Don’t tell the Greenies, but there may not be any Peak Oil
by John Happs
24 November 2018
There are numerous examples where those in positions of authority have given us incorrect advice about the world’s limited hydrocarbon reserves. Additionally, there are those who have a vested interest in promoting the myth of “the end of oil and gas,” while the majority simply accept that we are facing an energy crisis.
In 1922 US President Warren Harding observed that:
Already the output of (natural) gas has begun to wane. Production of oil cannot long maintain its present rate.
In 1956 the US geophysicist Marion King Hubbert (1903-1989) claimed that the amount of underground oil in any part of the world is finite and continued extraction inevitably leads to a maximum known as Hubbert’s Peak and then production will enter a terminal decline. Thus, argued Hubbert, oil production will always follow a bell-shaped curve.
In 1977 US President Jimmy Carter said:
We could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.
World oil production can probably keep going up for another six or eight years. But sometime in the 1980s, it can’t go up anymore. Demand will overtake production.
It was thought that “Peak Oil” had been reached in the US during the early 1970s at over 10 million barrels per day. But what Hubbert and others had not counted on was the development of new technologies that enabled us to access more unconventional resources. Consequently, current “enhanced production” essentially invalidated Hubbert’s prediction — such that current world oil output has now reached around 85 million barrels per day.
In 1970 ecologist Dr Kenneth Watt incorrectly predicted:
By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `”Fill ‘er up, buddy” and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.
Pessimism continued. In 1997 petroleum geologist Dr.Colin Campbell estimated that we would reach peak oil before 2010.
In 2003 geophysicist Dr. Kenneth Deffeyes said he was 99% confident that peak oil would occur in 2004.
In 2004 Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens opined:
Never again will we pump more than 82m barrels per day of liquid fuels.
In 2010 Virgin’s Richard Branson told David Strahan of Global Public Media that the world’s oil supplies might peak within just six years. Branson predicted that in a mere 4 or 5 years time:
Fuel prices will go through the roof.
In fact oil and gas production have continued to increase during the past 50 years.
Source: US Bureau of Mines 1930-1959, OPEC 1960-2012.
Oil price to 2017
In recent years huge reserves of shale natural gas, oil sands such as Canada’s huge Athabasca project and coal have been found and exploited. The International Energy Agency now estimates that global gas resources will last 250 years.
Oil shortages are a long way off, if that possibility exists at all. Oil-from-coal techniques such as the Fischer-Tropsch process and the Liquid Solvent Extraction process offer alternative sources of crude oil from coal reserves that are likely to last for hundreds of years to power economic growth.
But economic growth is seen as a cancer to Green zealots. Environmental activist and economic growth-hating George Monbiot from The Guardian newspaper laments that we are not running out of high-energy-density hydrocarbon fuels and that (sadly in his opinion) these are about to become even more abundant and less expensive than they are today.
As Dr. Robert Bradley reflected:
We are not running out of oil and gas. We are running into oil and gas. Predictions of peak oil and gas are not only being made for the wrong year and decade, but also for the wrong century.
On top of new oil discoveries, recent developments in drilling technology allows deeper drilling and change of drilling direction, resulting in many of the existing proven reserves giving up far more oil than was previously thought possible.
In 2012 Senior Fellow at Harvard University Dr. Leonardo Maugeri said:
Contrary to what most people believe, oil supply capacity is growing worldwide at such an unprecedented level that it might outpace consumption.
By 2020, the world’s oil production capacity could be more than 110 million barrels per day, an increase of almost 20 percent.
The USGS estimates there are 513 billion barrels of oil in the Orinoco Oil Belt in Venezuela, while the shale oil potential of Russia’s Bazhenov Formation in Western Siberia is 80 times larger than America’s Bakken Shales Formation in North Dakota. In reserve and as yet undeveloped are six of the world’s largest oil fields located in Ghana, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Iraq and Brazil.
In 2006 Abdallah Jum’ah, President & Chief Executive Officer of Saudi Aramco assured us that:
We are looking at more than four and a half trillion barrels of potentially recoverable oil. That number translates into 140 years of oil at current rates of consumption, or to put it anther way, the world has only consumed about 18 percent of its conventional oil potential. That fact alone should discredit the argument that peak oil is imminent and put our minds at ease concerning future petrol supplies.
