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World Oil Exports; US Oil Imports; and a Few Thoughts on Canada

Gail Tverberg, The Oil Drum
Matt Mushalik from Australia was good enough to send me this graph of world oil exports, calculated from new oil data provided by the EIA.

This inspired me to put together a few other somewhat related graphs, relating to oil exports and US imports. Since Canada is such a tiny piece of world exports, but seems to be mentioned as a possible major source of future US imports, I have looked at it separately as well.

The likelihood of a huge ramp up in imports from Canada seems remote. Canadian exports to the US require continued imports to the East Coast of Canada. If imports of oil to Canada decline as world exports decline, US oil imports from Canada may also decline, because ramped up production from oil sands may not be enough to offset declines in production and imports elsewhere.

The major thing we note from Figure 1 is that the peak in oil exports seems to be in 2005, with recent exports down less than two percent. If oil production in 2009 is down, it is likely there will be a bigger drop off exports than in prior years. The two major exporting countries are Saudi Arabia and Russia. The graph seems to indicate that at least thorough 2008, exports are relatively level for the two large exporters.

In the US graph, the peak in imports is also in 2005, with a much steeper downward slope than in the world export graph. This would suggest that the US is being outbid elsewhere on imports.

On Figure 2, I have shown US imports separately for the largest US sources. The most consistent of the exporters over the period (up until 2009) was Saudi Arabia. Mexico’s exports have been declining, as have those of Venezuela. The only country whose exports to the US have been increasing is Canada.

But if a person looks back at Figure 1, Canada is only a thin light green line near the top of the graph, with relatively little net exports. How can it be ramping up exports to the United States?

I decided to look at this a bit further…
(13 August 2009)

The International Energy Agency Shills For OPEC, The Oil Speculators and the Peak Oil Pranksters

Raymond J. Learsy, Huffington Post
When it comes to matters oil and energy, the globby hand of oil influence seems to smear all in the industry, even those whose mandate is to look after the interests of consumers and national economies. And that now pertains to the otherwise-esteemed International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA is an energy forum of 28 industrialized nations committed to taking joint measures to meet oil supply emergencies, to co-ordinate their policies to insure energy security, as well as maintaining emergency oil stocks. They are further mandated to operate a “permanent information system on the international oil market.” And here lies the rub. Information that is fully objective, or weighted in the interests of given interests?

…Then, of course, there is the chicken-little pronouncements of Fatih Birol, the Chief Economist of the IEA, who garnered much press recently by rehashing the depletion theories of that star peak oil prankster Matt ($500/bbl oil) Simmons. Thereby aligning himself with such soothsayers as Sam Kier’s Pennsylvania “Rock Oil” of 1855. The U.S. Geological Survey of 1885 predicting California having “little or no chance” of finding oil. The California Kern Field written off as depleted in 1942 with forecast of 44 million barrels remaining, only to produce 10 times that amount since, with another 970 million/bbls to go. On to 1914 when the U.S Bureau of Mines assessed America’s supply of oil to be adequate for only ten more years, and then upping the rhetoric two years later, predicting “a crisis of the first magnitude.” Continuing to the forecast of the prestigious Club of Rome in 1972, predicting the world would run out of crude by 1990. And the myriad others echoing the same theme, too many to mention.

Thus Birol, once more stirring the peak oil pot with hardly a mention that along with depletion has come a vast increase in accessible oil and gas due to new exploration techniques, spectacular advances in secondary and tertiary recovery, with reserves of natural gas in the United States alone having increased by almost a factor of five in the last half dozen years because of new drilling techniques accessing shale gas deposits, while proven oil reserves, according to BP, are some 25 percent higher than they were 10 years ago…
(16 August 2009)
A differing viewpoint is supplied by Dr. Richard Miller’s commentary in last week’s Oil Depletion Analysis Center’s newsletter, which can be found here. -KS

Lessons learned from 2008

Sadad I. Al-Husseini, Journal of Petroleum Technology
The year 2008 may go down in history as the year of many lessons learned but soon forgotten. For the oil industry, it is important to reflect on what in fact those main lessons were and what their relevance is to the future.

One answer should not surprise most oil professionals. The industry discovered that it had been operating at a production capacity plateau for several years and no longer can provide the supply elasticity required by global oil demand given the cost and complexity of the oil-supply chain.

The oil price surge that started in 2003 and collapsed in 2008 had its roots in 1998. At that time, oil prices had sunk to USD 10/bbl, which resulted in the drying up of capacity investment across the world. In time, low oil prices resulted in runaway oil demand that could not be matched by increases in supplies. This shortfall resulted in the rapid increase in oil prices that eventually contributed to the global recession and the price collapse of 2008.

…In hindsight, all of these events should have been predictable. While the global economy can shift its rate of growth within months, the energy industry is too complex and too mature to respond effectively, even under the most favorable economic circumstances. Politics, logistics, basin maturity, and technological limitations all converge to create an oil-supply plateau that cannot satisfy the growth of unconfined energy demand.

The existence of this ultimate supply ceiling will not recede under the current prospect for reduced upstream investments. In fact, there are good reasons to believe that this production plateau will become even more restrictive in the coming years…
(August 2009)