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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Is Peak Oil Dead?


Is peak oil dead?
One might think so, judging by a slew of optimistic new forecasts for oil production. Even George Monbiot, notable for his thoughtful previous coverage of peak oil in The Guardian, threw in the towel with his July 2 mea culpa, “We were wrong about peak oil. There’s enough to fry us all.
Monbiot reversed his position after reading a new report by Leonardo Maugeri, an executive with the Italian oil company ENI and a senior fellow at a BP-funded center at Harvard University.
Maugeri forecasts new global oil production capacity of 49 million barrels per day (mbpd) by 2020, a number that is “unrestricted” by real-world circumstances, and “unadjusted for risk.” This constitutes a whopping 53 percent increase over the current claimed capacity of 93 mbpd in just eight years. While impressive, this headline number obscures some important details.
First, capacity is not production. The world has never produced 93 mbpd. Global oil production was 88.3 mbpd in 2011, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which uses a very liberal definition of “oil” that includes biofuels, non-associated natural gas liquids, and other liquids. Under a more restrictive definition used by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which counts crude oil plus lease condensate (natural gas liquids that are produced and naturally associated with the crude), and liquids extracted from natural gas production, world oil production was 87 mbpd in 2011. Counting only crude oil and lease condensate, world oil production was 74 mbpd in 2011, a level it has maintained since the end of 2004 despite a tripling of oil prices since 2003.

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