Monday, January 3, 2011

Dr Jeremy Gilbert retired chief of BP comments on Peak Oil

Peak Oil is not a major discussion topic right now.  The media and most people are concerned about other actual or potential crises, mainly economic, and they feel that action on the immediate is more urgent than the need to worry about energy supplies.  There is a wider acceptance of the future world oil problem in Europe than in the US; certainly there are a number of EU politicians who are firm believers and who use the term 'peak oil' freely in speeches, without apparently feeling the need to provide justification and without provoking irrational responses.

The world spare oil production capacity discussion is causing some confusion.  People who have never spent time in an oil field have difficulty understanding how there can be so much uncertainty about companies' and countries' production capacity.  Most of them are probably unaware that there is even quite a lot of uncertainty about individual producing units' actual production! 

I believe that the spare production capacity numbers that are generally quoted are grossly overstated and fail to recognize the practical problems associated with opening up wells or production facilities that have been closed-in for long periods.  Such operations tend to be a lot more fraught than anticipated - perforations have become blocked; valves are stuck; lines are gas-locked, waxed or asphaltene-choked.  All of these problems can be fixed, but they take time and they take people, and there are rarely spare people sitting around an oil-field just waiting for the order to bring production back up.  It takes time, much more time than most estimates suggest.

Dr. Jeremy Gilbert, retired BP Chief Petroleum Engineer.  December 20, 2010.

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