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Peak oil and energy - Dec 6

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

IEA WEO 2008 - NGLs to the Rescue?

Rune Likvern, The Oil Drum: Europe
According to the IEA World Energy Outlook 2008, p. 261:

Output of natural gas liquids — light hydrocarbons that exist in liquid form underground and that are produced together with natural gas and recovered in separation facilities or processing plants — is expected to grow rapidly over the Outlook period. Global NGL production is projected to almost double, from 10.5 mb/d in 2007 to just under 20 mb/d in 2030.

One can see from IEA's chart of World Oil Production by Source that the growth of natural gas liquids, or NGLs, is being depended on as a significant contributor to total world oil production:

World Oil Production by Source, Reference Scenario, shown as Figure 11.1 on page 250 of IEA WEO 2008.

In this post, I will document that there is good reason to believe that the IEA WEO 2008 projections in the reference scenario overshoots the likely world production of NGLs by as much as 35 - 50 % by 2030.
(5 December 2008)

The IEA WEO 2008: Long term prospects for coal production

Rembrandt, The Oil Drum: Europe
The International Energy Agency expects coal production to nearly double by 2030 in their World Energy Outlook 2008 if no large scale governmental intervention occurs. In this post, I analyse the likelihood of this happening from the perspective of available coal reserves.

My conclusions are that if we look at a global level, taking coal reserve data at face value, the global IEA reference scenario for coal production to 2030 is possible. However, when focusing on China, the country that now produces 41% of all coal, the scenario is unlikely to occur because China possesses insufficient coal reserves to sustain production

to 2030 at the level expected by the IEA. Only in a highly optimistic case, if China's coal reserves are more than double those currently known, will China be able to sustain coal production as expected in the IEA reference scenario.

Based on available coal reserve data and scenarios (EWG 2007; Tao and Li 2007), it is much more likely that China will reach a plateau in coal production somewhere between 2015 and 2025. The implications of this are significant, because it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to substitute other energy sources for coal on the vast scale needed for Chinese growth. The quality of reserve data is poor, however. Better reserve data is needed, particularly for China, to have certainty with respect to these findings.

In a follow up post, I will take a look at the short term prospects to 2015 for coal production, imports, exports, and prices in relation to the World Energy Outlook 2008.
(4 December 2008)

Interview of Richard Heinberg by Dr. Helen Caldicott
(audio) via Global Public Media

The crisis and opportunity of peak oil and peak coal

In this engrossing discussion with Dr. Helen Caldicott, Richard Heinberg explains the situation of Peak Oil, and reminds us just how reliant our society is on the finite resources of oil, coal and gas. We are reaching a state where the depletion of these fossil fuels will force us to undergo a major transition to low-energy and re-localized societies with food grown and products made close to home. Heinberg describes how transportation will need to change - currently oil is responsible for 95% of transportation technologies in the United States. Originally posted at
(6 October 2008, but just posted)

Mercedes – Chrysler and Peak Oil

Kjell Aleklettk, Aleklett's Energy Mix
This week in Sweden has been all about the automobile industry so why not conclude with some events from 2005 and 2006? It began with I received a telephone call from Stuttgart and one of the heads in Mercedes’ research department. He was interested in Peak Oil and the research work we did at Uppsala University. We discussed this for a while and I was then asked whether I would consider doing a special study for Mercedes.

At that time Mercedes was controlled by Chrysler and I understood that approval was required from their leadership since Peak Oil was controversial. Some weeks later he called me back and told me that the time was not right for a study.

One year later in September 2006 Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrere, Rodger Bentley and yours truly were invited to Brussels to discuss ”Hydrocarbon and Energy Futures”. At that moment I received a new call from Mercedes. Now the proposal for the special study was specified in detail. It was revealed that Chrysler’s advisor on energy with respect to oil and fuel for cars was CERA, (Cambridge Energy Research Associates), in the USA, a company led by Daniel Yergin. The suggestion was that CERA and we would make our analyses using the exact same database and we would then meet to discuss and explain our results, i.e. why we see a peak in oil production in contrast to CERA. Naturally, I could not say no to such an interesting suggestion – it felt very exciting! In the end, however, CERA backed out.

Through other channels I later had confirmed that it was Chrysler’s leadership in the USA that also said no – they wanted absolutely nothing to do with Peak Oil. I can also note that Mercedes has now parted ways with Chrysler.

Today as the leadership of Chrysler stands before Congress with cap in hand one can state that they should not have relied on CERA’s rosy description of future oil production and maybe Congress should have listened more to me than CERA when we were both called to witness in December 2005. You can read my testimony here. (More on my interview by Congress)

(Click for Picture from the interview by Congress)

Kjell Aleklett, Professor, Uppsala University, Sweden, Dr. Robert L. Hirsch, Senior Energy Program Advisor, SAIC, Alexandria, Va, and Robert Esser, Senior Consultant and Director, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Huntington, N.Y.

(5 December 2008)
Kjell Aleklett is president of ASPO International and an occasional contributor to Energy Bulletin. He is also Professor in Physics at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Global Energy Systems Group (former Uppsala Hydrocarbon Depletion Study Group) at Uppsala University.

Kjell keeps a blog in English and Swedish: Aleklett's Energy Mix.

Peak oil still relevant? More than ever.

Daniel Lerch, Post Carbon Institute
Oil production is up, but prices are back to 2005 levels. You might think this means the pressure's off on peak oil. But a closer look at what's actually happening -- and what the peak oil concept says about the real long-term constraints on oil supplies -- reveals the low prices will actually create more problems, and sooner.
Before the Thanksgiving holiday we got an email from William M., a reader of our newsletter, asking, "Why if oil supply is decreasing and demand is increasing is the price collapsing? What is happening? Is Peak Oil therefore a myth?"

I addressed parts of this question in an October blog post but there's more to dig in to, particularly regarding some common misconceptions about what's happening with supply and demand. I'll take William's question as a framework for addressing some of these issues:


Strictly speaking, the global oil supply has been decreasing since we started drilling in the mid-1800s. What we really care about is the ever-increasing flow of oil from underground reservoirs to markets because that's what feeds ever-increasing global demand. The oil industry generally talks about 'production' (i.e., extracting oil out of the ground and 'producing' it into a usable barrel), so this part of the question is, more accurately stated, "If global oil production is declining..."

But, production isn't necessarily declining right now. To explain why, we first need to pick apart what we really mean by the word "oil" -- which isn't as clear-cut as most people think. Analysts generally divide oil into two kinds, conventional and unconventional:
(4 December 2008)
Also at Post Carbon Cities

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