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International Energy Agency accepts Peak Oil

The International Energy Agency, IEA, has released a new report, World Energy Outlook 2004, WEO2004 [1], which has been reviewed by the New York Times on October 27 under the title: Oil Demands Can Be Met, but at a High Price [2].

A month ago, at a conference in Abu Dhabi, I met Fatih Birol, the Agency's Chief Economist and principal author of the report. During a coffee break, we discussed the upcoming release, and he stated that we in ASPO would probably appreciate it. The New York Times article was therefore a disappointment, indicating that the IEA had once again copied the grossly implausible energy outlook released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) in April [3]. The New York Times message was “that world oil demand will grow by about 50 percent to 121 million barrels a day by 2030”. Chapter 3 in the Outlook, “Oil Market Outlook”, covers this forecast, but careful reading delivers a completely different message, namely that peak-oil is around the corner. Indeed Fatih Birol’s remarks was true: the Outlook does now start to discuss crude oil supply the same way as we do in ASPO [4], referring to peak-oil, backdating, creaming curves, and the other techniques that we have been using. The problem with Chapter 3 is that the reader needs to have detailed knowledge to understand the true message. Below, I will try to give the code needed, the Uppsala code.


In the Summary, the IEA states: “Production of conventional oil will not peak before 2030 if the necessary investments are made”. But we find in Chapter 3 that a peak on this date is premised on the USGS Mean estimate of 2626 Gb (billion barrels) for remaining conventional oil (IEA include NGL, Natural Gas Liquid, in conventional oil), adding that if this estimate should prove too high, the peak of production would come by 2015 or before . It is very important to note that the IEA now accepts the notion that there is a peak in oil production, even if there is uncertainty as to the date. The range is from 2015 to 2033, coming even sooner if all the assumptions are not fulfilled. It follows that Governments are now on notice that they must make energy plans for the future that accept peak oil as a reality. That will be a departure from past practice.....

(See the original article for the complete text, with many graphs and tables.)

Editorial Notes: Kjell Aleklett is professor in Physics, Uppsala Hydrocarbon Depletion Study Group, Uppsala University, Sweden. -BA

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