After being awarded a Ph.D at Oxford in 1957, Dr Campbell joined the oil industry as an exploration geologist. His career took him to Borneo, Trinidad, Colombia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the USA, Ecuador, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Norway.
He is now a Trustee of the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre ("ODAC"), a charitable organisation in London that is dedicated to researching the date and impact of the peak and decline of world oil production due to resource constraints, and raising awareness of the serious consequences. He has published extensively, and his recent articles have stimulated lively debate. His views are provocative yet carry the weight of a wide international experience.
Regular Conventional Oil Production to 2100 and Resource Based Production Forecast
Excel spreadsheets through end 2005, revised 2006 August 15
The Heart of the Matter, by Colin Campbell, The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas.
Forecasting Global Oil Supply 2000-2050
"Few would deny that the world runs on oil. By describing oil as a fossil fuel, everyone admits that it was formed in the past, which means that we started running out when we consumed the first barrel. That much can surely be agreed, even if opinions differ about how far along the depletion curve we are. ...."
Dr. Campbell's update on Oil Depletion, through 2001
"Some members of the flat-earth fraternity have made a career of pointing out how earlier estimates needed revision and correction. They will not be disappointed with this assessment that differs yet again from earlier ones. Whereas a scientist would describe this evolution as progress based on a growing knowledge of Nature, the flat-earth fraternity will claim it as evidence that a resource-based approach to forecasting production is fundamentally flawed...."
Peak Oil: a Turning for Mankind
Hubbert Center Newsletter # 2001/2-1, M. King Hubbert Center For Petroleum Supply Studies, Colorado School Of Mines
"The reality is that there is no real reprieve. Gradually the market – and not just the oil market - will come to realize that OPEC can no longer single-handedly manage depletion. It will be a dreadful realization because it means that there is no ceiling to oil price other than from falling demand. That in turn spells economic recession and a crumbling stock market, the first signs of which are already being felt.
The United States is perhaps the most vulnerable to the coming crisis having farther to fall after the boom years, which themselves were largely driven by foreign debt and inward investment. The growing shortfall in oil supply since its own peak of production was made good by soaring oil imports, now contributing more than half its needs, and a move to gas. The rate of import cannot, however, be maintained as other countries pass their own production peaks, putting ever more pressure on the Middle East. The North Sea is now at peak, with the UK being off 7% in 2000 and 16% off October to October, meaning that production is set to fall by one-half in ten years. For every barrel imported into the United States, there will be one less left for anyone else, a situation inevitably leading to international tensions.
The move to gas proved to be only a short-lived palliative. Gas depletes differently from oil. An uncontrolled gas well would blow it all away in one big puff. Production is, accordingly, capped by infrastructure and market, leaving a large, unseen balloon of readily available spare capacity. In a privatized market, trading on a daily basis, production becomes cheaper and cheaper as the original costs are written off and as this almost free spare capacity is drawn down. There were no market signals of the approach of the cliff at the end of the plateau. It accordingly came without warning, causing prices to surge through the roof, and bringing power blackouts to California. Canada is trying to make good the shortfall, but its stocks are falling fast too.
The US has to somehow find a way to cut its demand by at least five percent a year. It won’t be easy, but as the octogenarian said of old age “the alternative is even worse”. Europe faces the same predicament as North Sea production plummets. Although it may draw on gas from Russia, North Africa and the Middle East to see it over the transition, assuming that new pipelines can be built in time, that creates a new and unwelcome geopolitical dependency.
All of this is so incredibly obvious, being clearly revealed by even the simplest analysis of discovery and production trends. The inexplicable part is our great reluctance to look reality in the face and at least make some plans for what promises to be one of the greatest economic and political discontinuities of all time. Time is of the essence. It is later than you think.
Peak Oil - a Turning Point for Mankind Der Höhepunkt der Welterdölproduktion - ein Wendepunkt für die Menschheit
at the Technical University of Clausthal in Germany.
