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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop WORKSHOP SUMMARY
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop Introduction This is a summary of the National Research Council’s (NRC) workshop Trends in Oil Supply and Demand and the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, which was held on October 20 and 21, 2005.1 The interest in holding such a workshop stemmed from a variety of recent analyses projecting that the global production of conventional oil might reach a certain level and then start to decline and that this oil peaking might occur within a decade or so.2 Some analysts were even predicting that peaking would occur much sooner, perhaps within a year or two. Many of these analyses were being put forth by individuals affiliated with the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO). The interest in peak oil reflects concern that a peaking of global conventional oil production could have extraordinary implications: namely, oil shortages, rapidly rising oil prices and inflation, economic downturns and recessions, and possibly catastrophic economic disruptions. These projections were in contrast to those of many other analysts and groups, such as the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), the International Energy Agency (IEA), major oil companies, and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC),3 which were projecting that conventional oil production could meet rising demand for many decades to come and that any oil peaking was much further off in the future. The importance of the workshop topic and of the issues raised during the workshop was echoed by most of the participants (speakers and guests), and there was intense discussion and an intellectual excitement during the two-day meeting. Between 125 and 150 people attended at various times, including members of the press, and audience participation was extensive. Regardless of their positions in the debate, various participants raised several issues that are potentially key to the nation’s energy future: These are indicated in the chapter “Potential Follow-up Studies and Activities.” Understanding these issues is urgent because of the time lags inherent in increasing the global supply of liquid fuels, reducing forecast demand, or transitioning from petroleum to alternative resources. 1 The workshop was held at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. 2 Conventional oil consists of liquid hydrocarbons of light and medium gravity and viscosity that occur in porous and permeable reservoirs and that are recovered using primary, secondary, and tertiary recovery techniques. Unconventional oils have higher densities (that is, denser than water), higher viscosities (oil sands have viscosities >10,000 centipoise), and tighter formations (oil shale or kerogen). 3 The members of OPEC are Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop The workshop explored the question of global conventional oil production and, in particular, considered estimates of when global conventional oil production might peak. The workshop planning group organized a set of presentations by inviting individuals who had recently analyzed global oil production, future trends in oil supply and demand, and trends in the global and regional energy markets. They came from the private sector, government, and universities. Their forecasts ranged from a production peak within the next decade or so (or sooner) to a peak sometime in the 2030-2050 time period. In addition, the workshop explored options for mitigating the possibly serious economic effects of peaking and attempted to identify topics for in-depth study that could help inform U.S. government policy. Following on the recent analyses conducted for oil peaking, most of the presentations focused on the supply of conventional oil and possible alternatives. However, future trends and the potential to reduce the demand for oil are important topics that will need to be pursued, as noted in the chapter “Potential Follow-up Studies and Activities.” The workshop was divided into four main sessions: (1) Setting the Stage, (2) Future Global Oil Supply and Demand Balance, (3) Mitigation Options and Time to Implementation, and (4) Potential Follow-up Studies and Activities. This summary presents the key points, issues, and questions that were raised by participants at the workshop and identifies possible topics for in-depth studies by the National Academies or another group. A planning group worked with the staff of the NRC Board on Energy and Environmental Systems to organize the workshop, develop an agenda, invite speakers, and identify topics to address. This summary report does not prioritize the ideas raised, nor does the order of their presentation imply any prioritization. No consensus views, conclusions, or recommendations are presented. For details about each individual presentation, see the viewgraph presentations by the individual presenters from the workshop4 or the individually authored summaries in Appendix C. Appendix A contains the statement of task. The workshop agenda, including the titles of presentations, is given in Appendix B. Appendix C contains short, individually authored summaries of each presentation, and Appendix D contains biographical sketches of planning group members and NRC staff. 4 The viewgraph presentations are available online at <http://www7.nationalacademies.org/bees/trends_in_oil_supply.html>.
