publicly, moderation in all things (including moderation) so it was clearly discussed by the founding fathers when they wrote the constitution for our government's role.  Whenever the U.S. government swings to far from this role of governing the business interests, and greed instincts of individuals, we have problems.  But we seem incapable of learning this lesson and go through these phases every generation or so.

My opinion has long been that it is worse than "laissez faire" because it pretends solutions.  The President poses for pictures a hydrogen fuel pumps, etc.


We'd be better off if they at least told folks to do their own preparation.  Either that, or they get serious about conservation and/or alternatives.

Or rather pretends there is no problem

'Global Warming is a conspiracy against the United States economy'

'there is no conclusive scientific evidence of man made global warming'

Of course on Peak Oil the authorities are almost totally silent.

Ever since Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter, Conservation has had a very bad name in US politics.  It's all growth, growth, growth (in consumption as well as output).

After all, trees cause 90% of all pollution ;-).

I think Carter sold it badly.  Americans like a success story, and energy efficiency could have been sold that way.  Conservation though carries baggage to this day ... turn down the heat, put on a sweater, be miserable.

Somewhere between Carter and Reagan was the lost opportunity, which should have described a better life, with lower energy requirements.

Do you remember John Anderson and the 50 cent a gallon gas tax?  Arguably his campaign (and the Iranians) cost Carter the election.

I think Carter is going to come out as the visionary, and Reagan more tarnished than he is remembered now.

I had a post earlier on this in another thread: Americans are by nature Republicans (seize the day, the bright and glowing future, remake the Middle East in our image) and not Democrats (caution, conservation, prudence).  The Republicans dominate the emotional agenda-- the Democrats come across as party poopers.

Europeans are very much the reverse: the sort of slightly wonky technocrats the Democrats produce would go down much better here.

Bill Clinton managed to be both, and interestingly now he has read that book, 'After Oil' by Paul Roberts (an interviewer borrowed the copy from him, and found notes in the marginalia), and he is very concerned re global warming.   But he is, of course, no longer president.

It needs an FDR or a JFK-- someone who can articulate and communicate a bright vision of a post-carbon future, and sell it to the American people as a step forward, not backward.  A man (or woman) who can say 'we have nothing to fear but fear itself'.

Over here, it needs a Churchill.  A man (or woman) of single-mindeded focus on one threat, and one threat only-- who bullies, harries and hectors us forward.  A leader who promises us only blood, sweat, tears, and victory.

It's a terrible thing to say, but I sometimes hope for a really awful East Coast hurricane or other climatic disaster, and the destruction of a major city.  Something that will make it very hard to argue that the world's climate is not changing, and will be so salient that Americans will seek a leader to change the world.

If America leads, I am sure the world will follow.  If it does not, I am equally sure we will not do enough.

the destruction of a major city

80% of my beloved, unique home

It's not enough.

You can explain away New Orleans as 'the levies broke' and 'the city should not be where it is'.

It was also one of the poorest cities in America.

What has to happen is middle class folk get decimated.  And I suspect on the East Coast, not the Gulf Coast-- because then it is 'one of us' be it New York, Boston, Baltimore, Charleston, Miami...

Glad to know that I am not "one of us".

Often feels that way.


It was the poor who were devastated by Katrina.

And the focus became quickly not the meteorological event, which had been anticipated, but the poor planning and actions of the 3 levels of government.

That said, I did get a sense that some people sat up and took notice of the whole Global Warming phenomenon.  Although of course we cannot definitively say whether it had anything to do with the intensity of Katrina.

It seems that the "shear winds" were what controlled hurricane strength. Now that the La Nina has changed, they should return next year, and stronger because global warming is continuing.
New Orleans just lost a few levies to a Cat 3 surge. A Cat 6 is going to be much, much, worse. To anyplace along the Gulf and up to Washington. Like California earthquakes, it's a when, not a whether.
My understanding is that what we do know is that hurricane strength is directly related to ocean surface temperature.

Which has been rising.

Yeh. Been there, done that. Had no impact except a lot of rhetoric. Just build them levies higher and everything will be A-ok.  
I think the possibility that Katrina was caused by Global Warming (or exacerbated by it) marked the first time that it penetrated into the American public consciousness that global warming might mean something other than less snow to clean off your doorstep.

Of course, for many other places in the world, severe and atypical weather is already the norm: a 7 year drought in Sub-Saharan Africa, a multi-year drought in Australia.

Certainly here in the UK I notice the dramatic lengthening of summer and the greater intensities of heat.

Whether all this leads to sustained action, I don't know.

But Katrina was too easy to explain.  One of my libertarian interlocutors (whose father worked for civil engineering in New Orleans) simply explained it as a city that should never have been built where it was, propped up by government intervention.

