Presentation at the Technical
University of Clausthal, Germany
Cóilín J. Campbell
Ladies and Gentlemen
· Thank you for inviting me to make
· To-day, I am going to talk about
the depletion of oil. I am a petroleum geologist and have been studying
the subject directly and indirectly for many years. It is a very
important subject, as is amply confirmed by recent events.
· I compliment the organisers for
raising the subject in Germany. It is a large and strong country, which
can exert its influence both on Europe and the World. Truth has always
proved a powerful weapon. It needs to take action.
The title of my talk is Peak Oil. It
truly is a turning point for Mankind. It will affect us all. It is a
large subject, and it will take us about an hour to work through it.
The purpose of the talk is to
evaluate the resource base and its depletion. Then we can go on to study
the present crisis and try to see how it will evolve. Finally we can
think specifically about Germany's predicament.
4. Main Points
In summary, these are the main
points that we have to grasp:
· Conventional oil - and I will
explain what I mean by that - provides most of the oil produced today,
and is responsible for about 95% all oil that has been produced so far.
· It will continue to dominate
supply for a long time to come. It is what matters most.
· Its discovery peaked in the 1960s.
We now find one barrel for every four we consume.
· Middle East share of production is
set to rise. The rest of the world peaked in 1997, and is therefore in
· World peak comes within about five
· Non-conventional oil delays peak
only a few years, but will ameliorate the subsequent decline
· Gas, which is less depleted than
oil, will likely peak around 2020
· As I said, peak oil is a turning
point for Mankind.
· The economic prosperity of the
20th Century was driven by cheap, oil-based energy
· Everyone had the equivalent of
several unpaid and unfed slaves to do his work for him
· These slaves are now getting old
and wont work much longer
· We need to find how to live
The energy slaves of modern Man
7. Not a Repeat
I should stress that we are not
facing a re-run of the Oil Shocks of the 1970s
· They were like the tremors that
herald an earthquake, although serious enough, tipping the World into
· Now we face the earthquake itself
· This shock is very different. It
is driven by resource constraints, not politics - although of course
politics do enter into it.
· It is not a temporary interruption
but the onset of a permanent new condition
· The warning signals have been
flying for a long time. They have been plain to see. But the world
turned a blind eye, and failed to read the message
8. Amazingly unprepared
· Our lack of preparedness is itself
amazing, given the importance of oil to our lives
· The warnings were rejected and
discredited as if they were words of soothsayers and prophets.
· I myself have been called a
· But the warnings were not prophecy
· It simply recognised two
· First: you have to find oil before
you can produce it
· Second: production has to mirror
· Discovery reached a peak in the
1960s - despite all the technology we hear so much about and a worldwide
search for the best prospects
· It should surprise no one that we
now face the corresponding peak of production. This simple reasoning has
been however rejected by flat-earth economists and others with a blind
faith in technology and markets forces. Worse still, governments have
listened to bad advice.
· There are many vested interests
bent on confusion and denial, which I will touch on later
9. Europe's Revolt
Let is look briefly at what happened
in Europe a few weeks ago.
· The French fishermen blockaded the
Channel Ports because their fuel costs had doubled, even though their
fuel was already tax-free
· The dispute spread rapidly to
England and other countries
· Schools were closed. Hospitals had
a red alert
· Supermarkets started rationing
· Trade and industry was seriously
interrupted: the cost was huge
· People lost confidence in their
government : its popularity fell sharply
· If an interruption in supply
lasting only a few days could cause such havoc, it surely demonstrates
how utterly dependent on oil we have become.
Depletion is an easy concept to
· Think of an Irish pub full of
happy people. Think of their pleasure at the first sip from a full glass
· Think of the frowns that begin to
cross their faces when their glasses are half-empty. They know they have
drunk more than is left. It is the turning point
· Watch them savour the last drops
· But the evening is young. When the
glasses are empty, they can order another round.
· But eventually closing time comes
when there are no more rounds to be had
· That is the meaning of depletion
· We need to know how big each glass
- or oilfield - is, and
· We need to know how many more
rounds there are - that is to say how many more oilfields are left to
11. Date of Peak
I stress that we are not about to
run out of oil, but production is about to reach a peak. When peak comes
depends on the issue of Rates
· Discovery Rate - we now find one
barrel of conventional oil for every four we consume
· Extraction Rate is controlled by
the physics of the reservoir
· Demand is driven by economic
growth and price.
