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The Oil Production Story: Pre- and Post-Peak Nations

A Summary of BP's Statistical Review of World Energy 2014

BP just released its latest annual Statistical Review of World Energy.  ASPO-USA co-founders Randy Udall and Steve Andrews first collaborated in 2005 on a summary table to highlight key parts of the BP data.  It has been updated annually with each new release from BP.   The latest update with commentary by Steve Andrews is provided below.  Randy Udall died in 2013, but his memory and legacy live on--in this and many other ways.

Download summary table of BP oil production data

The news media continue to chant that “peak oil is dead” and see the U.S. shale oil miracle as a sustainable turn of events, not a term-limited booster.

But listen to a few analysts who worry about what the slowdown in investments by oil super-majors portends, and question why many shale oil and gas companies can't turn a profit during this incredible drilling and production boom.  Watch what's happening to oil production outside of North America. Note the struggles to boost production from Brazil's presalts.  Reflect on internal struggles in Syria, the Sudans, Venezuela and Nigeria and how those drag down oil production and quality of life. Follow violent events in the Middle East.

If you do, you'll sense that the peak oil issue is far from dead, especially since world crude oil production has been mostly on a plateau since 2005. So the world is still trying to fuel GDP growth by using lower-energy fuels like natural gas liquids and biofuels, which makes for tough sledding.

In reviewing BP’s latest stats, the "Top 10" nations still dominate the realm of oil, producing 66% of the world total.  Our summary table highlights two important pieces of the oil production story:

1) Nations that are past peak (see "Peak Year," highlighte d in turquoise )--because of geologic limits (e.g., Norway, the United Kingdom) or for above-ground reasons;

2) Nations that have yet to clearly peak.

 It appears that about half of the Top 20 nations have seen their all-time highs in production.  In a number of others, production is currently increasing, with America the record-setting poster child. Yet during 2013, only four nations increased by over 100,000 barrels/day-year vs. 15 in 2004, while four nations experienced declines of roughly 100,000 b/d-year vs. three in 2004. And most importantly, Russia and China are likely near peak production.

All things considered, world peak oil appears close--likely within the next few years, almost certainly before 2020--but it's not quite here, delayed rather than dead. It's disguised by the inclusion of still-increasing natural gas liquids in BP’s accounting, which shows world liquids production up 4.7 mbd since the crude plateau in 2005.  Looking ahead, key themes to follow are: violence in the Middle East, the rate of investment in new projects, the state of China's economy, and the status of peak oil exports. While contemplating the numbers, please forget about American “energy independence.” Despite the happy talk, the world's petroleum future may not be a romance with abundance, but rather a plea bargain with depletion.  

(Ed.note: The whole report can be found here.)

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