(137b) Clarifying the Limits of Petroleum Production | AIChE

(137b) Clarifying the Limits of Petroleum Production


Ebenhack, B. W. - Presenter, University of Rochester
Wilson, S. C., University of Rochester

The coming energy transition is the source of substantial concern and controversy. The public nature of the debate has distorted the issue. Engineering analyses can play a pivotal role in providing a perspective that clarifies the realities. It is clear that, whatever degree of optimism is applied to ultimate global reserve estimates, there are limits to growth in petroleum consumption and production. In fact, even very optimistic analyses demonstrate a relatively short time before a petroleum shortage can be expected.

Popular use of Reserves to Production Ratios (R/P) has generated a notion of an epic crisis, involving a sudden and total depletion of petroleum. The real shortage will occur at the point when production can no longer increase sufficiently to meet demand.

This is commonly represented by a symmetrical 'bell curve' of production growth and decline. However, there is no physical reason to expect symmetry. American decline data now offer an analogy to what may be expected in global decline. It is probable that the decline will be shallower than the growth. More oil will be produced under decline than under growth. The shallower the decline, the sooner the shortage occurs for a fixed quantity of ultimately recoverable resource in the earth's crust.

This work employs deliberately optimistic global resource estimates to clarify the ultimate limit on the growth of petroleum production. Even with ultimate global reserve estimates 200% larger than prevailing estimates, this limit occurs before the middle of this century. This creates a boundary within which we can know the shortage will occur for ?business as usual.'

Further understanding of the transition period can be gained by reviewing detailed historic regional and field production growth and decline data. These data permit modeling possible scenarios. Understanding the certainty of a coming shortage, reasonable timeframes and likely character of the shortage will be critical to informing planning for a viable transition.


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