10 July 2013

Peak Oil (Hubbert's Peak)

After a long while, I've decided to write a post for this long-neglected blog. One of the topics that we don't talk about much in Malaysia is "peak oil".

"Peak oil" is based on the theory formed by M. King Hubbert, a geoscientist who worked at the Shell research lab in Houston, Texas. (Source: Wikipedia entry on M King Hubbert)

In simple words, "peak oil" refers to that point in time when the production of oil in a certain area starts to decline. The production of oil in that region would follow a bell-shaped curve. (Source: Wikipedia entry on Hubbert peak theory) In other words, after production has "peaked", it becomes more difficult to produce oil.

In other words, the "peak" in peak oil refers to the peak predicted by Hubbert's theory, i.e. the top of the bell-shaped curve.

The theory is applicable to resources other than oil. Simply explained, production of oil follows the bell-shaped curve predicted by Hubbert's theory because:

a) in the early stages, the production rate of oil increases due to the discovery rate and the addition of infrastructures; and

b) at the late stages, the production rate of oil falls due to the depletion of resources. (Source: Wikipedia entry on Hubbert peak theory)

The Hubbert theory is applicable to "high grade" oil. It is not concerned with oil that is difficult to mine, but applies to oil that is easily obtained without much difficulty. (The truth is that mankind will continue to mine for oil, even in the deep sea, even with increasing costs, and even if there is a crisis of shortage -- or perhaps because of such shortages.)

A professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, Prof. Kjell Alekletts, was interviewed recently in the September 2012 edition of the university newsletter. (Source) It happened that his latest book, "Peeking at Peak Oil", was on the topic of peak oil. One of the things he said in that interview was, "The problems have to be taken seriously. We need to alter our entire lifestyle. The slowdown in oil production is one of the causes of the economic problems we are facing in Europe." Professor Aleklett's blog can be found here.

(This article will stop here for now, and be continued later....)