How much oil is there?

Definition of a reserve: how much of a commodity is known to be left.

Definition of a resource: an estimate of how much a commodity remains in the world, discovered (reserves) and undiscovered.

Now adays most reserve and resource assessments are associated with probabilities. Three numbers will be given. The lowest number is associated with a 95% 'confidence', and the highest with a 5% 'confidence'.

How does one estimate reserves? Resources?

Who makes these estimates?

Hubbert curves and resource use/depletion.

source: 28jan02


Article on Norwegian and British oil production history from a Hubbert perspective by Roger Blanchard.

Consumption rates versus estimates of undiscovered oil.

The numbers for the table below were taken from a DOE IEA site. One thing to note is that the U.S. continues to account for a quarter of the world's consumption. The two numbers on the right were obtained by dividing the estimate of undiscovered by the consumption to provide a very simplistic notion of what the future might hold. If the US was to only use its own undiscovered oil we have about ten years left. We import about 50% of our oil at present, so if that remained constant we might have some 20 years left. Globally the simple estimate indicates about 26 years left for oil as a major resource. Remember all the uncertainties that go into generating the "undiscovered numbers", and that consumption is not likely to remain constant. However, it is becoming harder and harder to escape the conclusion that before several decades is up the energy picture for the U.S. and the world will be quite different.

US consumption, 2002 MMBO Global consumption, 2002, MMBO US undiscovered oil (MMBO) Global undiscovered (MMBO) US simple extrapolation years Global simple extrapolation years
7192 28268 75600 724228 10.5116796440489


The picture is much better for gas. Many other energy alternates exist. Associated changes with the diminishment of oil as a resource need not be catastrophic, but they are unavoidable.

Think on this - recently BP changed its slogan to "beyond petroleum."

Link to Presentation at the Technical University of Clausthal C.J.Campbell December 2000 for one detailed look. This basically argues that we are at the peak oil production wise. There is quite abit of debate on this topic, but we should know in a decade or so.

The temptation of coal:

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