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop Setting the Stage David Greene set the stage by noting that transportation, the circulatory system of the global economy, is all but entirely dependent on petroleum fuels. In light of this fact, it should be no surprise that the possibility that world oil production will soon reach a peak and then inexorably decline is a subject of great interest and intense debate. As noted by Dr. Greene, the “pessimists,” a somewhat pejorative label given to those who are convinced that the oil peak is imminent and that its consequences will be dire, assert that world oil supply is chiefly determined by the geology of oil resources. They point to geologist M. King Hubbert’s accurate prediction of the peak in U.S. oil production in 1970 and note that many other oil-producing regions have since reached their peaks and are now in decline. Noting that world oil discoveries peaked before 1970, they predict a peak in world oil production by the year 2010.5 The “optimists” counter that markets and technology will determine the supply of fuel for transport, and that nearly all past predictions of resource scarcity have proved to be mistaken. Innovation guided by market signals will expand and redefine energy resources for example, substitutes will be found as various forms of energy become too expensive.6 It was noted at some point during the workshop that the term “concernist” might be used instead of “pessimist,” indicating that there is concern about what a divergence between the demand for and supply of oil would mean for the economies and well-being of the world’s population. As noted in several presentations, over the next two to three decades, OPEC will need to increase production of conventional oil substantially to meet forecast growth in world oil demand. Will OPEC increase production, which would probably decrease price? Or will OPEC try to maintain its income by regulating oil supplies to keep prices stable at a higher price benchmark? To put the demand for oil in perspective, current global oil demand is about 82 million barrels/day (bbl/day) and with current trends is forecast to increase to about 120 million bbl/day by 2030.7 In his presentation, Nicola Pocchetino of the IEA noted that it 5 See, for example, C.A. Campbell and J.H. Lahererre, 1998, “The End of Cheap Oil,” Scientific American 278 (3): 78-83; M. King Hubbert, 1956, “Nuclear Energy and Fossil Fuels,” presented at the spring meeting of the Southern District Division of Production, American Petroleum Institute, in San Antonio, Tex. (March 7-9) and available online at <http://www.hubbertpeak.com/hubbert/1956/1956.pdf>. 6 See, for example, J. Ausubel, 2003, “Decarbonization: The Next 100 Years,” Alvin M. Weinberg Lecture, June 5, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Available online at <http://phe.rockefeller.edu/PDF.FILES/oakridge.pdf>; and M.A. Adelman and M.C. Lynch, 1997, “Fixed View of Resource Limits Creates Undue Pessimism,” Oil & Gas Journal (April 7): 56-59. 7 Currently, the global annual consumption of oil is about 30 billion bbl/year (82 million bbl/day multiplied by 365 days). The energy content of 1 bbl of oil is about 5.8 million BTUs (British thermal units),
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop was not clear that such trends were sustainable over the long term. He presented the results of an IEA alternative policy forecast that assumed a number of policies that could be put in place to slow the growth of global demand for oil, such as strengthening U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to reduce fuel use by light-duty vehicles (cars, light trucks, vans, sport utility vehicles [SUVs]), implementation of voluntary agreements in Europe on the reduction of oil consumption, introduction of alternative fuel vehicles, prolongation of Chinese fuel economy standards, increasing use of biofuels in Europe and Brazil, and mode switching (e.g., from private transportation to mass transport where appropriate). These efficiency policies resulted in an alternative policy forecast for global oil consumption of about 107 million bbl/day in 2030. There were some questions about whether IEA had done a peak oil analysis and how it had done an oil field by oil field analysis to estimate reserves. IEA believes the world has sufficient resources/reserves to meet demand until 2030 and does not foresee any global oil peaking before that year. Forecasting a peak in oil production depends on the reliability of the resource and reserve estimates, with a field by field analysis conducted for all fields having reserves of more than 0.5 billion bbl. The IEA analysis uses 2004 price assumptions. A number of projects are in place that will increase the production of oil, and IEA envisions a moderation in price increases by 2010, with real prices increasing after 2030. The USGS presentation by Tom Ahlbrandt discussed USGS estimates of cumulative production, reserves, reserve growth, and undiscovered resources of petroleum worldwide. It indicated that the resource base of conventional oil, as well as natural gas, is large. The USGS resource calculations are technical and data analysis is statistical, indicating the uncertainty surrounding how much of the resource would be recoverable. USGS low (95 percent probability), mean (expected value), and high (5 percent probability) estimates of ultimately recoverable conventional oil are 2,248 billion bbl, 3,003 billion bbl, and 3,896 billion bbl, respectively. Based on the mean estimate, EIA forecasts a potential peak in global oil production anywhere from 2025 to 2050 for 3 percent and 1 percent annual growth rates in oil production, respectively. In the discussion period, questions were asked about the extent to which reserve growth was dependent on the recovery factors assumed from existing oil fields8 that USGS has incorporated in its estimates of the relative contribution of technology. Ahlbrandt pointed out that the USGS assumptions about recovery factors may be low, i.e., conservative, because the data are based on analysis of U.S. oil fields, many of which are in tertiary recovery using today’s technology. Global oil fields are still largely in primary or secondary recovery mode and will benefit from new future technology, which would probably lead to higher recovery factors. On the other hand, several participants argued strongly that the reserve growth estimates by USGS are too high. The Arctic was identified as the next frontier in that its share of undiscovered resources (oil, natural gas liquids, and natural gas) is expected to be quite significant. or 1.46 million Kcal. One thousand cubic feet (Mcf) of natural gas contains 1 million BTUs of energy, or 0.252 million Kcal. 8 Recovery factor refers to the percentage of oil in a reservoir that can be produced. Improvements in technology can increase the percentage of oil that can eventually be produced relative to what is estimated to be in place in a given reservoir. Hence, differences in estimated recovery factors, which have improved over time, will affect the amount of oil that is estimated to be available for production in the future.
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop Another question arose: What are the chances of additional major oil fields being discovered in the world? There was speculation that major fields could be found in a few regions. There was also some question about how the USGS establishes its probability estimates. It takes a statistical approach, which is appropriate in the face of uncertainty in estimating oil resources and what proportion of them will become economically viable reserves in the future. Examining the uncertainties continues to be an important aspect in forecasting how much oil there is in the world.