It had all the themes which make it forgettable in an American context:

  • most of those harmed worst were amongst the poorest of Americans, and black

  • the city had a long standing reputation for being corrupt, immoral and was among the poorest and most violent of big cities in America

  • the government very obviously failed (at all 3 levels) to respond to the emergency.  And so it became a political football

I know Pat Robertson of all people commented on his 700 Club TV show that after this past summer, he had come to believe in man made global warming.  That is a heck of a swing-- coming from a man who presumably does not believe in Darwinian Evolution.  But he is old, and I don't think he is in the driving seat of the American evangelical movement any more.

I have observed that the South of the US is seen by the rest of the country as 'different'.  And there are not so many big coastal cities on the Gulf Coast (and they may be particularly well prepared against hurricanes).

What I had in mind was something that took out Houston (on the grounds that it is such a major centre the impact and publicity would be significant -- despite my 'South' thesis) or Miami or Charleston or Baltimore or really hit New York or even Boston.

It's just a thought, but it strikes me that no one is going to really worry about Global Warming (in any country) unless it really hits home, and that sort of disaster would hit home, and make many people who are sitting on the sidelines of the debate go 'Houston, we have a problem'.

As one can imagine, the Dutch worry about Global Warming more than most.

Here in the UK, the government is making plans to abandon parts of the coastline to the sea.  Since we are a coastal country, that does have resonance.


Democrats would be pretty right wing in Europe. Of course, that is generalizing.
Certainly to the right of many of the left wing parties.
Carter's legacy will always be what it is now as that of  an inept boob that had the best chance in the last century to set America on the course of energy independency and failed so miserably that we are still paying for it.  His presidency was a long list of stumbling, pitiful, ineptness, because he just couldn't grasp what he had to do to be an effective President.  I'm not saying he is stupid just inept that has to be more frustrating than being stupid.
Clinton couldn't tell the truth if his life depended on it. His claims that he was never briefed on Peak Oil or the Oil Situation is hardly credible.  And on the small chance he wasn't why wasn't he asking the right questions if he was such a man of foreskin? uh foresight.  We hardly need either personality type back in office.
Carter was, indeed, truly inept, probably owing to his complete inability to delegate. One example is that he was personally directing the field commander during the attempted iran invasion.

Clinton is quite different, imo the most effective president we have had in a long time, probably since roosevelt. Consider he balanced the budget, ended welfare, protected the environment, maintained good relations with most of the world, came close to an israeli/palestinian deal and, not least, remained popular in spite of dealing with impeachment. True, he did not deal with bin Laden, but this would have required invading afghanistan, something the republican congress would not have allowed prior to 9/11.


Don't forget the effect of Volcker and the Federal Reserve changing it's goal from interest rate stability to inflation control.

Interest rates rose to 20%, and there was a very sharp recession.  Of course, oil caused inflation, but it was only one of several causes.

People blame Carter's loss on many things: Iran's hostages, oil, the "sweater" image of conservation, the "malaise" speech, but economics is always most important in US elections, and the economy was in deep recession due to the Fed.

The point on China and coal pretty much defines the dilemma the world finds itself in. China is going whole hog implementing a century old "development" model based on fossil fuels. Even more amusing is they're doing this by providing products for the so-called "developed" world based on this same model. The entire power structure of the "developed" world - banks, business, government -- are based on this unsustainable fossil fuel economy. You can still get trillions of dollars to expand fossil fuels and still only a token amount on alternatives or cutting their use.

So we see the model for the collapse of civilizations, an entrenched power structure rides their means of power into the ground. This is why the only serious way to change things will be through a mass and sudden shift. It begs the question of whether humans really can learn -- we're going to find out.

You can see where the Chinese are coming from: we created the Global Warming problem why should they carry a can for it?

Given the poverty and the social imbalances in China, they are riding a tiger: to stay in power, they need to keep producing economic growth.

You can see why they are prepared to take a risk with Global Warming.

In fact, their SO2 and smoke emissions have probably helped retard the problem, in the short term.

That said, they are imposing efficiency standards, and building wind power stations.  And nuclear reactors.

And Chongquing just had the worst drought ever recorded.

So there is an awareness of environmental issues in China, it's just not number one priority.

If we do something about CO2 emissions, then we are in a strong position to get them to join us.  But we have to move first.

Those opposed to Kyoto use the logic that since the Chinese won't have to do anything (under the Annex I countries) therefore we shouldn't do anything.  That is, of course, twisted logic, but it worked in the US Congress.

Yes, I agree, China is incredibly unstable at this point and just to make clear, when I was talking about entrenched power structure, I didn't mean just the Chinese, but the whole planet.
The ratio of tons of carbon in a fuel to tons of co2 produced by burning that fuel is 3.67.

This is derived from 1 C at 12, plus 2 O at 16 = molecular weight of 44.

