Transition Chepstow

Peak Oil

“We should leave oil before it leaves us.”  Faith Barol, Chief Economist – International Energy Agency
The Independent, 2 March 2008

Crude oil is found trapped within certain types of rocks underground. When an oil deposit is located, a hole is drilled downwards. When the rock containing the oil is reached, the pressure from the trapped oil forces the oil out. As the oil is taken out (produced) its pressure gets lower, and so the production rate of that oil well drops off as it becomes more difficult to get the oil out. Eventually it becomes so difficult and expensive to extract the oil from the well that the company moves onto another one.

The life cycle of an oil well follows the Hubbert model, which shows that the production rate of a limited resource like oil will follow a roughly symmetrical bell shaped curve: oil production stops rising, flattens and then declines.

M. King Hubbert first used the theory in 1956 to accurately predict that United States oil production would peak between 1965 and 1970. His logistic model, now called Hubbert peak theory, has since been used to predict with reasonable accuracy the peak and decline of crude oil production of many countries.

Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of oil extraction is reached on a global scale. After this time the rate of production continues to go downwards. Because the world’s petroleum supply is effectively fixed (there is only so much oil in the ground), if global oil consumption is not slowed down before the worldwide decline phase begins, a world energy crisis will develop because the availability of oil will drop, causing prices to rise further.

Clearly the timing of the global peak is crucial. If it were to happen soon, the consequences would be devastating. Oil has become the world’s foremost energy resource. There is no ready substitute and decades will be required to wean societies from it. Peak oil could therefore constitute the greatest economic challenge since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. (Richard Heinberg)

The energy in one barrel of oil is equivalent to that of 5 labourers working non-stop for a year. (New Scientist 28 June 2008)

Expensive fuel at the pumps is just the start. Battles over the price of oil could be the harbinger of something even scarier. There is a growing realisation that we are teetering on the edge of an economic catastrophe which could be triggered next time there is a glitch in the World’s oil supply. (New Scientist 28 June 2008)

Oil-producing nations that have already passed their peak

Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Barbados, Belarus, Benin, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Congo (Kinshasa), Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia & Montenegro, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Surinam, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, Yemen.


The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins, © Greenbooks 2008

It is not just fuel that is made from crude oil!