Peak Oil, Propaganda and the Coming Head-Fake (January 28, 2010)
The propaganda machine promises us we have plentiful oil and natural gas for 100 years. They neglect to mention the cost.
Every announcement of a "new oil field with 1 billion barrels of oil" unleashes a flood of MSM propaganda about the incredible abundance of oil and natural gas.
My objections to the propaganda are founded on three questions:
1. Did anyone do the math? 1 billion barrels sounds impressive until you do some simple multiplication and discover that is less than what the U.S. consumes every two months.
So boo-yah, 1 billion barrels. (Here's the math: 19 million barrels a day (MBD) X 30 days equals 570 million barrels a month.)
Recent industry stories claim there might be as much as 15 billion barrels in new discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico. Sounds promising, but if we multiply the global consumption of 85 million barrels a day by 30 days, we get 2.5 billion barrels. So 15 billion barrels in new discoveries works out to six months' supply at current consumption.
Here is a typical MSM story, aggressively titled Endless Oil: Technology, politics, and lower demand will yield a bumper crop of crude. (BusinessWeek) .
2. Did anyone calculate the declining production in existing wells which must be offset to keep production at 85 MBD? The MSM /Wall Street propaganda never mentions that the super-giant fields in Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the North Sea are all declining at about 4.5% or more per year. So massive new production must be brought online just to maintain current production.
3. How much will it cost to extract, transport and process this new oil and gas?
We should note once again that Peak Oil is not just about oil running out--it's about the disappearance of cheap oil. At $300/barrel, there may well be quite a bit of oil left. But what will $300/barrel oil mean to the global economy?
Goodbye, cheap vacations overseas. Goodbye, cheap grain based on cheap fossil fuels. And so on.
Let's take a close look at what kind of oil and gas is being discovered. It turns out it's very deep and poses engineering difficulties glossed over in the MSM propaganda. Frequent contributor U. Doran submitted this link from TOD (the oil drum). McMoRan Davy Jones Gas Discovery
McMoRan Exploration Company has made a significant discovery in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico that may contain 2 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas reserves. The well was drilled in 20 ft of water 10 miles south of the Louisiana . The discovery by McMoRan (operator) and partners Plains Exploration & Production Company and Nippon Oil Corporation is very deep (28,125 to 28,262 feet drilling depth) but with excellent quality
So not only is this well incredibly costly, the actual results are unknown. The conditions are extreme, to say the least; this won't be cheap natural gas, if it can be extracted at all with today's prices.
I wrote this piece for AOL last year: Why the coming natural gas boom isn't all it's 'fracced' up to be (Daily Finance)
Most of the comments claimed I was off-base, that fraccing would create abundant cheap gas forever, etc., but one reader self-identified as Chemimagineer wrote a much more informed and skeptical response:
About 2 years ago, Ultra Petroleum stated its production costs at $1.88/MSCF in Wyoming. They along with Haliburton have pioneered the frac techniques that are currently being used. They did this for good reason as some of the reservoir columns are along 1 mile thick!!! I have read claimed costs of production from Ultra's low at $1.88 to around $4.00/MSCFD (1000 Standard Cubic Feet Per Day).
In other words, nobody really knows what costs these outfits are incurring, or how steep their decline rates are. The hype is all positive, but then the real world isn't always so accommodating.
Here are some other excellent blogs on the subject of natural gas and peak oil:
Crossroad before the Coming Crisis (GardenSERF)
The Natural Gas Farce (GardenSERF)
THE ECONOMICS OF OIL EMPIRE AND PEAK OIL (frequent contributor B.C.)
Lastly, here is my speculative chart from 2008, calling for a spike in the price of oil followed by a "head-fake" drop. We got the spike last summer to $147, and while prices rose to $80/barrel recently, they may decline to as low as $20/barrel when the global recession really takes hold in 2011-2013.
As demand recovers, it will climb above falling supply, and prices will quickly climb to the stratosphere. Gas and oil 28,000 feet down far from shore and facing tremendous pressures and other engineering challenges will not be cheap to extract, transport or process. No amount of supply will lower those costs.
Here are a few books on the material matters conveniently ignored by the MSM:
Globalization and Its Discontents Joseph Stiglitz
Planet of Slums
The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History
The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge To China's Future
And if you'll forgive a burst of shameless self-promotion: Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation
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