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop Future Global Oil Supply and Demand Balance This session featured a variety of analyses of trends in oil supply and demand and of how the projections of oil production and future global oil demand will play out. The analyses ranged from detailed oil field by oil field analysis to much more aggregated views of oil supply and demand. A number of the forecasts for the balance between supply of and demand for conventional oil do not see a peaking of conventional oil production between now and 2030; others see this happening earlier. Peter Jackson said Cambridge Energy Associates (CERA) anticipates that global liquid supply has the potential to grow to as much as 105 million bbl/day by 2015. A number of decades will pass before an extended undulating plateau of global oil production might be reached. Jeremy Gilbert cited a study by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) suggesting that global production of conventional oil will reach a maximum within about 5 years. It will be difficult to meet projected world demand for liquid fuels in 2025. He also said that a plateau in global production would probably lead to as many problems for the world’s economy as would a peak. Matt Simmons reviewed the peak oil debate and pointed out that much better and higher quality data are needed to resolve the differences between the various points of view. He is also convinced that Saudi Arabia is either nearing its peak oil output or has perhaps passed it, and once Saudi production goes into decline, the world will also have passed peak oil. Mike Rodgers’s presentation forecast that non-OPEC production is likely to start declining sometime between 2010 and 2020, possibly early in that decade. By 2010 a wave of new projects will increase global supply to meet demand and probably lead to a softening of prices. His analysis of OPEC depletion, which is more conservative than the analysis of EIA, suggests serious constraints on global liquid fuels production once world demand reaches 100 million bbl/day. Scott Nauman presented ExxonMobil’s forecast, which envisions a worldwide demand of about 110 million bbl/day by 2030. Non-OPEC production plateaus sometime in the 2010-2020 time frame, and OPEC will be supplying about 47 million bbl/day by 2030. Technology will be essential for meeting this increasing demand. He does not see a peak or a plateau in global oil production between now and 2030. Kjell Aleklett emphasized the view of ASPO that the world will soon have a problem supplying enough crude oil to meet rising demand. He estimates a production peak
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop around 2010, although the exact year will depend on future demand, and ASPO estimates it will most certainly happen before 2020. Hermann Franssen pointed out a number of issues that will make it difficult for global oil supply to meet future anticipated demand in the next couple of decades. He believes that global oil discoveries peaked several decades ago and pointed to an emerging industry consensus that non-OPEC oil production will peak about 2015. He also noted that there are technical and nontechnical reasons that OPEC production growth will not follow the smooth path projected in many long-term forecasts. Adnan Shihab-Eldin noted that OPEC is committed to adding upstream and downstream production capacity and that oil supply is forecast to stay well above demand to 2010. Beyond 2010, demand growth will continue to rise and OPEC will increasingly supply the incremental barrels necessary to meet global demand. The global reserve/resource base can easily meet forecast demand growth for many decades to come. The world’s ultimately recoverable resources (URR) increased from 1995 to 2003 with advancing technology, enhanced oil recovery, and new reservoir development. He expects the world’s URR to continue to increase in the future. The real issue is not reserve availability but timely deliverability, and here enhanced cooperation and dialogue among all parties is essential to ensure security of demand as well as security of supply. There are obviously a number of uncertainties in all of the analyses. One is the extent to which assumptions are made about additions to the reserve base from new projects as well as the expected decline of production from existing fields. The detailed field-by-field analyses indicate this varies on a case-by-case basis, depending on the field. Another issue brought up was the energy profit ratio (EPR)—that is, the ratio of the amount of energy contained in a produced volume of oil to the amount of energy required to produce that volume. What fraction of total energy consumption is required to produce economically useful fuels from resources that are getting harder to find and exploit? For example, consider oil production from tar sands in Canada. A substantial amount of natural gas is being used to process the sands and produce the oil (see discussion of tar sands in the chapter “Mitigation Options and Time to Implementation”). How much impact will trends in the EPR have on the world’s ability to meet its future energy needs? To what extent will a declining EPR lead to increased carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the production of liquid hydrocarbon fuels? Although natural gas was not a focus of this workshop, it was brought up in the discussions. Exploration for natural gas has not been as extensive globally as exploration for petroleum resources. It is likely that any peaking of natural gas production would occur after petroleum production peaks. Also, it should be noted, as is done in the presentation on natural gas to liquids in the session on mitigation, that one option is to convert natural gas into liquid fuels, such as diesel fuel. Thus, natural gas resources can also contribute to meeting liquid fuel demand as well as substitute for the use of petroleum in some applications in some regions. In a number of the forecasts of conventional oil production, the producer countries are separated into OPEC members and nonmembers. A number of discussions revolved around indications that the production of conventional oil (including natural gas condensates) from the non-OPEC countries would reach a maximum sometime between 2012 and 2020. (Some participants argued that the peak would be reached earlier.) Some forecast a production plateau after the peak is reached, with non-OPEC production
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop remaining almost constant or declining only slowly out to 2030. Other analysts envisioned an undulating plateau with ups and downs, while still others saw a rapid decline in production after the peak. In any case, OPEC will have to increase its share of global oil production if demand continues to increase. Some uncertainties identified included these: What oil production projects are planned for the post-2010 time frame? What role will Arctic production play (although it is not likely to have much impact in the next 10 to 15 years)? What role will unconventional oil play? How will prices of oil and natural gas affect the supply side and the demand side? It would probably be useful to conduct extensive uncertainty and sensitivity analyses on such forecasts. The “concernists” and optimists also differ as to whether there will be a plateau in production or a rapid decline for the non-OPEC countries and whether OPEC can, or will, greatly expand production to meet the increasing worldwide demand. Many questions arose in this discussion. Will a plateau in non-OPEC oil production create as many problems as a peak? How fast will non-OPEC production decline after a peak? Are the data on additions