Remember price is not the same as
cost. It depends on cost but also tax and scarcity
12. What to Measure
Before measuring something, the
first step is to decide what exactly to measure. It is a question every
butcher asks. Does he weigh the meat or the bones as well?
· There are many different kinds of
· Each has its own endowment in
Nature, characteristics, costs, and rate of extraction.
· Production of each type starts and
ends at zero reaching a peak in between,
· Some rise to peak slowly, others
· We need to identify and measure
each type : we need to separate the meat from the bones
13. Conventional Oil
It is convenient to identify
so-called Conventional Oil. It is the meat not the bones. It has
contributed most oil to-date and will dominate all supply long into the
future. We may concentrate on it, as it controls the date of peak.
But there is no universal agreement
on how to define it. Here I will exclude
· Oil from coal and "shale"
· Bitumen and Extra-Heavy Oil
· Heavy Oil
· Deepwater Oil
· Polar Oil
Natural Gas liquids are also
excluded because they belong to the gas domain.
The database is not up to clearly
distinguishing all these categories but we should at least know what we
aim to do.
14. Simple Questions
We may start by asking two simple
· How much oil has been found? and
· When was it found?
They sound simple, but they are
difficult to answer because the data are weak.
15. Ambiguity & Bad Data
There is no consistency in what is
· There is a large range even for
production, which is simply reading the meter
· Reserve estimates are still less
· The treatment of gas liquids
There are two main sources of public
· The Oil & Gas Journal and World
Oil are trade journals that compile information given to them by
governments. They are not qualified to assess the validity of the
· Another widely used source is the
BP Statistical Review. BP is in a position to evaluate the data, but it
declines to do so, and instead just reproduces the Oil and Gas Journal.
· Lastly is the industry database,
which is relatively reliable but too expensive for most analysts to
· All these sources are different.
None of them are very intelligently compiled.
16. Reserve Reporting
· The industry has systematically
under-reported the size of discovery for a host of good commercial and
regulatory reasons. It understandably prefers to revise the reserves
upwards over time than book them all up front. It is not its job to
forecast the future.
· For most purposes, it does not
matter, but we need to know the real record of the past if we are to use
the trend to forecast the future.
· Governments variously under-report
or over-report, or simply fail to update their estimates. As many as 70
countries reported unchanged numbers in 1999, which is utterly
· We need the "best estimate". It is
often called Proved & Probable, such that any revisions are
17. Dating Revisions
· An oilfield contains what it
contains because it was filled in the geological past, but knowledge of
how much it contains evolves over time.
· If we want a genuine discovery
trend, we need to backdate revisions to the discovery of the field.
· Failure to backdate gives the
illusion that more is being found than is the case. It is a cause of
18. BP Reserves
This demonstrates how BP reports
reserves, failing to backdate the revisions. It has misled many
analysts. The large increases in the late 1980s were simply due to the
OPEC quota wars. Nothing was actually added, as I will explain.
19. Spurious Revisions
I should explain this large increase
in greater detail.
· Kuwait added 50% in 1985 to
increase its OPEC quota, which was based partly on reserves. No
corresponding new discoveries had been made. Nothing particular changed
in the reservoir.
· Venezuela doubled its reserves in
1987 by the inclusion of large deposits of heavy oil that had been known
· It forced the other OPEC countries
to retaliate with huge increases
· Note too how the numbers have changed
little since despite production.
But it is not quite as simple as
that, because the early numbers were too low, having been inherited from
the companies before they were expropriated. Some of the increase was
justified but it has to be backdated to the discovery of the fields
concerned that had been found up to 50 years before.
20. Popular Image
The failure to backdate gives this
misleading popular image of growing reserves. It is widely used by
flat-earth economists in support of classical economic theories of
supply and demand
I hasten to add that by no means
all economists believe in a flat-earth. There are enlightened economists
who now relate economics with resources, and they are coming to the
21. Reality & Illusion
This shows the effect of proper
backdating. The discovery trend shown in yellow is falling not rising.
22. Impact of Technology
You will hear many claims for
technology. No one disputes the huge technological advances of the
industry. But, what has been the impact?
