A commenter at PeakOil.com referenced a paper on the "enigma" of reserve growth. I assume they call this an enigmatic phenomena in that no one really understands reserve growth and why it occurs. I have a few ideas, but first note a couple of things from the article. The authors work as consultants and hail from Canada. Does this color their outlook? Let's look at the charts. The first one shows a growth that appears fairly significant, perhaps an order-of-magnitude effect on reserve growth for oil and gas. However the second and third chart shows much more moderate growth.
But the first chart has a time scale that dates back 100 years. I don't have any idea of how they came up with this chart, but you have to ask: how effectively did the wildcatters estimate things 100 years ago? Is this the enigma -- that reserve growth doesn't appear as strong today as 100 years ago?
They also show another chart that has a big order-of-magnitude increase for heavy oil. What does heavy oil constitute in the USA and Canada? Can you say oil shale and tar sands?
A very muddled paper IMO. The authors haven't stated their results clearly, instead relying on innuendo and inferences. Fortunately they do show their data so that we can muddle our way through it as well.
A couple of apparently experienced oil people have contributed to the PeakOil.com thread mentioned above, ReserveGrowthRulz (a petroleum engineer) and RockDoc (a PhD geologist). I find it frustrating because they keep things close to the vest, alternately promising data and rationalizing things away with a sunny optimism. Take a look at this quote, which I highlighted:
ReserveGrowthRulz wrote:In comparison to what? The orangutan race? The Martian race?
Oh...I never said that ALL civilizations made the transition down through the ages from one energy form to another, just that us, as the human race, has done better in general, and succeeded in general, as we progressed through time and technologies.
Face it, many of the petroleum engineers and geologists display hypocritical tendencies and thus can easily slide into a catch-22 situation. On the one hand, they can make these reserve predictions that err on the conservative side so that they can "grow" over time to make up for job insecurity. Fair enough, nobody ever got fired for underestimating a certain cash cow. But then they turn around and blame Colin Campbell and other oil depletion analysts for using the original and non-reserve growth numbers as proposed and continue to accuse them of "doomstering" because they keep missing the peak date. Of course you can perhaps fairly accuse Campbell of naivete in his estimates, but some deep-seated intellectual dishonesty prevents most everyone else in the oil industry from alerting us just why Campbell has made his own mistake of conservatism -- exactly the thing that the petroleum engineers practice and condone within their own profession.
So, 'fess up to where these "bad" numbers come from and we can take you geologists and petroleum engineers seriously. Right now I believe Campbell more than your brethren because at least he does not fly the flag of hypocricy.
I submit a suggestion on your road to redemption. Get rid of the euphemisms that call attention to the sunny optimism, and practice some honesty. As a first step I suggest that you don't call it "reserve growth", but instead refer to the issue as "bad estimate corrections". If you don't like that idea, I will give you a shovel and you can keep on digging a deeper hole.