to reserves robust, and is there in-depth understanding of the real ultimate recovery potential? How much can oil production technology accomplish? To what extent have production declines in some existing fields come about despite improvements in technology, or would they have declined much faster without these improvements? The answers to these questions are viewed very differently by the optimists and the concernists. As noted above, the recovery factor from different fields is an important component of projections. How much can recovery factors be increased by implementing technology? How high can recovery factors go? Are original oil-in-place calculations accurate? Assumptions about ultimate recovery factors have a significant impact on projections of future oil production. A number of questions were raised about the difficulties of gaining access to OPEC reserves and resources data and to oil field data, which are necessary to make projections. This is understandable since private companies and countries have vested interests in protecting data that can affect their economics and future viability. A number of participants emphasized that better data and more rigorous reporting are needed and suggested that there is a need for better dialogue between oil-producing and -consuming nations, which would allow consuming nations to clarify the implications of their national energy policies. Given the importance of the international oil market to their economies and the well-being of their citizens, how can policy makers and decision makers understand the data, have confidence in them, and know what is really happening? Would some sort of international agreement on obtaining realistic estimates of reserves and making the data more transparent be workable? Can we be confident that OPEC nations, such as Saudi Arabia, will have the production capacity to meet growing world oil demand as non-OPEC producers reach a plateau or start a decline in production? In particular, Matt Simmons expressed concern that Saudi oil production might be nearing its peak and might not be able to meet the expectations of many analysts for future increases. Can decision makers have confidence in published oil reserves of various countries, especially in the Middle East? Even with access to data and geological information, it is difficult to project how much oil will ultimately be produced from an individual oil field given uncertainty about changes in price and technology. The issue of energy prices arose in a number of questions and discussions. It was noted that many of the forecasts did not explicitly specify the price of energy, although it
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop may have been implicit in some of the complex models that generated the results. Price will affect consumer demand for oil, as well as the incentives for oil producers to invest in oil exploration and production. Given the difficulty of making forecasts, several participants suggested that it might be better to undertake scenario analyses to understand the significant trends and timing of potential imbalances between supply and demand and the potential for production to peak. Oil price volatility also creates problems because prices can collapse suddenly, which discourages investors and producers from timely investments to meet growing demand. It also makes it problematic to invest in alternative forms of energy or in technology to reduce fuel consumption on the demand side (e.g., automobiles with better fuel economy or more efficient oil furnaces). How can investments be made at the right time so they can survive when prices are low? In addition, although policy makers may pay attention when prices are high, how can their attention be sustained over the longer term if prices fluctuate? High prices place enormous burdens on developing countries. There may be a need for new policies and a robust international discussion between technical and policy experts about how to manage oil supply/demand trends and, eventually, make a transition to alternative supplies of energy. Also, political events in the world can affect the supply/demand balance in unforeseen ways. Scenario analyses could incorporate more than economic and technical assumptions and factors. Scott Tinker, chair of the session, summarized the main issues that had arisen in the discussions: (1) data transparency, especially for policy and decision makers; (2) oil price volatility; (3) projections of oil reserve growth; (4) the extent to which recovery efficiencies can increase; (5) the global availability of conventional and unconventional oil that can be ultimately recovered and used; and (6) the extent to which oil field extensions can be expected to contribute to the oil reserve base.
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop Mitigation Options and Time to Implementation This session focused on options that could mitigate any shortfall between the supply of conventional oil and the demand for it and for other liquid fuels. This session focused on a number of technologies and covered their state of development or technical readiness, the time frame for implementation, and their potential contribution to the supply of liquid fuels or a reduction in the fuel consumption of light-duty vehicles. Increasing the supply of liquid fuels included consideration of improved technology for conventional oil exploration and production, as well as technologies for the production of liquid fuels from alternative feedstocks. Advanced technologies for improving the fuel economy of light-duty vehicles (cars, light trucks, vans, SUVs) were also considered. The workshop focused on liquid fuels and did not address in any great detail a long-term transition to a “hydrogen economy” or an “electric economy” or some other non-liquid-based system, which could mitigate a declining availability of petroleum. One of the main issues discussed early in the session was the question of timing. Bob Hirsch’s presentation considered currently viable, potentially high-impact mitigation options, including (1) improved/reduced vehicle fuel consumption, (2) enhanced recovery of conventional oil, and (3) substitute liquid fuels from heavy oil/oil sands, coal, and remote natural gas. A scenario analysis of an hypothesized worldwide “crash” mitigation program utilizing related commercial and near-commercial technologies arrived at the following most optimistic possible outcomes: Waiting until world oil production peaks before embarking on a crash mitigation program that deploys all options simultaneously would leave the world with a significant liquid fuel deficit for more than two decades. Initiating such a crash program 10 years before world oil peaking helps considerably but still leaves a liquid fuels shortfall for roughly a decade after the time that oil would otherwise have peaked. Initiating a crash mitigation program 20 years before peaking could avert a world liquid fuels shortfall for the forecast period. Hirsch noted that if timely investments are not made before the peak, there would probably be severe economic impacts. In the discussions about preparing for a future transition from conventional oil to other feedstocks for liquid fuels, it was noted that significant amounts of capital investment will be required and that a crash program would accelerate the increase in costs. Also, are
