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Monday, September 04, 2006

Production over discoveries

An oil depletion trend line that should get more pub plots the monotonically increasing ratio of production over estimated discoveries as a function of time. I show this value for each past decade in the following table:

I find it portentous that the numbers look like they increase at a roughly exponential rate, but we know that can't keep going forever. At some point it needs to show an inflection point and start to level off and then creep back toward 1 -- which means that we use as much as we find. And although the current decade has not contributed its data point yet, the accumulated numbers have not yet budged from the previous decade. When we look back at the inflected curve, it will point out in hindsight the physical rationale behind what we see in purely economic terms -- i.e. plotting the production peak alone only tells half the story.


Professor Anonymous Rob said...

Why does it need to creep toward 1? Peak oil means it will rise as discoveries approach 0. Or maybe you were saying it *needs* to creep toward 1 or we're in for another oil crisis.

Well, consider:

1. The large fields have all been discovered (ie. the elephant fields were easy to find).

2. The production curve resembles the discovery curve. From the graphs I've seen, the time lag is like 5-10 years IIRC. So since discoveries have slowed, expect production later to slow. How can it be any other way?

6:36 AM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

I mean it creeps toward 1 in the fact that we will eventually reach a steady-state in the curve whereby we use up whatever we discover, or production=discoveries. For example, that is the mode that pan-handling gold prospectors inhabit.

The time lag actually can be nearly 40 years.

9:39 PM  

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