Abiotic versus Biogenic
It’s likely that the things people think they know about hydrocarbon fuels and energy are mostly myths and energy is anything but scarce and the prospect of too much oil with no “Peak Oil” on the horizon are likely to become more of a headache for the anti-development and de-industrialists in the Green movement, especially with the possibility of abiotic oil.
Supporters of the biogenic origin of oil and gas formation promote the hypothesis that decayed organic matter formed all fossil fuels. This has been an article of faith for a long period of time, yet it was challenged as early as 1877 by the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev (1834-1907) and later by astrophysicist Fred Hoyle in 1982. Hoyle said:
The suggestion that petroleum might have arisen from some transformation of squashed fish or biological detritus is surely the silliest notion to have been entertained by substantial numbers of persons over an extended period of time.
Hoyle proposed that hydrocarbons, deep in the Earth’s crust, are the source of our oil reserves. Researchers from Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology and the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory have shown that hydrocarbons can be produced at depths between 60 and 150 km, in the Earth’s upper mantle. Here, it is suggested, the extremely high temperature and pressure will generate hydrocarbons.
Russian petroleum geologist Dr. Nikolai Alexandrovich Kudryavtsev (1893 – 1971) is generally considered to be the father of the modern abiotic theory of hydrocarbons. He has cited examples in Morocco, Kansas, California and Venezuela where substantial yields of hydrocarbons were found in crystalline or metamorphic basement rocks and in sediments overlying these. He related oil pools in sedimentary strata to the lower igneous basement rocks. Kudryavtsev’s Rule states that:
Any region in which hydrocarbons are found at one level will also have hydrocarbons in large or small quantities at all levels down to and into the basement rock.
In his book “The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels” Dr. Thomas Gold, astrophysicist and Emeritus Professor at Cornell University describes his theory about where oil and gas come from. He explains how oil and gas acquire their organic “signatures” and he says they are not “fossil fuels.”
Gold also points out that in 2004, NASA’s Cassini-Huygens Mission found abundant hydrocarbons (methane and ethane) on Saturn’s satellite Titan — which has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the oil and natural gas reserves on Earth and, so far as is known, there is no biological activity on Titan.
Gold also points out that oil is found in huge quantities in geologic formations where traces of prehistoric life are not sufficient to produce the existing reservoirs of oil. He describes them as:
Renewable, primordial soups continually manufactured by the Earth under ultra-hot conditions and tremendous pressures. As this substance migrates toward the surface, it is attached by bacteria, making it appear to have an organic origin dating back to the dinosaurs.
Russian scientist Dr. Vladimir Kutcherov considers that hydrocarbons are generated at great depths, 100 to 200 km below the Earth’s surface to later migrate into the earth’s crust to form oil and gas deposits. In his opinion, hydrocarbon deposits are not the remnants of old fossilized plant life as we have been led to believe. Kutcherov says his hypothesis is backed up by high pressure laboratory experiments, suggesting that the hydrocarbon supply is likely to be infinite.
A team of researchers from the University of California at Davis, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Shell has published the results of their study showing how hydrocarbons can be formed from methane deep in the Earth under extreme pressures and temperature. Dr. Giulia Galli said:
Our simulation study shows that methane molecules fuse to form larger hydrocarbon molecules when exposed to the very high temperatures and pressures of the Earth’s upper mantle. We don’t say that higher hydrocarbons actually occur under the realistic ‘dirty’ Earth mantle conditions, but we say that the pressures and temperatures alone are right for it to happen.”
In a geological setting, the subduction of an oceanic plate can result in intense pressure and temperature on limestone deposits (a source of carbon), water (a source of hydrogen) and Iron (as catalyst). All are present in the Earth’s crust and mantle so it would appear that all the key ingredients and conditions, simulated in laboratory experiments, would be available to form hydrocarbons.
The abiotic theory of renewable hydrocarbons remains controversial. It is certainly heresy to those who want to see the end of so-called fossil fuels, in much the same way that the idea of natural climate change is heresy to those promoting catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.
Dr. John Happs has an academic background in the geosciences. Now retired, he has been a science educator at several universities in Australia.