· In Exploration, it shows better
both where oil is and where it is NOT - thus allowing better estimates
of the potential to be made.
· In Production, it keeps production
rate higher for longer, but has little impact on the reserves themselves
Note that much of the oil in a
reservoir cannot be extracted because it is held there by capillary
forces and natural constrictions. The percentage recovered can be
improved in some cases by injecting steam and such methods, but by no
means all fields are susceptible to treatment. Most modern fields are
produced to maximum efficiency from the outset.
23. Prudhoe Bay
This is well illustrated by the
Prudhoe Bay field. It is the largest field in N. America.
· The Operator internally estimated
its reserves at 12.5 Gb in 1977, but reported 9 Gb.
· Various enhanced recovery methods
were started in 1982
· Decline commenced in 1988.
Enhanced recovery did arrest decline for one year, but then the decline
· The field will barely make the
original estimate. Nothing was added
This is quite typical. I could show
you may similar examples.
Such plots are incidentally a good
way to estimate genuine reserves
Now let's turn to how much is
25. North Sea Generation
· A geochemical breakthrough in the
1980s made it possible to relate the oil in a well with the rock from
which it came.
· It became possible to identify and
map the generating belts. They are few and far between because prolific
oil was formed only under very rare geological circumstances. In fact,
most of it comes from no more that three or four epochs of intense
· This shows where the oil comes
from in the North Sea. It was formed about 145 million years ago at the
end of the Jurassic period.
· There is no possibility of finding
oil outside these generating trends, and we now know where most of them
Great advances in seismic technology
make it possible to see the smallest and most subtle trap.
· In general, this better knowledge
has reduced the perceived potential, because it shows the absence of
· We can find a needle in a
haystack, but it is still a needle. We did not need the resolution to
find the giant fields holding most of the world's oil.
· It means we have a much better
knowledge of the endowment in Nature than we used to have.
27. Creaming Curve
This is the so-called creaming
· It plots discovery against
exploration wildcats. They are the wells that either do - or do not -
find a new field
· The largest fields are usually
found first for obvious reasons, being too large to miss.
· The curve flattens until new
discoveries are too small to be viable. It gives a good idea of how much
is left to find.
· There are other statistical
techniques but there is n't time to cover them here
28. Shell Experience
· The same applies to an individual
· Shell has found about 60 Gb with
almost 4000 exploration wells, drilled over its entire history since
1895. If it drilled as many again, it could expect to find only 16 Gb
· Other companies have not had such
a successful record.
To sum up, these are the main
parameters for conventional oil.
· The numbers are shown as computed
but should be generously rounded
· We have produced almost half what
is there, and we have found about 90%
· We produce 22 Gb a year but find
only 6 Gb. That is to say, we find one for every four we consume from
our inheritance of past discovery
· The current depletion rate is
about 2 % a year
30. Growing Gap
· This shows the growing gap between
discovery and consumption as we move from surplus to deficit
· The yellow curve shows exploration
· Note that the level of activity
barely affects the discovery trend. It destroys the flat earth heresy
that discovery is driven by market forces
But this year, we did have an
exceptional discovery spike.
· The underlying general trend was
down to about 6 Gb
· New deepwater discovery, here
treated as non-conventional, added about 4 Gb. It may well be
approaching a peak too
· And there were two exceptional
large finds in hitherto closed areas in the Caspian and Iran adding
about 12 Gb
But even this exceptional year did
not quite balance consumption
32. Depletion Examples
I would now like to quickly
demonstrate a few examples of depletion
· Remember that the peak of
discovery has to be followed by the peak of production
· Remember too that peak production
generally comes close to the midpoint of depletion when half the total
has been used.
Let us start with the US-48, the
most mature oil country of all.
· It had plenty of money, every
incentive with the oil rights in private hands and soaring imports
· It had a large prospective
· We can be sure that if more could
have been found, it would have been found.
· So what did Nature deliver?
34. US-48 Graph
Discovery, shown in green, peaked in
1930 at the edge of the chart. Production peaked 40 years later
35. North Sea graph
It is the same pattern in the North
Sea, but advances in technology reduced the time lag to 27 years. We are
getting better at depleting our resources.
36. World graph
This is the world as a whole.
