Thursday, September 23, 2010

Refining the Peak Oil Rosy Scenario Part 1 Review and Introduction

Note: for some background information about peak oil, I put up a resources page here. This page also includes resources to a number of Hubbert's publications which are discussed in this series.

In some previous posts here and here, I applied the export-land model data from Jeffery Brown et al., and, some assumptions about the decline rate in domestic oil production, to show how the typical decline in oil production portrayed by some peak oil advocates could be overly-optimistic as applied to the availability of oil in the coming years.  Dmitry Orlov’s recent article Peak Oil is History characterized the typical symmetric bell-shape curve as a "Rosy Scenario," in his view.

Here's an example of such an "Orlov-ean Rosy Scenario:"

As you see, civilization at present, is typically portrayed as being at about the peak rate of oil production (maybe 2005), after which there is a rather gradual falloff in the production rate (e.g., about 0.5%/yr, I estimated from the above plot) followed by a much steeper decline about 20 or so years out from now. 

The point I made in the earlier articles is that, for a large oil importing nation, like the USA, the falloff in oil could be much steeper than portrayed above.  The falloff could be much steeper because the trend is for oil producing countries that export oil to the USA to increasingly use more and more of their own oil that they extracted domestically.  Therefore, the falloff in exportable oil by these countries to the USA, and elsewhere, should account for both the declining rates of oil production and the increasing rates of domestic use.  

I modeled this by assuming that USA's production would decline at 2%/yr (eye-balled from the USA's production data since its peak rate in 1980) and foreign imports would decline at 6.2%/yr (estimated by Jeffrey Brown et al. to be the projected rate of declining exports from the top 5 oil exporters) to produce the following alternative outlook for oil availability in the USA, which I call the Land-Export Model Scenario

The green line is the sum of the rate of domestic production plus the rate of foreign oil importation (yellow line) into the USA with the above assumptions.  

Introduction to refinement:

After further consideration, and, finding a source of world-wide oil consumption and production data, I realized that I could improve this model.  In particular, I want to make two refinements:

1) Estimate the USA's actual rate of oil production decline and estimate the decline in exportable oil for the countries that the USA actually imports its oil from.  

2) Estimate the projected decline rate of oil exports from the countries that the USA actually imports most of its oil from.

Brown indicated that the top five global exporters in 2007 were: Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran, and UAE.  

The USA, however, imports relatively little oil from these sources as shown in Fig. 5.4 from the AER 2009:

For 2009, only Saudi Arabia (4th) and Russia (6th) figured into the top 9 countries that the USA presently gets its oil from.  Knowing the rates of oil export decline for these two countries are important, but so are the other seven countries, which could be greater or less than the rates for the top five.

Okay, let's find out!


  1. I just looked up US oil consumption for 2012, and it seems to be at the level it was around 1995. So the green curve that you predicted seems on track.

    Thank you for all your interesting work.

  2. Thanks Anonymous. For a detailed analysis of US consumption and production trends, please check out later posts in this blog... use the "search this blog" window on the right.


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