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Peak Oil: Fact and Fiction

This page addresses several common questions about world oil production. All historical production numbers are from the Oil and Gas Journal. The oil production figures do not include natural gas liquids.

General Concepts

  • Production and historical production are facts.
  • Reserves are an opinion.
  • Undiscovered resources are a fantasy.

Fact: World oil production was at an all-time high in 2005.

  • The world produced 72.36 million BOPD in 2005
  • OPEC produced 29.66 million BOPD, down from a peak of 30.95 million BOPD in 1977.
  • Non-OPEC production was at an all-time high of 42.7 million BOPD.

A brief history of oil production peaks

  • Oklahoma peaked in 1927 at about 700,000 BOPD; now it is 173,000 BOPD.
  • The US peaked in 1970 at 9.66 million BOPD; in 2005 it was 5.18 million BOPD.
  • Libya peaked in 1970 at 3.32 million BOPD; in 2005 it was 1.64 million BOPD.
  • Kuwait peaked in 1972 at 3.28 million BOPD; in 2005 it was 2.13 million BOPD.
  • Iran peaked in 1974 at 6.03 million BOPD; in 2005 it was 3.89 million BOPD.
  • Saudi Arabia peaked in 1981 at 9.64 million BOPD; in 2005 it was 9.06 million BOPD.
  • Russia peaked in 1983 at about 11.5 million BOPD; in 2005 it was 9.19 million BOPD.
  • Alaska peaked in 1988 at 2.14 million BOPD; now it is 803,000 BOPD.
  • Mexico peaked in 2004 at 3.38 million BOPD; in 2005 it produced 3.33 million BOPD
  • Malaysia peaked in 2004 at 859,000 BOPD; in 2005 it produced 770,000 BOPD

The following countries' oil production was at an all-time high in 2005:

  • China (3.63 million BOPD)
  • United Arab Emirates (2.45 million BOPD)
  • Nigeria (2.41 million BOPD)
  • Angola (1.24 million BOPD)
  • Qatar (798,000 BOPD)
  • Canada (2.37 million BOPD in 2005) and Kazakhstan (994,000 BOPD in 2005) were slighly down from 2004, but are expected to increase in 2006.

Fact: Nearly all of the world's largest oilfields are in decline.

  • Only one supergiant (>5 billion barrels recoverable) field has been found since 1980.
  • That field (Kashagan) is located on a geologic structure that was identified prior to 1980, but was not drilled until 2000 because of sea ice conditions.
  • The prospects for finding any more are limited, and mostly in the Arctic offshore.

Fiction: Remaining oil production will become concentrated in a few areas.

  • By any statistical measure, the geographical concentration of oil production is decreasing.
  • The proportion of world oil production coming from the Middle East peaked in 1974.
  • World production growth has come from a growing number of smaller fields.
  • Many new countries, such as Mauritania, Chad and Equatorial Guinea have become oil producers.

Fiction: Fertilizer is made from oil.

  • Fertilizer is made from natural gas, phosphates and potash.
  • Phosphate rock is the most costly ingredient.
  • Natural gas is at an early stage of development in most of the world.

Fiction: Petrochemicals are made exclusively from oil.

  • Ethane, the basic building block of petrochemicals, is a by-product of natural gas production.
  • Ethane is also a by-product of refinery cracking processes, so it is sometimes made from oil.

The greatest danger from peak oil is that we will do something foolish in response to it.



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