"The purpose of the talk is to evaluate the resource base and its depletion. Then we can go on to study the present crisis and try to see how it will evolve. Finally we can think specifically about Germany's predicament. "Zur Videoaufzeichnung | On-line Video (Intro in German, lecture in English)
2000 November 8
The Last Oil Shock
"Britain faces the prospect of closed filling stations and empty supermarket shelves as the fuel protesters once again threaten blockades.... The hope is that this time too, the crisis will quickly evaporate. But there are scientists who believe that the recent problems are just a foretaste of what is to come - all the time and very soon. They predict that from 2005, the world will face a permanent and deepening shortage of petrol and diesel."
Peak Oil – an Outlook on Crude Oil Depletion, prepared for Mbendi in South Africa
"This paper was prepared by Dr Colin Campbell and represents his personal views on the oil industry and the future of oil. This paper is about “Peak Oil”, truly is a turning point for mankind. It will affect us all, although some more than others. It is a large and difficult subject. I will evaluate the causes of the present crisis and identify future directions."
2000 March 23
Evolution of Oil Assessments
"Assessing the world's endowment of oil would not be a particularly difficult task were it not for the atrociously unreliable database on what has been found so far.... Critics relish pointing out how the assessment has evolved over time, taking it as evidence that depletion studies are meaningless. A good response would be to quote the famous economist, Maynard Keynes, who on being accused of inconsistency replied. 'When I have new information, I change my conclusions. What do you do? Sir.' "
The table in this report plots the essential statistics of successive assessments of conventional oil by Dr. Campbell and his associates since 1989.
2000 March 20
The Myth of Spare Capacity
from the Oil and Gas Journal, March 20, 2000.
"The fundamental driver of the 20th Century's economic prosperity has been an abundant supply of cheap oil.... Middle East share ... is now about 30%. Unlike in the 1970s, this time it is set to continue to rise.... Share will likely reach 35% by 2002 and 50% by 2009. By then, the Middle East too will be close to its depletion midpoint, and unable to sustain production much longer irrespective of investment or desire."
Letter to the Editor, Foreign Affairs
Comments on the article "The Shocks of a World of Cheap Oil" by Jaffe and Manning in the January-February issue.
"What needs to be challenged ... is the assumption that oil prices will [remain] low, for which hardly any cogent argument or firm data are offered."
The Imminent Peak of World Oil Production
A Presentation to a House of Commons All-Party Committee, July 7th 1999
"The title of my talk is The Imminent Peak of World Oil Production. I would like to provide the evidence. It is of course a very large subject. There are colossal economic and political consequences. Indeed the very future of our subspecies Hydrocarbon Man is at stake. But I think that you are better qualified than I to assess these matters. I will therefore concentrate on the technical assessment."
The End of Cheap Oil
in Scientific American.
Forecasts about the abundance of oil are usually warped by inconsistent definitions of "reserves." In truth, every year for the past two decades the industry has pumped more oil than it has discovered, and production will soon be unable to keep up with rising demand.
Hear an interview with Dr. Campbell on National Public Radio
March 21, 1998 using Real Audio [click on "Oil Production"]:
"Oil Production: Scott [Simon] talks with oil industry expert Colin Campbell about Mr. Campbell's assertion that oil production will decline within the next decade... and that our current great oil prices are soon to be history. (5:00)"
Global Conventional Oil Endowment [table]
© C.J.Campbell, 1998
This extensive table lists the global conventional oil endowment by country.
The Coming Oil Crisis
© C.J.Campbell, 1997
Dr. Campbell has released The Coming Oil Crisis, published by Petroconsultants, in association with Multi-Science Publishing Co. Ltd. It is a provocative, readable, well illustrated and thoroughly researched assessment of future world oil supply. The 210-page paperback discusses how much conventional oil remains to be produced, and its depletion pattern. It explains how to properly interpret published numbers, many of which are spurious or distorted by vested interests.
The book is non-technical, readable and realistic. It combines technical knowledge with a thorough grasp of the political and economic factors central to oil. It is above all a timely book, providing critical reading for management and government, bankers and investors, as well as being excellent academic material for a range of subjects including economics, environment, resources, geography, political and social studies and petroleum studies.
The Twenty First Century
The World's Endowment of Conventional Oil and its Depletion
© C.J.Campbell, January, 1996
"No one should imagine that this is a simple subject. Public data are unreliable, and comment is often ill-informed or biased.... The world has now been very thoroughly explored so that nearly all of the oil provinces have been found...."