Thursday, 2 September 2010

World oil peak / plateau delayed to 2020-2025?

What has been the effect of the financial crises and the consequent worldwide recession on world oil peak timing? The reasoning is that as the oil consumption has been marginally reduced due to worldwide recession and slow/fearful recovery, the amount of reserves saved has been considerable.

This saving of reserves and potential consumption capacity may be partially offset in time by the fact that a lot of new oil production projects have been postponed due to lack of funding and lousy economic prospects (i.e. lower price of oil and higher uncertainty).

So what is the overall effect of reduced consumption and postponed production?

There has been no thorough bottom-up studies of this, but in a recent interview (part 1, part 2) oil expert Michael R. Smith from Datamonitor (previously Energyfiles Ltd.) gave his guesstimate of things developing as we go forward:

"I feel the peak/plateau period is much delayed because of the recession. Currently I am looking at around 2020 - perhaps as late as 2025. But of course it is dependent on what happens to the global economy (and the environment) between now and then. When I first started forecasting in the late 1990s, I had a production plateau beginning around 2016. Over time, supplies got tighter and tighter and oil prices started to rise, and the plateau moved nearer to around 2012. Now it has moved out to 2020, showing how uncertain this modeling can be because so many technological, financial, political and social variables are at work. The fluctuation points to volatility of course which is a signal of tight energy supply. If there is a new surge in economic growth and China and India continue to grow and mop up oil supplies, then it will move back to 2016 very quickly." - Michael R. Smith of Energyfiles Ltd / Datamonitor, in an interview with ASPO USA, 8/2010 [emphasis added]
So there you have it. If we grow, the peak moves towards us quickly as demand grows.

If the world muddles along slowly, the peak could take another 10 years or more, but not a lot of new capacity would come forward and if oil prices stay relatively stable, neither would alternatives.

Also, the faster we ramp up the production/consumption, the faster the decline is likely to be.

So, fast evolving crisis in c. 2016 or slowly evolving adjustment in 2020+?

Certainly the latter, but everybody wants the economy to grow faster.

And if it does, another price crunch is just around the corner.