44 divided by 12 =3.67.

With respect to coal, about 60% of it, by weight, is carbon, depending on the coal of course.

.6 x 3.67 =2.2 tons of co2 per ton of coal you burn, so for
simplicity yes each ton of coal burned gives you two tons of carbon dioxide as the carbon in the coal combines with oxygen in the air

this is also how one gallon of gasoline yields more than 20 20 pounds of co2, or about 1 pound a mile in a typical car

in the next 24 hours, humans will produce about 80 million tons of co2, and some of it will stay be in the atmospheree a century from now

Below the facts as I understand them.

I think the estimate is human activity produces 7bn tpa of carbon into the atmosphere (25.67 bn tpa of CO2), and the earth's capacity to absorb that CO2 is about 4.5bn tpa.

The US is thought to be about 2bn/7bn tpa.

Substantial uncertainties exist around:

  • impact of black particles on solar absorption
  • impact of other Green House gases- -CFC flourocarbons and methane
  • impact of loss of forest cover in equatorial regions (temperate forests contribute to CO2 absorption in their early lives, but after middle age, they release CO2)
  • impact of cloud cover

Extent to which the ocean absorbs CO2.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/10/attribution-of-20th-century-climate-change-to- cosub2sub/#more-355

has as authoritative an estimate as any of the different factors accounting for global warming.

World atmospheric concentrations of CO2 began to rise about 1750, from 280ppm then to 350 now.  They are now rising, annually, at almost 2ppm.

CO2 part per million by volume (ppmv) is now 381.

There is no uncertainty about methane's properties as a greenhouse gas. It is about 20 times more powerful than CO2 in its absorption of infrared heat. One open question right now is why methane levels have recently stabilized after rising for a century or more.

There is some uncertainty about the overall effects of clouds and soot, but that is being resolved by continuing modeling & research.

Drought in the Amazon is becoming a problem. Here's the Woods Hole researcher Daniel C. Nepstad talking about it

What our work does show is that the drought we imposed caused big trees to die more than small trees, which was a surprise. We also know that the amounts of carbon that may be going to the atmosphere following Amazon droughts are probably big enough to accelerate global warming. Currently trends suggest that a big chunk of the Amazon forest will probably be displaced by fire-prone scrub vegetation; global warming will probably exacerbate this trend.

The challenges we are confronting and those that we will be faced with in the future are significant. The world's tropical rainforests will be changed in important ways by global warming.

A comment on this thread by "rudall" comes from Randy Udall, co-founder of ASPO-USA. Nice to have you around, Randy.

If this is the Udall family I am thinking about, then Randy's father Mo was one of those 'great presidents the US never had'.  Carter beat him in the primaries.

That environmentally conscious, western frontier Democrat may be a coming thing in US politics.

I'd consider the final 1000ppm value for C02 that the article mentions for the mass extinction and upper bound on C02 levels not the level required to initiate and mass extinction.

The reason is fairly simple once the extinction starts then you will have increased C02 moving into the atmosphere from burning plants warming and loss of vegetation to fix the CO2.
Same in the oceans so your facing dropping levels of plant life leading to build up of CO2. This would continue until the H2S bacteria became prevalent enough to fix the CO2. Thus you get it looks like to the upper bound CO2 level of 1000ppm and it stays until the equilibrium moves downward allowing oxygen based photosynthesis. Also the H2S is produced from organic matter decaying in the ocean so again you have to wait till this organic matter has inundated the oceans before the H2S based bacteria can proliferate.
There exists evidence that super hurricanes could have formed during this time and litterly swept millions of tons of organic matter into the ocean acclerating the change.


This is claiming a even stronger hurricane from a impact
but the concept can be applied to large but normal hurricanes that would form under such warm conditions.
I can't seem to find a link for the more realistic scenario.

I'd guess it continues this way until the land is basically barren then you get a slow but steady drop in CO2 as extra sources of carbon/sulfur become unavailable. I can see how this could go on for some time before the equilibrium again swings over to normal photosynthesis probably initially in the cooler polar regions. Also the exposed bare rock composed of sulfides would begin to form carbonates from exposure and saturated water. Whats funny is they did not mention under these conditions you should also get some pretty nasty acid rain forming. ( I guess thats the least of your problems at this point). But It could be important since this would dissolve limestones leading to higher CO2 levels. And could be a pretty significant factor in keeping
CO2 levels high for longer.

I don't know what the lower bound is for CO2 to initiate the extinction would be but I think its pretty safe to argue that 1000pm is not a prerequisite but instead is the upper bound in level after the initial extinction events begin.

And the extinction will be variable but relentless as the H2S moves into the atmosphere. Its pretty interesting the the
H2S based  seems to be pretty stable probably the only reason we don't have one is the sulfur concentration might simply not be high enough to keep the H2S from depletion.

