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The Era of Xtreme Energy

Michael Klare, Tomgram
The debate rages over whether we have already reached the point of peak world oil output or will not do so until at least the next decade. There can, however, be little doubt of one thing: we are moving from an era in which oil was the world’s principal energy source to one in which petroleum alternatives — especially renewable supplies derived from the sun, wind, and waves — will provide an ever larger share of our total supply. But buckle your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride under Xtreme conditions.

It would, of course, be ideal if the shift from dwindling oil to its climate-friendly successors were to happen smoothly via a mammoth, well-coordinated, interlaced system of wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, and other renewable energy installations. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to occur.

Instead, we will surely first pass through an era characterized by excessive reliance on oil’s final, least attractive reserves along with coal, heavily polluting “unconventional” hydrocarbons like Canadian oil sands, and other unappealing fuel choices.

There can be no question that Barack Obama and many members of Congress would like to accelerate a shift from oil dependency to non-polluting alternatives. As the president said in January, “We will commit ourselves to steady, focused, pragmatic pursuit of an America that is free from our [oil] dependence and empowered by a new energy economy that puts millions of our citizens to work.” Indeed, the $787 billion economic stimulus package he signed in February provided $11 billion to modernize the nation’s electrical grid, $14 billion in tax incentives to businesses to invest in renewable energy, $6 billion to states for energy efficiency initiatives, and billions more directed to research on renewable sources of energy. More of the same can be expected if a sweeping climate bill is passed by Congress. The version of the bill recently passed by the House of Representatives, for example, mandates that 20% of U.S. electrical production be supplied by renewable energy by 2020…
(22 Sept 2009)

Cantarell Update 2009: The Peak Oil PosterChild Continues to Plummet

Mpayne, Peak Opportunities blog
As we last reported, in May 2009, Cantarell Field’s April 2009 production averaged 713,000 barrels per day, down from 862,060 barrels per day in late 2008.

Now, according to a September 9, 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal, Cantarell is down to 500,000 barrels per day. (presumably for August 2009, and not yet plotted on the above graph). This represents a 30 % drop over only 4 months, which far exceeds the last calculated decline rate of 35 % PER YEAR.

A subsequent article in the Oil and Gas Journal, dated September 14, 2009, quoted PEMEX’s recent prediction that total production will average 2.5 MMBO/D in 2010 (Mexico’s total oil production averaged 3.4 MMBO/D in 2004). The article notes that this rate is down 4 % from the first half of 2009, and down 5.7 % from previous estimates. According to PEMEX, actual production was 2.561 MMBO/D in July 2009, so it is difficult for us to imagine that production could average 2.5 MMBO/D in 2010, given the precipitous decline of Cantarell and small increases seen in the KMZ and Chicontepec fields…
(22 Sept 2009)

Finding new oil gets ever more expensive

Kate Mackenzie, Financial Times
Updated: A new study by research firm IHS Herold illustrates why there are fears of a supply crunch: oil is getting much more expensive to find, but investment in finding new oil is falling this year.

Exploration spending by listed oil companies rose 21 per cent and development spending 23 per cent in 2008 – but total reserves fell 3 per cent, according to the study. Much of this was due to some existing reserves becoming uneconomic: there was a a 5.2 billion barrel decline in revisions “due to the steep drop in commodity prices”. It’s not the first time total reserves have fallen, but it makes us wonder what this year, when capital investment is set to fall further, will bring.

Meanwhile the average cost of replacing a barrel of oil equivalent rose 70 per cent to $23.44 in 2008…
(23 Sept 2009)

Oil Industry Sets a Brisk Pace of New Discoveries

Jad Mouwad, The New York Times
The oil industry has been on a hot streak this year, thanks to a series of major discoveries that have rekindled a sense of excitement across the petroleum sector, despite falling prices and a tough economy.

These discoveries, spanning five continents, are the result of hefty investments that began earlier in the decade when oil prices rose, and of new technologies that allow explorers to drill at greater depths and break tougher rocks.

“That’s the wonderful thing about price signals in a free market — it puts people in a better position to take more exploration risk,” said James T. Hackett, chairman and chief executive of Anadarko Petroleum.
(25 Sept 2009)

The Peak Oil Downside Will Be Steeper Than The Upside

Charles Cresson Wood, Post-petroleum transportation blog
From many different credible and highly placed sources we are today hearing about the dire energy situation that industrialized civilization faces. Industrialized countries have remained dependent on oil for way too long. As evidence of this consider that fully 50% of the energy consumed in the United States comes from petroleum. Even though the notion of peak oil is now frequently discussed in newspapers, magazines, TV shows, we the industrialized nations are not moving to new sources of energy fast enough to avoid serious and painful adjustment problems. Dr. Fatih Birol, chief economist with the International Energy Administration, accurately summed it up when he recently said: “We must leave oil before it leaves us.”

According to statistics from the United States Energy Information Administration, the worldwide production of conventional oil has been on a plateau for the last several years (about 73 million barrels per day). In spite of a dramatic run up in prices culminating with the price of $147 per barrel in July 2008, producers were unable to bring more oil to market. This fact defies a widely-held but erroneous belief advanced by traditional economists, that producers will bring more oil to market as the price goes up. That of course makes sense if there is an unlimited supply of oil, but as the worldwide production statistics indicate, we seem to have reached peak worldwide production, and it is only down from this point forward. It’s time that the economists started adjusting their theories to incorporate the real world of resource constraints…
(25 Sept 2009)