When the oil will run? What will happen then? A famous geophysicist, who has accurately predicted the peak oil production in many countries, said the fatal date for our energy dependence … and much sooner than you’d think.

Marion King Hubbert was a geophysicist who worked for the oil company Shell, in Houston, Texas. In 1956,  he presented research at the American Petroleum Institute, indicating that US oil production would peak between 1965 to 1970 and then begin to decline. His proposal was met with much criticism … until in 1970 Hubbert became famous, because actually this year oil production is projected down irretrievably.

In addition, Hubbert made a prediction much deeper, regarding a decline in world oil production in the medium term (40 years ago), using a fairly reasonable method.


What is the peak of Hubbert and why is it so important?

As is known, oil is a non-renewable resource, that is, there is a limited amount. Thus, in each oil well, there is a certain volume to be drawn, before it becomes uneconomical. That is, at any given time, more oil is spent on machinery that extract and transport, as obtained from the well. And that’s when you stop exploiting, not when it ends.

Then, each well is operating curve, since its discovery until it reaches a maximum extraction, and then gradually oil gets more expensive and more difficult to remove, until the well is abandoned. It forms a curve like this, where the highest part is the biggest production:


Hubbert curve. Kenneth M. Klemow. The end of oil is coming? This prediction says yes - tinoshare.com
Hubbert curve. Kenneth M. Klemow.

What Hubbert did was find a way to associate all production curves of an oil field, he discovered that each country had a very similar to that of an individual well curve, only wider. It is as follows:

The end of oil is coming? This prediction says yes - tinoshare.com
Hubbert curve applied to a geographical area. ASPO Italy.

The next step Hubbert was applying his method to whole countries and then worldwide,  considering not only the existing wells, but the known rate of oil discoveries, extrapolating into the future and estimating the rate of technological breakthroughs that could facilitate exploitation. That gives us the following result: As shown, there is a point that has been extracted about half of all the oil available, and since that time, production starts to decline.

Projected oil production by Hubbert. Cornell University. The end of oil is coming? This prediction says yes - tinoshare.com
Projected oil production by Hubbert. Cornell University.

We see that the maximum occurs just at the beginning of this century, and Hubbert specifically noted that this would occur between 2000 and 2005.

Of course, you can make objections and comments regarding this model. For example, it is impossible to know if a revolutionary breakthrough will occur that will completely change the way of extracting oil, and prevent becomes uneconomical remove all the oil from a well. Another objection is that Hubbert perhaps underestimated the potential oil fields yet to be discovered (after all, Hubbert was not a DeLorean with flux capacitor …), however, it should not be forgotten that the most accessible deposits have already been discovered and the more inaccessible, greater investment of resources and energy for extraction. And speaking of energy, petroleum talk invested, to be deducted from what is obtained. However, so far the recent revolutionary discoveries such as fracking and shale oil , have had a temporary effect on oil production .

What is the current situation?

Well, how this is consistent with reality? The world production of crude oil  has not increased significantly since 2004 and we are in a production plateau, that is, the oil available does not increase, but not decrease. Indeed, in 2005, Kuwait revised its projections, determining who  could not reach their production goals projected for 2020 . In addition, the 2007 OPEC  could not increase productionbecause transport costs made it prohibitive.

We must also consider that global production has stabilized at around 73 million barrels a day , because they have tried all kinds of new techniques and technologies for oil (such as fracking and shale oil – shale oil-, injection fluid such as nitrogen, etc.). However, despite this, the US  has already declared its 2016 production to low (from 9.22 to 8.82 million barrels per day).

Also, since several countries  have reached their production peakand have been declining oil extraction: It occurred to Oman and Norway, in 2001, England in 1999, Indonesia in 1977, Malaysia in 2005,  among many others countries .

The situation is approximately as follows:

World oil production. Energy Matters. The end of oil is coming? This prediction says yes - tinoshare.com
World oil production. Energy Matters.

All this means that it seems reasonable to think that at some point, around 2020, production will begin to decline consistently (ie, if we take a middle ground between the announcement of the International Energy Agency that already  next year will decline world production and oil companies like Exxon recently posed what  for around 2030 ). Something that also works against this is that the  price of a barrel of oil has remained very  low, so that production costs gradually become unsustainable.

This, of course, is worrying.


What are our options?

The  government policy in Chile, aimed at basing the 20% of our energy production on renewable sources by 2025, going in the right direction.But it is not enough. It’s very slow and very little.

Consider this: the crisis will eventually occur, can take two forms.One is through a gradual decline in production, which allow countries to adapt their energy, schemes or, through a brutal decline in oil production in five years may stop importing countries without supplies.

How does this depend? In a very simple fact: we must not forget that oil is a finite, non-renewable product. Therefore, the option that I call “catastrophic”, there is the possibility that this production, being maintained at the cost of future oil production , which at some point will lead to a rationing situation, where only producing countries have access, because there will be less and less oil to be extracted at a reasonable price.

Indeed, the US  has a strategic oil reserve capacity with a stellar 713.5 million barrels, which began to fill in 1977, and apparently not yet completed.

But there is also the possibility that this does not happen, and the discovery of new techniques and help mitigate deposits continued decline in production, so that there is a relatively reasonable time (10 to 15 years after the final fall in production) to begin to adapt our energy grids and forms of consumption.

The truth is that the decline in oil production will occur and that it is essential to start changing our habits, which by involving renewable energy, also help our ecology. It is ironic that when all our natural environmental concerns are causing havoc, climate change and the risk of disappearing as a species, has failed to change our consumption habits or convince our governments and businesses to embrace renewable power sources, it is our own oil and excessive consumption of it, takes it upon himself to force us to do so.

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I leave you, as a final thought, a phrase of M. King Hubbert own:

“We are in a crisis in the evolution of human society. It is a unique moment in both human history and geology. It has never happened before, and probably will not happen again. You can only use oil once. You can only use metals once. Soon all the oil will be burned and all the metals mined and scattered around the world. ”