Ready for the Future – In 131 Years?

Larry Nation, AAPG’s communications director, sent me a press release about a study conducted by two University of California-Davis civil and environmental engineers, recently published in Environmental Science & Technology. Their study concluded that global oil will run out 90 years before the technology to replace gasoline and diesel fuel is ready.*

Their study, to quote the abstract, “establishes a probabilistic theoretical approach based on market expectations reflected in prices of publicly traded securities to estimate the time horizon until the appearance of new technologies related to replacement of nonrenewable resources, for example, crude oil and oil products.”

They use the market capitalization of oil and alternative companies, the dividends paid by the oil companies and oil reserve replacement rates to determine when the technology will be available to replace gasoline and diesel fuel as transportation fuels.

Their calculations indicate the time when “renewable replacement fuels can be self-sustaining, at least from a market perspective,” is 131 years in the future.

To many of us, their conclusion would seem faulty – even ridiculous. Biodiesel is already available and it could likely be commercially available within 131 years. It appears the technology for potentially commercial renewable fuels already exists.

Nonetheless, I think anyone who dares to speculate about technology development that far in the future deserves some consideration.


A simple calculation indicates the authors expect the world to run out of oil in 41 years. The world’s current rate of crude oil consumption is approximately 30 billion barrels of oil per year; therefore, they are using an estimate of approximately 1,230 billion barrels of world crude oil reserves.

This estimate is not very different from BP’s published world oil reserves of 1,333.1 billion barrels as of 2009 (Statistical Review of World Energy 2010). By BP’s analysis, we have a reserve life of 44 years at current production rates.

I applaud the authors’ desire to take a long-term and sustainable view of the world’s energy situation. However, what the authors fail to appreciate is that, based on BP’s statistics, the world has had an average estimated crude oil reserve life of 42 years every year since 1990.

During that period, approximately 540 billion barrels of crude oil have been produced. Through discoveries and reserve additions to existing fields, we have managed to maintain a crude oil reserve life of about 42 years throughout that period.

Granted, crude oil is a finite resource, but the authors do not seem to grasp the difference between oil reserves and oil resource.

If their estimate of 131 years to development of a new commercial transportation technology is applied to the replacement of the internal combustion engine, that would seem to be a little more plausible. Electric vehicles are currently available for short trips, but we still generate 70 percent of our electricity from coal and natural gas. At this point, electric vehicles do not run on a renewable energy source. The biggest hurdles to the development of a commercial transportation system based on renewable fuels are long-haul trucks, trains and airplanes.

I hope the world will have that technology in 131 years. Until that occurs, crude oil and natural gas will continue to be an integral part of our energy requirements.

*Nataliya Malyshkina and Deb Niemeier; Future Sustainability Forecasting by Exchange Markets: Basic Theory and Application; Environmental Science and Technology (American Chemical Society); Nov. 8, 2010

Comments (0)

 

President's Column - David G. Rensink

David G. Rensink, AAPG President (2010-11), is a consultant out of Houston. He retired from Apache Corp in 2009.

President's Column

AAPG Presidents offer thoughts and information about their experiences for the Association. 

VIEW COLUMN ARCHIVES

See Also: Bulletin Article

In reservoir engineering, hydrodynamic properties can be estimated from downhole electrical data using heuristic models (e.g., Archie and Kozeny-Carman's equations) relating electrical conductivity to porosity and permeability. Although proven to be predictive for many sandstone reservoirs, the models mostly fail when applied to carbonate reservoirs that generally display extremely complex pore network structures.

In this article, we investigate the control of the three-dimensional (3-D) geometry and morphology of the pore network on the electrical and flow properties, comparing core-scale laboratory measurements and 3-D x-ray microtomography image analysis of samples from a Miocene reefal carbonate platform located in Mallorca (Spain).

The results show that micrometer- to centimeter-scale heterogeneities strongly influence the measured macroscopic physical parameters that are then used to evaluate the hydrodynamic properties of the rock, and therefore, existing models might not provide accurate descriptions because these heterogeneities occur at scales smaller than those of the integration volume of the borehole geophysical methods. However, associated with specific data processing, 3-D imagery techniques are a useful and probably unique mean to characterize the rock heterogeneity and, thus, the properties variability.

Desktop /Portals/0/PackFlashItemImages/WebReady/electrical-and-flow-properties-of-highly-heterogeneous-carbonate-rocks.jpg?width=50&h=50&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=90amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true 3251 Bulletin Article

A series of short and steep unidirectionally migrating deep-water channels, which are typically without levees and migrate progressively northeastward, are identified in the Baiyun depression, Pearl River Mouth Basin. Using three-dimensional seismic and well data, the current study documents their morphology, internal architecture, and depositional history, and discusses the distribution and depositional controls on the bottom current–reworked sands within these channels.

Unidirectionally migrating deep-water channels consist of different channel-complex sets (CCSs) that are, overall, short and steep, and their northeastern walls are, overall, steeper than their southwestern counterparts. Within each CCS, bottom current–reworked sands in the lower part grade upward into muddy slumps and debris-flow deposits and, finally, into shale drapes.

Three stages of CCSs development are recognized: (1) the early lowstand incision stage, during which intense gravity and/or turbidity flows versus relatively weak along-slope bottom currents of the North Pacific intermediate water (NPIW-BCs) resulted in basal erosional bounding surfaces and limited bottom current–reworked sands; (2) the late lowstand lateral-migration and active-fill stage, with gradual CCS widening and progressively northeastward migration, characterized by reworking of gravity- and/or turbidity-flow deposits by vigorous NPIW-BCs and the CCSs being mainly filled by bottom current–reworked sands and limited slumps and debris-flow deposits; and (3) the transgression abandonment stage, characterized by the termination of the gravity and/or turbidity flows and the CCSs being widely draped by marine shales. These three stages repeated through time, leading to the generation of unidirectionally migrating deep-water channels.

The distribution of the bottom current–reworked sands varies both spatially and temporally. Spatially, these sands mainly accumulate along the axis of the unidirectionally migrating deep-water channels and are preferentially deposited to the side toward which the channels migrated. Temporally, these sands mainly accumulated during the late lowstand lateral-migration and active-fill stage.

The bottom current–reworked sands developed under the combined action of gravity and/or turbidity flows and along-slope bottom currents of NPIW-BCs. Other factors, including relative sea level fluctuations, sediment supply, and slope configurations, also affected the formation and distribution of these sands. The proposed distribution pattern of the bottom current–reworked sands has practical implications for predicting reservoir occurrence and distribution in bottom current–related channels.

Desktop /Portals/0/PackFlashItemImages/WebReady/upper-miocene-to-quaternary.jpg?width=50&h=50&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=90amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true 3665 Bulletin Article

See Also: CD DVD

Desktop /Portals/0/images/_site/AAPG-newlogo-vertical-morepadding.jpg?width=50&h=50&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=90amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true 4453 CD-DVD
Desktop /Portals/0/images/_site/AAPG-newlogo-vertical-morepadding.jpg?width=50&h=50&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=90amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true 4469 CD-DVD

See Also: Short Course

Black Belt Ethics examines the various tenants that define the martial artist’s code of honor. The course reviews each of these tenants and discusses how they can be applied in our personal and professional lives.

Desktop /Portals/0/PackFlashItemImages/WebReady/ace2015-sc05-black-belt-hero.jpg?width=50&h=50&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=90amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true 14562 Short Course