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop alternatives to oil, such as biofuels, going to yield an EPR sufficient to replace the higher EPRs that oil has offered? On the demand side, for example, vehicle fuel economy needs to be looked at in more detail: Has its potential been underestimated? What is the potential for plug-in hybrids, which could help to substitute electricity for liquid fuels?9 What is the timing? What will happen to the world’s less developed countries as the richer countries bid up the price for oil in a transition? Some participants noted that a transition could take longer, even if we knew when a peaking was likely to occur. The oil and gas industry probably does not have the infrastructure, including skilled and experienced technical people, to undertake a crash program. Some noted that it’s not clear how the market will work and what kinds of mitigation strategies will emerge; there could be many unforeseen consequences if oil becomes more expensive and scarce and clear price signals emerge. A number of advanced technologies will be required to increase the economically recoverable reserves of conventional petroleum. As noted by Don Paul, the resource base is large and the focus is on reducing cost, advancing technology, and implementing environmental management. Technology advancement is focused on leveraging major trends in the economy as a whole—for example, in information imaging and processing technologies. There are also growing organizational challenges to integrate all the facets of the oil business from finding and developing reserves through producing and marketing fuels to meet world demand. Costs have to be brought down to manage capital requirements. Most of the time technology improvement is incremental, but evolving technologies can have a substantial impact. For example, the digital revolution enabled a two- to threefold increase in the number of barrels of oil produced per professional (largely as a function of workforce reduction, not a production increase); the revitalizing of reservoirs can extend the time at which older, mature areas peak; and three-dimensional imaging and modeling have improved capital investment efficiency. Also, new approaches will make resources more accessible—for example, drilling in 10,000 feet or so of water may be about the limit for drilling for undersea resources, but operations might move to the sea floor and under the ice caps. The next trillion barrels of oil will come predominately from frontier regions (Arctic and deepwater); from advanced technology, including enhanced oil recovery (EOR); and from unconventional reservoirs. There was some discussion of how technology could affect reservoir recovery factors. Since there is so much variation from field to field, there can be no generalization about recovery factors, but they could probably be raised in every field by 5 to 30 percent. It will be important to redo studies of major reservoirs with new tools to better understand the potential for enhanced production. In general it would be important to clarify the information on resources, reserves, and production and to communicate it in a more transparent fashion to decision makers, politicians, and the public. In starting his heavy oil presentation, Bob Heinemann noted that increasing oil production over the next 10 to 20 years by a sizeable amount to meet projected demand will 9 A plug-in hybrid is a variation of the traditional hybrid vehicle, which incorporates an engine, battery storage, and an electric drive propulsion system. A hybrid vehicle can operate at times on battery power alone, when it does not need the engine, and provides better fuel economy than a conventional vehicle. A plug-in hybrid’s batteries could be charged by plugging into the electric grid (say, overnight), which would store enough electricity to achieve a significant proportion of a vehicle’s range during a given day. This would reduce demand for petroleum and increase demand for electricity, the vast majority of which is produced from nonpetroleum resources in the United States.
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop be a daunting task and perhaps more interesting than the peak oil debate. Huge amounts of capital, skilled technical people, and equipment will be needed. Worldwide, somewhat over 3 million bbl/day of heavy oil are produced, a little less than 4 percent of the world’s total oil production. Several technologies for supplying heat to mobilize heavy oils were reviewed, such as cyclic steam injection and steam flooding. Heavy oil production could double in the next 10 years to, say, 6 or 7 million bbl/day, depending on the economics of the energy system. Worldwide, the recoverable heavy oil resource base is estimated at about 435 billion bbl (does not include bitumen resources). The issue of price volatility arose again, as it did earlier in the workshop: Longer term price volatility will discourage sustained investment. From a company’s point of view, it is a market risk that has to be hedged against, although a number of audience participants wondered if some sort of policy intervention would be required to stimulate investment in some alternative sources of oil. For in situ heavy oil production, advances in technology could help to reduce well spacing, or other sources of heat, such as solar, could be developed. It did not appear that even at an oil price of $60/bbl, production of heavy oil could accelerate much above what it is now, although at $40/bbl there would probably be somewhat less production. One participant asked about the EPR. As one point of reference, it was noted that three cogeneration plants that sell electricity10 use about 37 million ft3/day of natural gas to produce about 17,000 bbl/day of heavy oil. Canadian oil sands (tar sands) operations are currently producing about 1 million bbl/day (about 19 percent from mining and 81 percent from in situ operations). The technology for conversion to synthetic oil has improved significantly over the past 20 years, and the in situ recovery factor is 60-70 percent. Advances in well completion, horizontal drilling technology, and steam injection have been applied. There is about $US 20 billion in projects under construction or approved, and $US 50 billion in announced projects. Canada projects that about 2.7 million bbl/day will be produced by 2015. It plans on expanding its exports to the Far East and California, and expanding pipeline capacity to the United States. Exploitation of the oil sands resource has caused land disturbance from mining and had significant impacts on water. Advances have been made that reduce land disturbance and increase water recycling. Tailing ponds and lakes of polluted waters that were generated in past operations are being closed down. The EPR came up again from the audience in discussions about tar sands, with one of the workshop participants claiming that because every 3 to 4 units of energy produced require about 1 unit of energy it is an energy-intensive process, mostly using natural gas at this point.11 However, the resource base is large. During discussions, it was unclear 10 Assuming a value of 5.8 million BTUs per barrel of oil produced and 1 million BTUs per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) of natural gas, an EPR of about 2.7 units of energy output is produced per unit of natural gas energy used. 11 Currently, about 1 Mcf of natural gas for thermal in situ processing and 0.5 Mcf of natural gas for upgrading are required per barrel of synthetic crude oil produced. This corresponds to an EPR of about 3.86 units of energy output of oil per unit of natural gas energy used. Such EPR calculations will depend on the processes used and the particular character of the resource. See, for example, Canada’s Oil Sands, Opportunities and Challenges to 2015, National Energy Board, May 2004. Available on the Web at <http://www.neb.gc.ca/energy/energyreports/emaoilsandsopportunitieschallenges2015/EMAOilSandsOpportunities2015Canada2004_e.pdf>.