· The green bars show discovery,
highlighting a few exceptional spikes in the Middle East.
· The oil shocks of the 1970s cut
demand so that the actual peak came later and lower than would otherwise
have been the case
· It means that the decline is less
steep than it would otherwise have been
· It reminds us that if we produce
less today, there is more left for tomorrow.
· It is a lesson we need to relearn
as a matter of urgency.
This shows the distribution of oil
Note how North America has consumed
most of its oil
Note how the Middle East has most of
what is left
38. Swing Share
That introduces the idea of swing
· The Five Middle East countries
have been forced into a certain swing role around peak. For a certain
limited period, they can - at least in resource terms - make up the
difference between world demand and what the rest of the world can
· The yellow line shows their share
of world production
· The green bars show price
· Share was 38% in 1973 at the time
of the first oil shock
· It had fallen to 18% by 1985
because new provinces in the North Sea, Alaska and elsewhere started to
deliver flush production from giant fields which are usually found first
· I stress that these new provinces
had been found before the shock and were not a consequence of it as is
so often claimed by flat-earth economists
· Share is now at about 30% and set
to rise. This time there are no new major provinces waiting to deliver,
or even in sight, save perhaps the Caspian
39. ME Gulf Graph
· This shows the depletion of the
· Actual production has been far
below what was possible
· Note how rapidly production will
have to rise to meet demand even with that being curbed by rising price.
It is optimistic to believe that such an increase can be achieved in
I might digress briefly to explain
the impact of expropriation.
· It started with BP in Iran in 1951
but had spread to the other main producers by the 1970s.
· The major companies lost their
main sources of supply.
· Had they remained in control, they
would have produced the cheap and easy oil before turning to the
expensive and difficult. It would have given a gradual transition as
depletion began to grip
· But when they lost their main
supplies, they moved to the expensive and difficult areas and they
worked flat out.
· The main OPEC governments were
left with the cheap and easy stuff.
· It is contrary to normal economic
practice and one of the causes of the present crisis
This I think is a very compelling
· The red line is discovery smoothed
with a 10 year moving average
· It shows a clear downward trend,
easy to extrapolate, as shown in orange
· The green line is production,
extrapolated at a 2% growth to match the past trend.
· Our inheritance is the area
between the red and green lines.
· We have to eat into our
inheritance of past discovery because future discovery is insufficient
· There just is not enough to
sustain growth, or even hold current production for long
· The blue line shows the inevitable
42. World depletion
This shows a production profile
imposed by these known and easily understood resource constraints.
It is not prophecy. It is reality
43. Two-phased Crisis
We face therefore a two-phased
crisis, the first of which has already arrived, as predicted.
· A price shock comes when Middle
East share reaches a critical threshold, and even it cannot raise
production fast enough to meet demand. Non-Middle East production falls.
That is happening now.
· The second phase comes around 2010
with the onset of chronic long-term shortage, as the Middle East can no
longer meet even current demand, never mind growth. By then, it will be
asked to supply 50% of the world's oil, which will be beyond is ability.
44. Peak dates
· Conventional oil peaks around 2005.
· All hydrocarbons around 2010.
· Gas around 2020.
· Gas liquids peak a little after gas, as
extraction rates increase.
· The decline after peak is about 3%
45. All hydrocarbons Graph
This illustrates the depletion of
46. Denial & Obfuscation
I would now like to ask why this
important subject is not better understood.
47. Flat Earth
People once believed the earth was
flat. Scientific observations to the contrary were treated as heresy.
Look at the threatened, suspicious and hostile expressions on the faces
of these mediaeval monks. They were the Establishment of the day. The
same expressions are now to be found in many of the world's governments.
48. Political Reactions
We have several political reactions,
which we might almost call conspiracies.
· The United States seeks to
exaggerate the world's oil to reduce OPEC's confidence. It pretends that
it does not depend on Middle East oil. It puts out very flawed studies
by the US Geological Survey and the Department of Energy. I
· OPEC, for its part, exaggerates
its resource base to inhibit non-OPEC investments and moves to energy
savings or renewables. It fears a repetition of the price collapse that
followed the last shocks, not realising that it is a different world.
· Companies conceal depletion
because it sits badly on the investment community.
