08 November 2008

No Peak of Abiogenic Oil

I have already written a bit about the peak oil issue in the context of James Kunstler's prediction of the financial crisis. And I said I will return to it.

Right now, when oil prices have plunged from record highs, peak oil may not seem to be a big issue. But the price swings may be deceptive. The present downturn is obviously not due to increased production but rather to the expectation of a global recession and hence reduced demand. If advance stories on the World Energy Outlook 2008, due to be released by the International Energy Agency next week, are correct, even the previously optimistic IEA warns of a return of high oil prices and supply problems. Ironically, the current crisis leading to low oil prices may worsen the problem in the future. A UK industry taskforce also seems to be concerned.

However, there is still debate whether peak oil is a real threat. Somehow this reminds me of the debate about the reality of the climate change threat. I have written about some bogus arguments against climate change. Today I'd like to look at such an argument against the possibility of a peak in oil production.

The argument, which links to a previous post, is that oil in fact is not of biogenic origin and therefore severely limited, but rather of abiogenic, deep origin, and therefore present in vast quantities that we only need to tap. Does this argument stand up to a reality check?

Hardly. The foremost western proponent of the abiogenic oil theory is Jack Kenney, who indeed posts several anti-peak-oil articles on his website. I have already written about my weird experience with Kenney, based on which I certainly don't trust him. But his theory is also thoroughly refuted by many experts in the field.

Interestingly, the economic papers published on Kenney's website, which all refute the notion of limited oil supplies, mostly do not seem to refer to the abiogenic petroleum theory. They are authored by M. C. Lynch and P. Odell, which appear to be quite well-informed experts in the oil business. I wonder if these authors are aware of the fact that their articles are promoted on a rather dubious webpage. It certainly does not increase their credibility...


  1. Here is some reality.

    According to most independent scientific studies, global oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time demand will increase 9%.

    No one can reverse this trend, nor can we conserve our way out of this catastrophe. Because the demand for oil is so high, it will always exceed production levels; thus oil depletion will continue steadily until all recoverable oil is extracted.

    Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment.

    We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel trucks for maintenance of bridges, cleaning culverts to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables, all from far away. With the highways out, there will be no food coming in from "outside," and without the power grid virtually nothing works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated systems.

    This is documented in a free 48 page report that can be downloaded, website posted, distributed, and emailed: http://www.peakoilassociates.com/POAnalysis.html

    I used to live in NH-USA, but moved to a sustainable place. Anyone interested in relocating to a nice, pretty, sustainable area with a good climate and good soil? Email: clifford dot wirth at yahoo dot com or give me a phone call which operates here as my old USA-NH number 603-668-4207. http://survivingpeakoil.blogspot.com/

    1. Cool story, bro. Worldwide oil production averaged 93 millions barrels per day in 2014.

  2. Thanks, Clifford, for the comment and useful links. I agree that peak oil is a real problem, but I am less pessimistic than you seem to be about its consequences. Perhaps this is because I live in Europe, where we are a little less oil-dependent than in the US.

    My home country Switzerland generates its electricity mostly from hydro and nuclear plants and has an excellent public transportation system in place. I hope we can make the transition, but surely we have to start at last!