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop whether there were better processes for reducing the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from such energy-intensive processes for example, by using nuclear energy to generate heat or by capturing CO2 and sequestering it. Some in the audience were skeptical that using nuclear energy to produce heat for the process would be an attractive commercial option and noted that reservoirs for CO2 sequestration are about 300 miles away. Oil shale resources are large, with the United States having approximately 1,200 billion bbl of resources. As described in the presentation on shale oil, Shell’s in situ conversion (ISC) process for producing oil from oil shale is a slow electrical heating process that converts the oil shale to a light crude oil, which then needs some above-ground refining. Shell has produced about 1,500 bbl of oil in a concept test program that heats the subsurface to 600°F-700°F over several years. Further testing is necessary to demonstrate commercial viability by 2010. It is estimated that a 150,000 bbl/day operation would require a 2-3 GW power plant with an EPR of about 3:1 (energy output of the liquid fuels to the energy input to the power plant). Carbon dioxide emissions are projected to be similar to those from light conventional crude oil. Both the direct and indirect liquefaction of coal to liquid fuels are technologies that produce substitutes for petroleum. A direct liquefaction process is being built in China, and gas-to-liquids technology has advanced the state of knowledge of Fischer-Tropsch processes. A 120,000 bbl/day plant would probably cost about $75,000 per daily barrel, resulting in a capital cost on the order of $9 billion. According to David Gray, coal-to-liquids technology is competitive at a crude oil price between $30 to $50/bbl, depending on coal type and location. Dr. Gray estimated that with an assumed slow ramp-up of coal-to-liquids plants under an oil price of $50-$60/bbl, perhaps 35 plants could be built by 2030, corresponding to 4 million bbl/day of production capacity. Note that a coal-to-liquids plant producing 120,000 bbl/day of liquid fuels would sequester about 16,000 tons C per day (53,500 tons/day of CO2) and would emit about 1,700 tons C per day to the atmosphere. If CO2 was not sequestered, C emissions to the atmosphere per barrel of oil produced from coal would be almost twice as much as that from conventional oil. In the discussion, it was noted that coal gasification processes are flexible as to what products they make liquids, electricity, or hydrogen. There were also questions of whether such capital-intensive investments would require price guarantees or loan guarantees. One participant asked about the production of methanol via coal gasification. However, using methanol as a fuel would require a major infrastructure transition from gasoline and diesel fuel, the primary fuels now used for transportation. In his natural gas-to-liquids presentation, Emil Jacobs noted that natural gas demand is increasing worldwide and that there are extensive reserves of natural gas worldwide, with about 70 percent of conventional natural gas reserves residing in the Middle East and Asia. Qatar has approximately 900 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas, and ExxonMobil is building a natural gas-to-liquids plant there that is slated for operation in 2011. The plant will cost $7 billion and produce 154,000 bbl/day of hydrocarbon products, including 80,000 bbl/day of diesel fuel. It will consume 1.8 billion ft3/day of natural gas. The current world market for diesel fuel is about 15.4 million bbl/day. Several companies will probably have three to five gas-to-liquids plants in place by 2015, producing a total of perhaps 450,000 bbl/day of diesel fuel. Dan Sperling noted that liquid fuels from biomass may require a transition to a more decentralized, distributed energy system since the size of production plants for
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop biofuels will probably be constrained by the limited amount of feedstock that can be collected economically from the surroundings of a biomass fuel production facility. Thus, local or regional markets may be more appropriate for this resource. Given advances in the processes for converting cellulose into liquid fuels, biofuels could make a substantial contribution in a few regions and countries. Such conversion is relatively easy to implement but expensive. It offers the potential of producing liquid fuels with low greenhouse gas emissions, but it is not clear at this point how a substantial biofuels industry will arise. Who will invest in and promote cellulose conversion technology and other advanced biofuels options? John Heywoods’s presentation and the associated discussion of fuel efficiency/economy improvements for vehicles focused on light-duty vehicles and trends in the U.S. market but made some reference to the global implications. He noted that in the United States, light-duty vehicles account for about 50 percent of the fuel used in the transportation sector, freight movements account for about 40 percent, and air travel for about 10 percent. The scale of activity is enormous, with perhaps 2 billion vehicles expected to be operating worldwide by 2050. In his presentation, Dr. Heywood estimated that mainstream engines, vehicles, and transmissions can be steadily improved over time to reduce fuel consumption in new vehicles by 35 percent in about 20 years, but at an additional cost of between $500 and $1,000 per vehicle; hybrid vehicles can improve on this by 20 to 30 percent at additional cost. Incrementally improving baseline vehicle technology will be important to developing nations as well to keep costs low and help enhance market penetration. But the fleet turnover is slow, and it is not clear that advanced technologies for fuel economy improvements will be taken up by the market in a substantial way. Improvements in fuel economy could have a substantial impact by the 2025-2035 time frame, but it is not clear that this will happen. Much of what happens depends on the price of gasoline. Some participants asked what would happen with a strong gasoline price signal, say $10/gal. In the long term, if reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are critical, then fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen from non-CO2-producing sources are one means of achieving this. In addition, if liquid fuels become very expensive, the transition to such technologies would also be stimulated. Dr. Heywood noted that even with successful development of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, the potential of fuel-cell hybrid vehicles for reducing petroleum use by the on-the-road fleet before 2035 is small.
