Monday, December 12, 2011

We’re nowhere near “Peak oil” er...perhaps!

The 20th World Petroleum Congress could not have possibly gone without a discussion on the Peak Oil hypothesis. In fact, every single day of the Congress saw the topic being discussed in some way, shape or form. So the Oilholic decided to summarise it after the event had ended and before the latest OPEC meeting begins.

Discussing the supply side, starting with the hosts Qatar, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa said his country was rising to challenge to secure supplies of oil and gas alongside co-operating with members of the energy organisations to which they were aparty, in order to realise this goal. Close on the Qatari Emir’s heels, Kuwaiti oil minister Mohammed Al-Busairi said his country’s crude production capacity is only expected increase between now and 2015 from the current level of 3 million barrels per day (bpd) to 3.5 million bpd, before rising further to 4 million bpd.

Then came the daddy of all statements from Saudi Aramco chief executive Khalid al-Falih. The top man at the world’s largest oil company by proven reserves of barrel of oil equivalent noted that, “rather than the supply scarcity which many predicted, we have adequate oil and gas supplies, due in large part to the contributions of unconventional resources.”

Rising supplies in al-Falih’s opinion will result in deflating the Peak Oil hypothesis. “In fact, we are on the cusp of what I believe will be a new renaissance for petroleum. This belief emanates from new sweeping realities that are reshaping the world of energy, especially petroleum,” he told WPC delegates.

Meanwhile, in context of the wider debate, Petrobras chief executive Jose Sergio Gabrielli, who knows a thing or two about unconventional told delegates that the speed with which the new sources of oil are entering into production has taken many people by surprise, adding to some of the short-term volatility.

“The productivity of our pre-salt offshore drilling moves is exceeding expectations,” he added. Petrobras now hopes to double its oil production by 2020 to over 6.42 billion barrels of oil equivalent. It seems a veritable who’s-who of the oil and gas business lined up in Doha to implicitly or explicitly suggest that Marion King Hubbert – the patron saint of the Peak Oil hypothesis believers – had always failed to take into account technological advancement in terms of crude prospection and recent developments have proven that to be the case.

But for all that was said and done, there is one inimitable chap who cannot possibly be outdone –Total CEO Christophe de Margerie. When asked if Peak Oil was imminent, de Margerie declared, “There will be sufficient oil and gas and energy as a whole to cover the demand. That’s all! Even using pessimistic assumptions, I cannot see how energy demand will grow less than 25% in twenty years time. Today we have roughly the oil equivalent of 260 million bpd (in total energy production), and our expectation for 2030 is 325 million bpd.”

He forecasts that fossil fuels will continue to make up 76% of the energy supply by 2050. “We have plenty of resources, the problem is how to extract the resources in an acceptable manner, being accepted by people, because today a lot of things are not acceptable,” the Total CEO quipped almost to the point of getting all worked up.

He concluded by saying that if unconventional sources of oil, including heavy oil and oil shale, are exploited, there will be sufficient oil to meet today’s consumption for up to 100 years, and for gas the rough estimate is 135 years. Or enough to make Hubbert stir in his grave.

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Total's CEO De Margerie discusses Peak Oil at the 20th World Petroleum Congress © Gaurav Sharma 2011.

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