· The USGS has failed to live up to its
· It has assessed the Undiscovered
Potential of each basin with a range of subjective probabilities. It has
a Low Case for the most sure and a High Case for the least sure. The
High Case itself has little meaning. You might as well say that there is
a 5% chance that I am a frog.
· The Low Case is fairly good,
consistent with the discovery trend, but The Mean value, which is the
one they publicise is meaningless because it is influenced by the High
Case. This has been confirmed by experience in the real world because
the Mean estimate is already 100 Gb short, five years into the study
· The notion of "reserve growth" is
also flawed. The USGS depicts it as a technological dynamic when it is
simply an artefact of reporting practice, not to be extrapolated into
· It claims that Greenland is the
most prospective area, which it deems part of North America.
· Statoil has now drilled a dry hole
on the prime prospect.
The International Energy Agency was
established by the OECD countries in the aftermath of the shocks of the
1970s. In 1998, it succeeded in delivering a coded message.
· It showed how a "business as usual
scenario" could not be fulfilled without inventing a so-called balancing
item of Unidentified Unconventional, which miraculously rises from zero
in 2010 to 19 Mb/d in 2020, when the identified makes a ceiling of only
2.4 by 2010. Since the identified deposits are huge, no one needs to
find more. The so-called unidentified unconventional is accordingly a
euphemism for rank shortage.
· Can anybody really imagine that
oil price will still be $25/b when the Middle East supplies 62% of the
As a political institution it could only
send a coded message and was pleased when journalists decrypted it.
Most companies have to sing to the
stockmarket, but the Italian national company is less concerned by
stockmarket imagery. Its Chairman was able to tell the truth:
· "New reserves are failing to keep up
with growing output"
· "My forecast is that between 2000 and
2005 the world will be reaching peak..."
52. BP Prize
British Petroleum certainly wins the
prize for the most oblique reference to depletion when it changes its
logo to a sunflower and says that BP stands for Beyond Petroleum.
But its executives sit on the board
of Goldman Sachs, the bankers. They should accordingly know what BP
actually thinks behind the lace curtains of corporate make-believe. What
do the bankers say?
53. Goldman Sachs
"The rig count over the last 12
years has reached bottom. This is not because of low oil price. The oil
companies are not going to keep rigs employed to drill dry holes. They
know it but are unable and unwilling to admit it. The great merger mania
is nothing more than a scaling down of a dying industry in recognition
of the fact that 90% of global conventional oil has already been found."
- Goldmann Sachs, August 1999.
Shell says it in other words
"There was a time when oil and gas
reserves seemed endless..." - November 1999 Advertisement.
55. Merger Mania
Actions speak louder than words.
· The major companies and many
others in the industry are merging and shedding staff.
· They are also buying their own stock.
· These are moves to downsize
because there are no major investment opportunities left.
· Their past is worth more than
their future - and they know it.
56. What is all adds
I will try now to conclude with some
general comments, starting with a oil price.
57. Oil price Plot
· Oil outside the Middle East peaked in
1997 as easily foreseen.
· It should have heralded a gradual rise
in price from growing Middle East control, shown in green. But instead
there was an anomalous fall.
· It is a volatile unstable market that
has failed to manage this critical resource.
58. Oil Price Collapse
· Price collapsed in 1998 because of
the interaction of warm weather, an Asian recession, the devaluation of
the rouble, events in Iraq, false supply estimates by the IEA that
prompted higher OPEC production and perhaps some manipulation by
· Now there is a firm upward trend
based on rising demand, the inability to offset natural decline in giant
old fields, and falling discovery.
· The market hangs on Opec's words -
but Opec has lost control.
59. Oil Price plot repeated
Instead of the gradual increase
starting in 1997, we now face a more dramatic increase, shown in red.
60. Spare Capacity
· Spare capacity can mean many
things. A closed flowing well is the only form of spare capacity that
can deliver quickly. All the other elements take investment, work and,
above all, time to deliver.
· OPEC has very little operational
spare capacity. It is working flat out. It has to run faster to stand
still, as it desperately tries to offset the natural decline of its old
fields. It will be hard pressed to meet the demands made upon it even to
maintain current world production, never mind growth.