It makes me wonder if we did not inherit some bugs  that came from planets that did have enough sulfur for this to be a stable biosphere. As we discover more planetary systems the chances  that the earth has been seeded and seeded other planets increases to almost a certainty over time spans of hundreds of millions of years. We have many examples of niche biospheres here on earth that could be dominate given different conditions. If true is it means that the cross contamination probably results in DNA being ubiquitous which is a bit of a bummer.

Anyway back to worrying about how to fuel those SUV's
and keep the non-negotiable American lifestyle. Although I suspect mother nature has no plans on negotiating with Bush and Co.

Human beings react to salient events and short term trends.

I think it is something like 40% of Americans doubt the theory of Evolution?

More than half cannot explain the scientific method.

There was some quite frightening proportion that could not distinguish between Iraq and Iran (I had this very conversation with a leading internet scientist in California where he admitted his ignorance, after 911).  And a large number who could not place Iraq on a map.

I think I read less than half of Americans regularly read a newspaper?

This is hardly a group of people who will be easy to explain Global Warming to.  Even if we didn't have an active and well-financed group of sceptics out there, backed by the carbon-emitting industries, and Michael Crichton writing helpful thrillers.  And a media which helpfully includes both points of view in any mention of Global Warming.

Over here in England something like 80% of the population has taken a 'discount airline' flight to the Continent-- Ryanair or Easyjet, far and away the most vociferous defenders of the free right to fly (although to be fair the long distance airlines like Virgin are doing more damage).  You can literally fly to the Continent, on some flights, for £1 (plus departure taxes).

1/12 cars we buy is an SUV, and 1/8 here in London, where htere hasn't been a snowdrift in 20 years.

So yes, I don't think geology, climatology and Mr. Bush are getting along too well.  And yes, the scale of the problem is so large that I don't think we will do anything, perhaps until it is too late.

Here's the good news. Life is pretty much universal-- as you say, we find life in sulphur vents.  We may die off, but life on the planet will not.

My own candidate for the next intelligent creature on the planet is some sort of evolved, giant raccoon.  Anything clever enough to walk through the catflap, across a house, and open a fridge door, to get food...

<BLOCKQUOTE>here in London, where there hasn't been a snowdrift in 20 years.</BLOCKQUOTE>

I remember it well! I trudged through Greenwich park from my cold flat to my job. This was the first snowfall I had ever experienced, and I wasn't dressed for it. If I'd known it would be the last, I'd have taken more photos.

It snowed heavily in 1990 (winter) at the time of the first Gulf War.

There has been one since then, I think.

I was thinking of Canadian scale snow drifts.  I haven't experienced one in London in 20 years here.

According to Oak Ridge Nat'l Lab database, Switzerland released 25,000 metric tons of carbon from "liquid fuels" (I assume oil) in 1945.

How does one convert that to barrels of oil ?

"Standard quality" oil I assume.



PS: 1/400th of current US oil use/capita

More on CO2 from coal
Composition of coal-carbon content read fx here:

This link
also gives the Carbon intensity per energy unit which is proportional to the CO2 emission per unit of energy extracted.

Carbon Intensity(gC/MJ)
Natural Gas 13.7 gC/MJ(74% Carbon by weight)
Crude Oil   19.2 gC/MJ(85% Carbon by weight)
Coal**      24.4 gC/MJ(59% Carbon by weight)

** values vary by ~30% for different coal types
Source: USDOE and IPCC

regards/ And1

thank you.
I have been away from the site for a few days and just noticed Khebab's fine post on EIA data. Since no one is commenting there anymore, I wanted to list my own pet peave with EIA data here: The inventory data are listed in terms of absolute supply (number of barrels stored in US domestic tank farms), rather than days' worth of consumption on hand (as in, 330 million barrels on hand divided by 21 million barrels refined per day, or 15+ days' supply). Does anyone know of an inventory series compiled in terms of days' consumption? Someone has to be doing it. I just want to know, is such work openly available? It is getting to the point where I will have to do it myself if no one else is...
The eia does show that teh number of day's cover of oecd stocks vs. consumption is down one day from last year, so overall stocks are down about 30mmb.
I used to maintain a few charts on my blog for the US stockpiles:

I'm planing to move that post on TOD in the near future.

One of the big Fups was not reelecting Carter(I didnt vote for him in 80 either)but he did have solar-cells( on the WH,quaint now) and CAFE and tried to get us metric, but thanx again Iran. When ya consider the trillions blown since then and what we have to show...and then what may be the most costly BJ in the history of the planet. Just think in two years well be twenty behind.
I think the solar water heater Carter put on the roof of the White House is still working on a College roof in Maine, which isn't your ideal solar climate.

Try this few times and Middle East should be clear. Someone could make other regions too, this is fun way to learn. Enjoy!