Preaching to converted

 
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Three types of peak

Even though the Lisbon meeting was, after all, a workshop convened by those who believe the peak oil point is imminent, many of the best addresses came from invited guests who, while accepting the concept that oil production would peak, either confined their comments to specific geographical areas within their own specialist expertise or tended to consider that peaking might come somewhat later than Campbell and Skrebowski anticipated.

Thus Carlos Bruhn, manager for reservoir characterization at Petrobras, said Brazilian production and reserves were both expected to increase over the next few years as the result of new offshore deepwater discoveries in the Espirito Santo and Sergipe-Abigoas basins and continued output from the Campos basin. "Brazil's reserve growth, essentially focused on the three offshore deepwater basins, will continue for at least the next five years," he said. Proven reserves stood at 13-bil barrels of oil equivalent in 2004, of which 84% was oil and 16% was gas and would grow to at least 17.3-bil barrels of oil equivalent by 2010. Actual production would increase from a current rate of around 1.7-mil barrels a day to 2.3-mil barrels a day in 2010.

 

"It is a difficult problem and challenge faced by us. So it is a task of our petroleum staff to fully realize the severity of the problem and take effective measures to solve it in time." - Xiongqi Pang, director of China's Key Laboratory for Hydrocarbon Accumulation Mechanism
Xiongqi Pang, director of China's Key Laboratory for Hydrocarbon Accumulation Mechanism, argued in a paper co-written with two colleagues from the Basin and Reservoir Research Center at Beijing's University of Petroleum that Chinese oil production would peak in 2010 at 175-mil tonnes and that natural gas production would peak in around 2025 or 2026 at 120-mil tonnes of oil equivalent.

Pang noted that China was already facing energy shortages, observing: "it is a difficult problem and challenge faced by us. So it is a task of our petroleum staff to fully realize the severity of the problem and take effective measures to solve it in time." Pang told Energy Economist that China's leaders recognized there was a problem and that policies embracing energy conservation and fuel switching already constituted part of the government's response.

One address, delivered in the absence of the speaker through illness, implicitly raised an issue that the conference barely touched on: what if it makes better sense to view oil prediction as reaching a plateau, rather than a peak? At that point, whether the absolute peak comes at the start, middle or end of the plateau becomes of less significance than the question of how long the plateau will last.

The paper in question came from Ray Leonard, former vice president for exploration for the troubled Yukos of Russia now with Hungary's MOL who anticipated that current investment problems would cause Russia to face a production crisis in the next four or five years. He also considered that it was quite reasonable to expect that Russian oil production might, if fresh investment were forthcoming, remain at around the 9-mil b/d level from now until 2020.

Leonard suggested that Russia would need to secure considerably increased investment after 2008 to maintain output at roughly current levels. His paper indicated, how-ever, that he expected that at least some of the needed investment would be forthcoming, since his charts showed Russian oil production remaining at around 9-mil b/d from 2005 to 2010 and even then falling just a little short of that level in both 2015 and 2020.

"The crisis will come at the end of the decade when the lack of investment during 2005-2010 needed to maintain future levels of production by development of new areas becomes apparent unless current policies are changed," Leonard's paper argued.

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