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop Potential Follow-up Studies The discussions on oil peaking reflected a variety of perspectives on whether conventional oil production will peak or plateau, when that might occur, and how markets and governments would prepare and transition to alternatives to conventional oil when a peak or a plateau seems likely. Some believe that global conventional oil production will peak soon, generally because they do not believe OPEC has as much oil as the USGS and others believe it does. Others disagree, believing that oil supply will be able to meet demand for decades to come. Some believe that oil peaking will have catastrophic economic consequences, while others believe that markets and innovations will handle this problem just as they have handled many others. It is a good debate. Although participants had differing views on the timing, drivers, and impacts of peak oil, many of them felt that mitigation planning needs to begin now. If the transition through a peaking phase is not managed well, it could have significant adverse implications for the global economy. Other key issues arose at the workshop: Non-OPEC regions will find it more and more difficult to increase conventional oil production over the next 5-10 years. If world demand for oil continues to increase at rates expected, either (1) OPEC’s market share will increase greatly and OPEC will expand production rapidly or (2) much of the growth in demand for liquid hydrocarbons will have to be met from unconventional sources. This heightens the usual energy security concerns. Satisfying the expected levels of demand for liquid hydrocarbons from unconventional sources will require enormous capital, both physical and human, and there are important concerns about the availability of that capital. To what extent can market forces, technology, and policies change the demand for petroleum? The environmental consequences of increasing use of unconventional oil sources could be serious. Understanding these and other key issues is urgent because of the time lags for adaptation. This part of the workshop focused on eliciting suggestions from participants for in-depth studies that ought to be carried out that could clarify issues surrounding the supply and demand of oil, help to inform decision makers and others, bring some consensus, or at least better communicate differing points of view. As part of the introduction to this
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop session, it was noted that the National Academies is a nonprofit organization and not part of the government. It conducts studies by relying on volunteers who are appointed to committees based on their expertise. The National Academies, through its National Research Council (NRC), is known for conducting studies in a manner that is independent, objective, and credible, bringing to bear the best scientific and technical talent on any particular issue. Its reports are subject to an extensive review process before they are issued and made available to the public. Since the timing of global oil peaking is uncertain, there was discussion of how this issue could be brought to the attention of politicians and policy makers even though there is not necessarily a crisis. Given the large quantities of liquid fuels needed by the world economy and the large investments, long lead times are needed to either increase the supply of liquid fuels or reduce the demand for them. Thus, an understanding of some of the key issues raised at the workshop is urgent, as is planning for a possible transition. One challenge is how to create enough momentum and attention by policy makers without creating a sense of crisis. How should a dialogue with policy makers be opened without damaging credibility? That timing is uncertain and energy prices may well decline creates a problem for politicians, who do not always consider the long term. Could the NRC play a role here, perhaps by holding workshops? Perhaps a roundtable of industry, government, and public interest representatives could foster dialogue and understanding on the subject. The other role the NRC could play is to conduct studies, the topics of which were identified in the workshop discussions as follows: The enormity of the problem and the magnitude of the supply of and demand for petroleum and liquid fuels, as well as the long time scales involved for any transition from conventional petroleum to substitutes, is probably not known by the public. Regardless of when a peak in conventional oil production occurs, there will be a substantial need for capital investment. This need will be exacerbated if peaking takes place sooner rather than later. How should a limited amount of capital be invested, not only for technology that would increase the supply of fuels but also for technology that would reduce demand? What are the infrastructure requirements and how can they be met? What are the implications for the United States given the extent to which its debt is supported by the rest of the world? The constituents of the supply of liquid fuels and the demand for them should be analyzed in detail and explained to decision makers and the public. For example, what additions are being made to oil reserves each year, how much investment is required to increase recovery factors, how much oil is being used, what would a plateau in non-OPEC oil production mean, and what will be required to meet growing oil demand for the next few decades? What do the probabilities of reserve estimates imply, and what are the consequences if the higher estimates of reserves (which have a lower probability) are not realized? The answers to such questions should be presented in a manner that is understandable and credible to decision makers. This may entail consideration of a new set of conventions for defining the various categories of resources and reserves that would address some of the perceived limitations of the Securities and Exchange Commission definitions.
