Running Out of and Into Oil: Analyzing Global Oil Depletion and Transition Through 2050

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This report presents a risk analysis of world conventional oil resource production, depletion, expansion, and a possible transition to unconventional oil resources such as oil sands, heavy oil and shale oil over the period 2000 to 2050. Risk analysis uses Monte Carlo simulation methods to produce a probability distribution of outcomes rather than a single value. Probability distributions are produced for the year in which conventional oil production peaks for the world as a whole and the year of peak production from regions outside the Middle East. Recent estimates of world oil resources by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), ... continued below

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Greene, D.L. November 14, 2003.

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This report presents a risk analysis of world conventional oil resource production, depletion, expansion, and a possible transition to unconventional oil resources such as oil sands, heavy oil and shale oil over the period 2000 to 2050. Risk analysis uses Monte Carlo simulation methods to produce a probability distribution of outcomes rather than a single value. Probability distributions are produced for the year in which conventional oil production peaks for the world as a whole and the year of peak production from regions outside the Middle East. Recent estimates of world oil resources by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the World Energy Council (WEC) and Dr. C. Campbell provide alternative views of the extent of ultimate world oil resources. A model of oil resource depletion and expansion for twelve world regions is combined with a market equilibrium model of conventional and unconventional oil supply and demand to create a World Energy Scenarios Model (WESM). The model does not make use of Hubbert curves but instead relies on target reserve-to-production ratios to determine when regional output will begin to decline. The authors believe that their analysis has a bias toward optimism about oil resource availability because it does not attempt to incorporate political or environmental constraints on production, nor does it explicitly include geologic constraints on production rates. Global energy scenarios created by IIASA and WEC provide the context for the risk analysis. Key variables such as the quantity of undiscovered oil and rates of technological progress are treated as probability distributions, rather than constants. Analyses based on the USGS and IIASA resource assessments indicate that conventional oil production outside the Middle East is likely to peak sometime between 2010 and 2030. The most important determinants of the date are the quantity of undiscovered oil, the rate at which unconventional oil production can be expanded, and the rate of growth of reserves and enhanced recovery. Analysis based on data produced by Campbell indicates that the peak of non-Middle East production will occur before 2010. For total world conventional oil production, the results indicate a peak somewhere between 2020 and 2050. Key determinants of the peak in world oil production are the rate at which the Middle East region expands its output and the minimum reserves-to-production ratios producers will tolerate. Once world conventional oil production peaks, first oil sands and heavy oil from Canada, Venezuela and Russia, and later some other source such as shale oil from the United States must expand if total world oil consumption is to continue to increase. Alternative sources of liquid hydrocarbon fuels, such as coal or natural gas are also possible resources but not considered in this analysis nor is the possibility of transition to a hydrogen economy. These limitations were adopted to simplify the transition analysis. Inspection of the paths of conventional oil production indicates that even if world oil production does not peak before 2020, output of conventional oil is likely to increase at a substantially slower rate after that date. The implication is that there will have to be increased production of unconventional oil after that date if world petroleum consumption is to grow.

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  • Report No.: ORNL/TM-2003/259
  • Grant Number: DE-AC05-00OR22725
  • DOI: 10.2172/885837 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 885837
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc875386

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  • November 14, 2003

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

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  • Dec. 1, 2016, 6:19 p.m.

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Greene, D.L. Running Out of and Into Oil: Analyzing Global Oil Depletion and Transition Through 2050, report, November 14, 2003; [Tennessee]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc875386/: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.