At Most, Humans Have Only Used 2% of Earth’s Petroleum
Petroleum is formed from that portion of the organic matter deposited in sediments in a chemically reducing environment – no free oxygen. That condition requires a deep water depositional environment at depths below the oxygenation zone. Ocean water at those depths occurs far enough off-shore so that coarse-grained suspended sediments have already been deposited into the shallower, higher-energy and oxygen-rich depositional environments. Farther off-shore the organic matter destined to run diesel locomotive, was being incorporated into an anoxic, organics-rich, fine-grained clay which, when lithified, would become black shale. __ Petroleum Age Just Begun
Since Earth has an active geology, a large part of the petroleum deposits that were formed under the seas, have been moved along with surrounding rock strata, and left “high and dry” with respect to current oceans.
Roughly 90% of all petroleum that was formed from biological organisms, still remains in shale and other source rock. Of the 10% that escaped to higher strata, less than half has been discovered as proved reserves — and less than 40% of proved reserves for discovered petroleum has been extracted for use. This means that humans have only used roughly 2% of Earth’s petroleum, at the very most. Thanks to ongoing innovation, most — over 50% — of the remaining 98% will ultimately be recoverable in an economic manner — for as long as humans continue to demand petroleum. In other words, future humans will be able to access more than 25 times the amount of petroleum already used. No wonder the age of petroleum has barely begun!
New Petroleum Revolutions: In Production and in Discovery
Revolutions in Oil Production
Beginning less than a decade ago, the shale revolution – a result of technological breakthroughs in horizontal drilling and fracking – has turned the long run declining oil production trends in the US into rises of 88% from 2008 to 2015. Despite current low prices and the damage done to profits, an exceedingly high rate of productivity improvements in this relatively new industry promises to strengthen the competitiveness of shale output even further.
… Another related revolution is beginning to see the light of the day, but news about it has barely reached the media. It is being gradually realized that advancements in horizontal drilling and fracking, technologies normally associated with shale, can also be applied to fuller extraction from conventional, but old and tired, oil fields. If the rest of the world applies these techniques to conventional oil, as the US has done in recent years, this would yield a further addition of conventional oil amounting to 20 million barrels per day by 2035. __ Scientific American
Rapid innovation within these oil production revolutions have cut the cost of shale oil production from over $65 bbl, to between $10 and $55 bbl at present (PDF). And the cost of production for these massive supplies of source rock oil continue to come down!
Improved production methods of offshore oil & gas deposits are likewise undergoing rapid innovation pressure. Production costs for offshore will be slower to come down, and these massive supplies are likely to provide much of “future marginal oil,” as costs of producing shale oil & gas plummet.
Revolutions in Exploration and Discovery
Neos and Lockheed Martin are building a unique sensor, which is so advanced that it could find a 10-m tall hill buried 1 km below the earth’s surface. Put another way, the technology could find an armored truck full of gold 20 m below the earth, purely by sensing the effect the bullion imparts on the local gravity field.
The new technology, called Full Tensor Gradiometry (FTG) Plus, has 20 times the sensitivity and 10 times greater bandwidth than current gravity gradiometers. Lockheed Martin is building the prototype specifically to detect natural resources from aircraft owned and operated by Neos.
“FTG Plus transforms what we can do and what we can see from the air,” said Jonathan Faiman, chairman of Neos. “Remote sensing is going to dominate the exploration market, and with this sensor Neos will have the most advanced in the world. It will enable us to image resources cleaner, quicker and at a lower cost to our customers.” __ World Oil __ via NextBigFuture
Better methods of electromagnetic, seismic, and gravitational surveys for underground and undersea petroleum resources will uncover new supplies that are presently unsuspected. As new technologies for exploration, recovery, and utilisation progress, humans will have acess to twice the fossil fuel resources in 2050 than at present.
Other Forms of Hydrocarbon Energy That Will Dwarf Petroleum Resources Above
Gas hydrates form continuously in deep sea sediments due to the action of methanogenic bacteria, combined with cold, high pressure environments under the seabed.
Most of the planet’s hydrocarbon endowment has not yet been discovered.
Nuclear process heat from new, advanced very high temperature nuclear reactors, will be able to convert cheap and abundant carbonaceous materials such as coal, bitumen, kerogens, and biomass etc. into more valuable fuels, fertilisers, plastics, and anything else currently made from petroleum. Nuclear fuels are cheap, so the EROEI equation for creating useful hydrocarbons, fertilisers, and polymers from cheap carbonaceous materials is highly favourable.
Remember, the use of cheap and abundant energy (nuclear process heat) to create higher quality forms of energy (diesel, gasoline, etc.) turns traditional EROEI thinking on its head!
The Age of Petroleum is Just Beginning — But The List of Potential Substitutes for Petroleum is Quite Long
With the explosion of technologies supporting the shale (source rock) petroleum revolution, suddenly the available petroleum resource has increased by a factor of at least 5. As technologies of production, exploration, and physical conversion/synthesis improve, those resources — including proven reserves — can only go up.
The avalanche of abundant oil & gas from source rock has caught the world by surprise. Advanced biofuels from algae and biomass no longer make as much economic sense as they once did, before the shale revolution. But the technology for creating synthetic fuels from biomass, coal, bitumen, kerogen, natural gas, etc. continues to develop under strong innovation pressures.
Thus, peak oil armageddon has been delayed for quite a long time, no matter what you had been hoping. The same goes for climate apocalypse, of course, but that is a topic for another day.
It is always the doom you have not prepared for that gets you in the end. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Consider a Dangerous Childhood, if you want to stand tall to face the turbulent future ahead.