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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Petroleum Engineering

With all the discussion on the Gulf Oil disaster going on, lots of petroleum engineers and others from the oil industry have pitched in with their opinions. In which case we can see exactly what they think of their profession.

One commenter, an authority on reservoir engineering apparently had this to say about Peak Oil:
We understand how our business works, certainly. Guys like us, (those IN THE KNOW) have been declaring the end of oil since at least 1886. In Pittsburgh to be specific. Can't say we didn't give the rest of you noobs plenty of warning.
So let me understand this statement. Oil industry types apparently have always known that the end of oil would occur since day one. I wonder why no one thought to just ask them? How did we miss that one?

This same fellow has huge problems with my analysis, because he thinks that what I do amounts to "curve fitting".
I mean seriously, who else would confuse curve fitting with knowledge?
In truth, most of the forecasters who point to continually increasing oil production well into the future base their projections on very little real knowledge. They actually practice curve fitting, i.e. fitting a curve to the production level that we need, because they have no other justification for a realistic outlook.

Bayesian analysis works by using past knowledge to predict future outcomes. We have so much knowledge about previous discoveries, reserve growth mechanisms, and extraction rates that our ability to predict should work very effectively ... if we would just start universally using this kind of approach. The other benefit is that the analysis keeps on getting better and better with time due to the Bayesian updating process. The mathematician Laplace first applied this powerful mode of probabilistic reasoning in the late 1700's to real problems, but we still have holdouts in various disciplines. To top it off, if you have a real model underneath the knowledge, it makes the forecasting that much more powerful.
Let them get through diffy-q, I suppose the only other gang besides engineers forced through that one are the more mathematically inclined....and they are mostly jealous because their theoretical skills don't translate into income very well.
Common knowledge in college that students that went into geology, civil, and petroleum engineering didn't want to get stick in a desk job. Lots of them could not imagine being sedentary for 8 hours a day.


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