61. Logical Consequences
· The market is now perceiving that
OPEC has lost control. It is a devastating realisation because it means
there is no supply-based ceiling on price. Accordingly, prices are set
to soar. Don't forget that in to-day's money, oil price went to almost
$100 in the 1970 shocks
· Demand must then fall. The poor
countries of the world will bear most of the burden. But the United
States will be in serious difficulties. There is, I think, a strong
danger of some ill-considered military intervention to try to secure
oil. A stock market crash seems inevitable, as some investment managers
are now telling us.
· The global market may collapse because
of high transport costs and global recession.
· Self-sufficiency will become a
Here some quick thoughts
62. Energy doesn't matter
· Economists say high oil price does not
matter because energy is a smaller percent of GDP
· But you can't eat the internet
63. Geologists, engineers and
· Geologists find oil, engineers
... beware of economists telling you how
much is left
64. Political immunity
· Oil is ultimately controlled by
events in the geological past
... which are immune to politics
65. Germany's oil
· Not everyone realises that Germany has
had a long oil history. The earliest field in the database was found in
1856, before Colonel Drake drilled his famous well in Pennsylvania.
About 600 wildcats have been drilled, about as many as in Norway.
· But they found only about 2.3 Gb of oil,
shown as bars.
· The country has now been very
· I assess its ultimate at about 2.5
· Peak production was in 1967, ten
years before the midpoint of depletion, which was in 1977.
· Production is now declining at
about 3%, much less than would be the case offshore.
· Germany, like the USA, is a good
example of a mature oil country whose experience is to be matched
66. Germany's energy policy
Let us consider for the moment what
Germany's reaction to what I have discussed should be
· Windmills and bicycles set very
good examples, but there are still too many large Mercedes
· It would be a good idea to start
rationing gasoline and heating fuel early to provide minimal essential
needs at moderate price, perhaps by credit card. It will be a complex
task to identify all the special needs of people and evolve a fair and
· There should be inverted tariffs
on electricity so that the more you use the more expensive it becomes
· Germany is a large and powerful country.
It should exert its influence on Brussels, which has so far failed
miserably to understand the situation. As recently as October 4th it
issued a report on Europe's oil supply without mentioning the resource
or depletion and suggesting it was just a matter of OPEC politics. It
· Germany should revitalise the BGR to
resume the excellent studies, which were undertaken under the previous
Director. They were I believe suppressed by the Ministry of Economics,
who did not want to know the truth.
· Germany should resist Green
pressure to give up nuclear power at precisely the moment it needs more
energy, as oil peaks and declines.
· Germany has coal and possibilities
for coalbed methane. This industry needs to be rediscovered. It may
become economic again
· Germany should encourage its motor
manufacturers to move to more efficient engines and hydrogen fuels,
especially those made by solar means. It should provide whatever fiscal
incentives are needed.
· Germany is in a position to take a
lead. It should use its strength to do so.
67. Depletion Protocol
Germany should support the idea of a
Depletion Protocol whereby the consumers as well as the producers would
· It could be easily added to an
existing OECD treaty that established the International Energy Agency
· It would provide that no country
would produce above its present depletion rate
· No country would import any
· It would bring order and cooperation
· And has been welcomed by the OPEC
68. Political Response
An oil crisis is bad for politicians.
· Blaming OPEC or the oil companies
will not wash much longer.
· It would be better to make a proper
analysis of the true position and inform people.
· No one blames the government for
an earthquake. So they would n't blame it for an oil crisis either if
they realised it was a natural phenomenon
"If you don't deal with reality,
reality will deal with you"
69. Sky does not fall in at
· Let us not be too alarmist. The
roof does not fall in at peak. What changes are perceptions, as people
come to realise that the growth of the past becomes the decline of the
· It may herald the end of the US
economic and cultural hegemony - which some people might think was no
· Climate concerns recede
· But let us use our current high
oil supply intelligently while it lasts to ease the transition
70. More efficient vehicles
· For example, much more efficient
vehicles have already been designed
· The government should encourage
their use by penalising inefficient vehicles with high tax
· Peak oil is a turning point for
· 100 years of easy growth ends
· Population peaks too for not
· The transition to decline is a
period of great tension
· Priorities shift to
self-sufficiency and sustainability
· It may end up a better world
Courtesy of Colin J. Campbell
See original at < http://energycrisis.org/de/lecture.html >.