In part one of this series, we looked at Peak Oil and its irrelevance to energy production. In Part Deux, we will look at “abiotic oil,” a real(ish) thing that really doesn’t matter outside of academic discussions and SyFy blogs.
A note on terminology
Some refer to this as “abiogenic oil.” This is not a useful term because all oil is abiogenic. The generally accepted theory of petroleum formation doesn’t state that it is a biogenic process. I discussed this in detail in a 2017 post. I don’t intend to restate it here.
In this post, “abiotic oil” refers to petroleum formed by processes that do not rely on biological source material. The carbon in “abiotic oil” must be inorganic.
A real example of abiotic “oil”
The Lost City Hydrothermal Field is located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, about 15 km (~9 mi) west of the spreading center, in water depths ranging from 750-900 m (~2,500-3,000′) (Kelley et al., 2005).
Figure 1. Lost City location map. (University of Washington)
The plots of the Seinfeld TV show often revolved around trivializing important things and blowing trivial things out of proportion. While not a Seinfeld fanatic (I’m more of a Frasierfanatic), I thought the comedy routines were generally brilliant and quite effective.
Peak Oil, abiotic oil and EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) are largely academic concepts. They are the subject of books, academic publications and Internet “debates” The “debates” about Peak Oil, abiotic oil and EROEI are a lot like the Seinfeld show. They magnify the trivial and trivialize things that actually matter. The “debates” often divide into two camps:
It’s the end of the world (Peak Oil, EROEI).
It’s our salvation from the end of the world (Abiotic oil).
While all three of these energy-related topics are, at least to some extent, real, none of them have the slightest relevance to energy production… except for Peak Oil… But the relevance is generally missed by both sides in Internet “debates.”
I had originally intended on combining Peak Oil, abiotic oil and EROEI into one post; but realized that it would have been longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace. So, this post will be limited to Peak Oil. Part Deux will deal briefly with abiotic oil and Part Trois will deal more extensively with EROEI.
How big is Ghawar? Has it peaked? Is it “fading faster than anyone guessed”? The answer to the first question is: FRACKING YUGE. The answer to the second question was not easily answerable before Saudi Aramco began the process of becoming a publicly traded company. The answer to the third question is: Of course not.
As Saudi Aramco proceeds towards a 2021 IPO, it has had to embrace transparency. This involved an audit of the proved reserves in their largest fields, comprising about 80% of the company’s value. The audit was conducted by the highly respected DeGolyer and MacNaughton firm (D&M). The audit actually determined that the proved reserves are slightly larger than Aramco’s internal estimate.
A lot has been written about Peak Oil recently – perhaps more in comments than in WUWT articles themselves – and the “Not to Peak”-ers seem to be in the ascendancy. In other words, the opinions that “Peak Oil” is a fantasy and/or oil production will keep increasing for a century or more seem to be dominant.
But just how realistic are the “Not to Peak”-ers?
I had a look back at my article of 4 years ago (Peak Oil Re-visited), and I’m pretty comfortable with what I said back then. NB. I defined “Peak Oil” as When the rate of oil production reaches its maximum. With this definition, Peak Oil is not when we run out of oil, and it is not when we can’t increase the rate of oil production. If you want to use one of those other definitions then different rules apply. And I’m only talking about oil, not about oil and gas, and not about fossil fuels generally.
What I said in 2015 was:
The reason for oil production reaching its maximum is not specified.
Peak Oil is not necessarily a disaster, it could even be a positive.
One idea which surely is not open to argument is the fact that oil production will peak.
Predicting Peak Oil has always been an unrewarding exercise. People have predicted Peak Oil for over a century and have been wrong every time.
The principal factors affecting oil supply are: Geology, Politics, Demand, Price, Technology.
In spite of economic booms and busts, oil demand has been relatively inelastic.
Although Peak Oil may occur after say 2040, it could well be much earlier.
The third bullet above (oil production will peak) was justified by this graph, which looked at past and likely future oil production on a scale of thousands of years:
The shale revolution (as BP calls it) has made a difference, but it still can’t dramatically alter the shape of the graph in Figure 1. Basically, it can push the peak up, and it can elongate the tail, but it can’t move the peak very far to the right.
Figure 1. World Total Fossil Fuel Consumption, past and predicted – the long view.
Jude Clemente’s energy articles on Real Clear Energy and Forbes are always worth reading.
Major oil company (particularly European majors) predictions of a near-term peak in oil demand are 99.999% driven by politics and the need to appease the investment community.
According to baseball legend, the late, great Yogi Berra, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” So, make sure your timeline is long enough to evade having to take responsibility for failed predictions.
Malthuisan predictions have a 100% track record of being wrong.
The “amazing” thing is that this isn’t a “new” oil discovery. It’s just a realization that a lot more oil and gas can be produced from these formations than was previously imagined.
The Permian Basin a nearly infinite resource. It seems as if there will always be more hydrocarbons to squeeze out of its numerous oil & gas reservoirs. From a Warmunist perspective the Bone Spring and Wolfcamp are much worse than previously thought…
The end of oil and gas has been predicted on a regular basis since 1885, yet today we use more of both than ever before and no end is in sight in the data available. Figure 1 shows worldwide energy consumption by fuel since 1965 and projected to 2035 by BP in billion tonnes of oil equivalent, it shows substantial growth in both oil and gas.
Le prix du baril de pétrole, qui était de 1 dollar en 1972, est monté à près de 150 dollars en 2013, avec des projections qui le voyaient aller jusqu’à 300 dollars. Et le voilà retombé aujourd’hui aux alentours de 50 dollars. Pour expliquer une évolution aussi spectaculaire, il faut comprendre que le pétrole a été à un moment un prix politique, mais que la loi du marché a pris sa revanche
That’s the peak oil argument in a nutshell, but the peak demand argument is entirely different. In this case, oil production falls — not because of geological factors — but because the world turns its back on oil as cleaner, cheaper options become available. Electric vehicles and ride-sharing on a massive scale are envisioned as two of the key factors that will make oil obsolete.
La géologie, une science plus que passionnante … et diverse