Peak Oil News: Just what are the true levels of oil reserves?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Just what are the true levels of oil reserves?

Just what are the true levels of oil reserves?

In a growing debate over data transparency some increasingly searching questions are being asked by energy industry analysts about the true level of world oil reserves and whether official and company statistics really stack up.

Recent claims suggest Kuwait's oil reserves are far below the amount given with proven and non-proven crude reserves totalling more like 48 billion barrels than the officially stated 99 billion barrels.

One of the principal dilemmas seen in the oil market is obtaining accurate information and even basic statistics. A major reason for the scepticism results from OPEC's decision to change to a system of production quotas in the 1980s that is based on the size of each member country's reserves.

The larger these are the higher the quota. In 1985, Kuwait immediately revised its official reserve figure upwards by 50 per cent. Other countries followed. In 1988, Saudi Arabia issued a revised reserve figure adding 88 billion barrels.

Non-transparent data
A generation later, reserve estimates remain unchanged with no explanation if and to what extent new field discoveries may be compensating for depletion of reserves in existing fields. Saudi Arabia puts current reserves of 259 billion barrels, the UAE claims 92 billion barrels and Iran 93 billion barrels

Some 20 per cent of the world's oil supply comes from 14 oilfields that have been pumped for an average of 60 years since they were discovered. No reservoirs of comparable size have been discovered since the late 1960s and 1970s, critics point out.

Are aggressive production targets are hastening the depletion of such reserves?

Saudi Aramco, and other producers in the GCC, seem undisturbed. Aramco is planning to increase the number of development wells drilled by more than 60 percent this year compared to 2005 in an effort to raise crude oil production capacity to at least 12.5 million b/d by 2009 from 11 million b/d now.

Question marks
Nonetheless, the question mark over Gulf reserves remains. Nearly one out of every three barrels of oil reserves in the world lie under just two countries: Saudi Arabia reportedly with 259 billion barrels of proven reserves and Iraq with 112 billion barrels.

While Iraq currently plays a relatively marginal role in global oil markets, this is not the case with regard to its oil reserves. The war-torn country sits on 11 per cent of worldwide proven reserves of 1,050 billion barrels increasing its potential long-term significance for international oil supplies.

Experts believe Iraq's share of oil reserves might even be higher if potential reserves are included and could hold as much as 432 billion barrels according to US estimates.

Whatever the true level of GCC oil reserves is the region seems destined to play an increasingly influential role in meeting world energy demands. By 2020, the Gulf is forecast to supply more than half the world's crude oil and possibly as much as two thirds.


At 2:13 PM, April 03, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been re-reading Crosby's book,
a precursor to the spate of texts that have
appeared in the 1990s, not the least famous of
which has been Jared Diamond's _Guns, Germs and

Too bad Crosby's book was overlooked by the
mainstream at the time. We'd have had perhaps a
10-year jump on a general discussion about the
way in which we are all going to be going.

An uncommon element of the argument presented by
Alfred W. Crosby in _Ecological Imperialism--The
Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900_ is
this: The author suggests that the wave of
European expansion into the "neo-Europes"
(temperate climatic zones on terra firma between
latitudes 50 degrees North or South and the
corresponding Arctic or Antarctic Circles)
beginning in the 15th century was only so wildely
successful, or even possible, on account of the
previous biological expansion and clearing of the
way by the first wave of human invasion across
the "seams of pangea" (into the virgin land in
North and South America, Australia and New
Zealand). The first human invasion was the
invasion in which the great megafaunal
populations were extinguished, and with them, the
animal and vegetable species dependent upon their
presence in the land, and the effects of their
foraging activities, excretion and disturbance of
the landscape. With the demise of the megafauna
ecosystem (in the Americas, about 11000 years
ago, in Australia some 50000 years ago, in New
Zealand, about 1000 CE) ecological gaps and
econiches were opened to the invaders of the
relatively immediate second wave of invasion by
the European "portmanteau biota"--an invasion
"relatively immediate" in the geological and
ecological sense of course, in which much greater
passages of time are required to fill ecological
voids than hundreds or few thousands of years,
adaptive radiation being a slow, if steady

"Martin's theory [Dr. Paul S. Martin, author of
the theory, which accounts for the megafauna
extinctions of Australia, New Zealand and the
Americas to efficient neolithic over-hunting of
species completely non-adapted to human
predation, having evolved in its absence] also
helps explain the history of the fauna of the
pampa, where feral European livestock had their
most spectacular success. The pampa is one
hundred degrees of latitude distant from the
Bering Strait, the presumed point of entry for
the first humans to come to the Americas, and so
we are justified in speculating that the pampa
was one of the last areas to be occupied by the
hunters and that their disruption of its
ecosystem was recent, relative to the rest of the
fertile Americas. When the _marinheiros_ arrived
in the 16th century and Old World livestock
stiffly made their way ashore, major niches still
gaped open in the ecosystem. Hence the
astonishing spread of cattle and horses in the
following decades..."

This "two-wave" theory is significant for many
reasons, not the least of which, for good or ill,
it might supply ammunition to those on both sides
of contemporary socio-cultural disputes, but I
would like to point to what I think most
important. If the success of the second wave
depended so much upon the success of the first,
and it is so that the first wave of human
expansion into the new world resulted in the
megafaunal extinctions at the hands of the
neolithic human "first nations", clearing the way
for the second wave, then the fairest thing we
can say is that "People Are People", and in their
numbers and relentless intelligence, human beings
have great power to change the places in which
they live for good or ill. It is, therefore, a
_human_ problem that faces us, presently. Not
much of use will be brought to bear upon the
problems facing our species and our world by
elevating in praise this racial or cultural
heritage, or blaming that one--a temptation given
into by members of different populations and
cultures on every side of the question. Our
history shows us that there are few to no
exceptions to the rule--every human population
remains capable of the kinds of excess that
history suggests is responsible for ecological
dearth and human suffering we individually
condemn in the same moment we collectively affirm
and reinforce.

This is the compelling problem that faces us, and
if we do no solve it--this disconnect between
individual visionary conscience and collective
action--we will not as a species survive, or if
we do survive in pockets here and there, we will
not flourish or realize the promise (rather than
the doom) implicit in our tinkering, far-seeing,
intensely curious intelligence.


At 11:05 AM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Abendigo said...

Today SustainLane released a Peak Oil Index: The Top 50 US Cities Best Prepared for an Oil Crisis:


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