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop An analysis should be conducted of the increased energy, investment, materials, and skills needed to exploit harder-to-get oil resources and alternatives such as coal, heavy oil, tar sands, oil shale, and biomass. What is the EPR of alternatives, and what would be the trends in the energy yield per unit of energy and other resources invested? What will be the effect on greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere if liquid fuels are produced from alternative resources? It would be worthwhile to lay out potential transition strategies and investigate options for how the economies of the world might be affected under different scenarios. What are the economic costs? Will price be an adequate signal to motivate investment in alternatives? What can the market be expected to do, and what policies will be needed to avert severe economic dislocations? A study by the NRC could focus on solutions and opportunities for reducing petroleum consumption. This should include the impact of rising fuel prices, technology advances, and policies on reducing the demand for petroleum. As part of this study, a deeper analysis of non-OPEC production forecasts could be undertaken, since as seems to have been indicated by presentations at the workshop non-OPEC production could peak within a decade. If so, that is a powerful statement and conclusion, and opportunities for reducing petroleum consumption will be a very important strategy. It was suggested that a broad energy study be conducted by the NRC, perhaps encompassing the next 25 years, that would look at fuels and electric power and address the options available for meeting anticipated demand for both. While the study could be focused on the United States, it would have to consider the global oil market and its impact on the U.S. economy. Or it could look at the entire global economy. It could look at different scenarios for fuel and electric power demands and investigate the means of meeting those demands using different feedstocks. It could address questions like these: What will it take to meet anticipated demand, including human and capital resources? What is the likely timing? What are the implications for greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere? What kinds of investments could be made on the demand side to reduce consumption? What are the costs of different technologies for supply, and what stage of development are they at? What are the roles of the private and public sectors? What policies might be required, and what are the implications of different policies? The study could lay out transition strategies under different scenarios for how to avoid significant economic dislocations and “demand destruction” (forced reductions in demand because of insufficient supply) and meet anticipated future demand for energy. A study of trends in oil supply and demand and the potential for peaking of conventional oil should be undertaken, to help the public and decision makers make informed decisions about whether policy measures are required or not. This study could incorporate the following considerations: What would happen when a peak in global conventional oil production occurs? How can the peak oil challenge be communicated to the public and politicians?
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop What do we know about oil reserve growth, and how can we better understand rates of oil reserve growth and recovery efficiencies? For how long after non-OPEC producers peak will OPEC be able and willing to bridge the supply/demand gap? Will alternatives to conventional oil be able to bridge the gap? What can we say about efficiency and vehicle fuel economy, and how much can they contribute to reducing the demand for petroleum? How much oil does OPEC have? Can we rely on OPEC’s reserves? Are sufficient human resources and capital available for investments to meet global oil demand and avoid serious economic impacts? What should scientists/engineers do next to help inform policy makers and politicians about the issue? A study focused on a risk mitigation strategy could be developed that incorporates the probabilities of the various factors that affect oil supply and demand and that allows estimating when a peak might occur. The study could consider what kinds of plans should be put in place and how they might be executed. Uncertainties other than technical and economic would also need to be considered, such as environmental constraints, political trends, and trade issues. A scenario analysis might be more appropriate for developing and prioritizing a set of actions that would reduce the risk to the economies of the world posed by a peaking of oil production. Regardless of when a peak in oil production might occur, the transition to alternatives to conventional oil, and the timing of this transition, is an important topic and could be studied. What has to be done to make a transition to a sustainable energy system that in the long run will be less dependent on conventional oil? How will the governments and private companies of the world ensure that investments will take place in a timely fashion? Will prices signals be sufficient? What policies need to be considered? If the study is focused on the United States, how will the U.S. economy or other economies be affected? What are the implications of global flows of petrodollars? There is a great amount of information that is not available. Either as part of one of the bigger studies noted above, or as a separate study unto itself, we need a better understanding of oil reserves outside the United States, energy use in different sectors of national economies, transportation use internationally, and other components of oil supply and demand worldwide. The data need to be made transparent so that decision makers and other concerned groups can develop some confidence in the projected trends and claims of various analysts. International standards for oil reserves accounting are desirable. An educational activity could be initiated, possibly aimed at K-12 levels, to teach citizens about the issues and what a transition might entail. Social scientists as well as engineers, scientists, policy makers, and public interest representatives should be included in this activity. The activity should consider a potential transition to a post-peak, potentially lower energy world that would not generate current levels of economic growth and that people would have to learn to adapt to.
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Trends in Oil Supply and Demand, the Potential for Peaking of Conventional Oil Production, and Possible Mitigation Options: A Summary Report of the Workshop A broad energy study could be undertaken, perhaps addressing in some generic manner “Our Energy Problem.” Given how broad the subject is, it might be broken down into a half dozen or so manageable themes that address the following: Husbanding petroleum, The clean use of coal, Diversity of energy sources, Opportunities for energy efficiency and reduced energy consumption, Opportunities for solar energy, An energy strategy, and The need for human resources (talent). A study could be conducted on the impacts on developing countries of oil price volatility, potential peaking, and international competition for oil. Among other factors, it should include what might happen to fertilizer and food production and potential impacts on developing countries, and consider policies that could alleviate potentially severe disruptions to these countries.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: