|Rempel: Will the hydrocarbon era finish soon?|
Oil and gas are at present the most important energy fuels. Together they have a 60 %-share of the primary energy supply. Since more than 100 years oil is produced commercially. Usage of gas followed later. Oil is of major importance for transport, heat production and chemical industry. On the other hand gas is of great importance for heat and electricity production as well as for chemical industry.
It is well known that oil and gas are finite resources
representing stored solar energy. Consumption of these resources is reaching
recently huge dimensions. Yearly we are consuming so much oil and gas as
the nature produced in several million years.
At the beginning we will define some terms, such as crude oil , natural gas, reserves and resources for your better understanding.
Hydrocarbons are subdivided as follows:
As agreed reserves are defined as hydrocarbon quantities which are proven in fields and can be produced economically with known techniques. Usually these are under normal conditions about 30 to 50 percent of conventional oil and about 60 to 90 percent of conventional gas, which are initially in place.
Resources are defined as those quantities of hydrocarbons,
The current situation in relation to reserves and resources will be analysed in the following focussing on conventional oil and gas only.
Figure 2 gives
an impression of the estimates on the development of the estimated ultimate
recovery (EUR) for conventional oil obtained from different authors as
well as the development of reserves and cumulative production since 1940.
Figure 4 and 5
give an impression of the lifetime of oil and gas considering different
growth scenarios. Starting
point is the EUR-estimate for conventional oil and gas at year-end 1999.
EUR is divided into cumulative production, reserves and resources. Additionally,
the cumulative production within the next 25 years at different growth
rates (from 0 to 6 percent per year) is shown.
The situation for natural gas is more favourable (fig. 5). Due to the later onset in production only 15 percent of EUR of natural gas is consumed in respect to 35 percent for oil. This can be explained with the later start of gas utilisation compared to oil. Only 35 percent of EUR will be used in 2025 at an annual growth rate in production of 3 percent, which corresponds to the IEA forecast and is comparable with the current situation for conventional oil. Even at a growth rate of 6 percent per year the depletion mid-point would be exceeded. Furthermore, the depletion mid-point isn’t so important for natural gas as for oil. The production level for gas can be sustained nearly constant for a long period and beyond the depletion mid-point due to another expiration curve of long-term plateau-production.
The regional distribution of EUR for conventional oil is given in figure 6. The Middle East owns the largest potential followed by CIS and North America. Remark, that in North America more than half of EUR is already produced, in the CIS about one third and in the Middle East one fifth respectively. OPEC accounts for 73 percent of the world oil reserves and 26 percent of the resources, the Middle East for 61 percent of reserves and 20 percent of resources.
Figure 7 shows
the regional distribution of EUR for conventional natural gas.
CIS has in contrasts to conventional oil the greatest EUR of natural gas
followed by Middle East and North America. Note, that in North America
about half of EUR is already produced, in the CIS about 10 percent and
in the Middle East only few percents.
Saudi Arabia is dominating in oil, CIS and Iran are dominating more
in gas. About 70 percent of known world oil reserves fall inside a “strategic
ellipse”, spreading form Middle East to Western Siberia. Regarding natural
gas about 65 percent of world reserves fall inside this “strategic ellipse”,
but extending somewhat more to the north.
In the past, forecast of static lifetime for oil and gas was usually wrong and as a rule too short. Therefore, conclusions on static lifetime must be appraised very critically, especially those done without knowledge of causalities of hydrocarbon exploration and production. This applies especially in the case of ending reserves as production doesn’t stop abruptly and is going down slowly. On the other side a shortage of oil by continuing demand will lead to rising prices, which will trigger development of marginal and sub-marginal fields as well as exploration in immature regions and for deeper horizons. This applies to conventional oil and gas but for longer term surely in part for non-conventional oil and gas also.
Figure 11 gives
an overview of static lifetime for non-renewable energy resources in 1998.
The static lifetimes amount for conventional oil 42 years, for conventional
plus non-conventional oil commonly about 81 years and for natural
gas about 65 years. The static lifetime for hard coal amounts more than
160 years, for lignite more than 200 years and for uranium only 37 years.
When we include resources, the static lifetime for the remaining potential
(reserves plus resources) will be c. 63 years for conventional oil and
c. 160 years for conventional natural gas. Corresponding values for all
other energy resources are higher than 200 years, the highest values have
coal and non-conventional natural gas, especially for resources of gas
hydrates. Those are average values for the world and don’t inform about
regional or local country situation. So values for static lifetime of oil
reserves in most OPEC-countries are obviously higher than 50 years, for
OECD-countries it ranges between 10 and 20 years.
Figure 12 shows different forecasts for oil production. Therein forecasts for production of conventional oil as well combination of conventional and non-conventional oil is shown. Most curves show that in the period from 2010 to 2020 the maximum of oil production will be reached. Only the Odell curve (2) differs from the common picture and forecast a maximum at 2070 based on production of conventional and non-conventional oil with EUR of 800 billion tons.
The historic development of the world population and energy demand on fossil fuels since 1800 as well as a possible scenario to 2010 is given in figure 13.It can be concluded, that oil production will peak in the fist half of 21st century, gas production in the middle of the century, perhaps also later. The absolute coal production can increase although the share on primary energy consumption is falling.
The gap between rising energy demand and decreasing oil and timely later decreasing gas production can be filled only partially by non-conventional oil and gas reserves. Although the potential of non-conventional oil and gas regarding existing estimates is higher than the potential of conventional oil and gas. High production costs, technical and environmental problems are the main reason for slower production of non-conventional hydrocarbons. On this background and with respect to climate debate an economic use of oil and gas is essential. Search for alternative energy sources is a priority task.
Summarising we can notice, that
-political influence on hydrocarbon trade,
- uncertainties of energy prices,
- greenhouse effect.
last update: Oct. 05, 2000
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