The Age of Petroleum Has Just Begun

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 Hydrate Resources Dwarf Other Hydrocarbon Deposits

Gas Hydrate Resources Dwarf Other Hydrocarbon Deposits

Der Spiegel

Gas hydrates form continuously in deep sea sediments due to the action of methanogenic bacteria, combined with cold, high pressure environments under the seabed.

Swindell's Global Hydrocarbon Endowment for Planet earth A lot more hydrocarbon where that came from . . .

Swindell’s Global Hydrocarbon Endowment for Planet earth
A lot more hydrocarbon where that came from . . .

Most of the planet’s hydrocarbon endowment has not yet been discovered.

Nuclear Process Heat

Nuclear Process Heat

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.


Shale oil & gas getting leaner and meaner

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9 Responses to The Age of Petroleum Has Just Begun

  1. Dan_Kurt says:

    Given your open mind, I urge you to investigate the late Thomas Gold’s books on abiotic gas, oil and coal.

    Dan Kurt

  2. yoananda says:

    I’m ready to believe in the so called shale revolution, but so far, I’m having hard time’s to do so !

    1rst : we don’t care about energy reserves. They are (potentially) “infinite”, we have plenty of in the nearby solar system in many forms. The problem is the access and the pace of extraction. It’s the same for shale and any energy “source” : at what cost, at what pace, at what scale.
    Shale cost is highly controversial at best for the moment. The scale depend on many factors (too long to expose here). And the pace seems to be fast but also volatile !

    2nd : the so called technological advances are not clear. Ok for the new prospective tools (3D underground mapping), but for the other technologies, fracking and horizontal drilling existed for decades.

    3rd : if it was a technological revolution, why did it happen ONLY when the fed launch it’s QE, and when de oil price was above 100$, and why is production strongly declining right now (peak shale since 1yr), just after QE have ended ! It’s very disturbing.

    4th : if it was such a revolution, why no pipeline have been built ? why no other country have adopted this new miracle technology ? It’s “small signs” that do not help to believe it’s a genuine technological jump.

    I don’t say it is NOT, I say, right now, I’m still sceptical ! It seems to be a little soon to be affirmative on the matter of shale revolution. Unless new convincing information is presented, of course.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Simple logic would force the question: Why have oil prices stayed so low over the past 2+ years? What were Saudi Arabia and Russia so intent on doing when they ramped up production to record levels — against all predictions of “peak oil doomers?”

      US shale oil production has not dropped nearly as much as you imply. It is poised for a sharp rebound should oil ever rise in price above current levels — which are killing Russia and Saudi Arabia.

      You may find this talk interesting. You will need to update the information behind your assertions above.

      • yoananda says:

        thank you. I’m going to look at it carefully.

      • yoananda says:

        This speech didn’t brought new information (to me at least, I’ve spent years to study oil), and it merely take shale revolution for granted and examine geopolitical consequences (that we can already observes I agree, but …).
        I already know that many believe in shale revolution.

        For example : Mark Mills says that during the worse period (oil at 30$) CAPEX diminished for 40% and production increase for 50%.
        That’s right, but has nothing to do with technological advances : it’s just the smart usage of sweet spots. Doesn’t he knows that ?
        Shale is versatile. That’s a clear strength, I don’t deny it.
        But it’s not what’s bothers me !
        Sorry but no responses here to my objections.

        The only information here is that “the market” believes in this revolution for now. It doesn’t tells us if it will last because the fundamentals behind it are not under scrutiny.
        Basically Mark MIlls say : it MUST be a revolution, because everything have changed.

        It’s crowd thinking.

        I don’t care what the others are thinking, I want to understand by myself.

        • alfin2101 says:

          I am not saying that this applies to you personally, but too many people have studied “peak oil” and seem to think they have been studying “oil” instead. Groupthink doom cults such as “peak oil armageddon” and “climate apocalypse” are populated with such persons. It might help if you pointed to information that demonstrates some level of expertise in actual oil realities, as opposed to “peak oil” cult beliefs.

          Peak oil has been predicting global collapse from a rapid drop in oil production — for more than a century, but especially since the last quarter of the 20th century. The predictions of collapse continue to be proven wrong, based upon delusional and wishful thinking.

          Peak oil cultists would do well to drop the programming and go back to the essential basics. Leonardo Maugeri wrote a classic book several years ago: The Age of Oil. which clears up many of the absurd misconceptions that are so rampant within the peak oil community.

          An actual study of oil and hydrocarbon realities would take double the time, for peak oil believers. Several years to clear their minds of the programming and several more years to educate themselves on demonstrable realities.

          • yoananda says:

            You are right, peak oil has became a religion with time.
            No offence but I don’t care about peakoiler propaganda (that I have spent some time to debunk btw). This is not the subject of this discussion.
            On the other hand I know too well the propaganda of prometheans (the religion of eternal and magical progress and innovation) and business as usual side.
            This is far more complicated than it seems.

            What is interesting in shale is that it’s claimed to be a technological revolution.
            I was asking some simple questions about it that doesn’t quite match with this story.
            I’m not advocating peak oil, I’m … asking questions 😉

          • alfin2101 says:

            Several remarkable innovations in shale oil technology have brought cost per bbl from $75 bbl down to $10 to $35 bbl, depending upon the field. Here are a few of the humdrum innovations that keep shale producers in business, despite low oil prices. Other innovations that made North American shale resistant to the worst that Russia and Saudi Arabia could throw at it, include multiple wells per drill hole and far more precise locating and targeting methods — cutting costs appreciably.

            People who are not in business typically look for flashy innovations, rather than practical ones that drive sustainable profits. But a lot of humdrum innovations can combine to topple an established order. Which can amount to a “revolution.” And even if the technology does not impress someone who does not have “skin in the game,” it is very impressive to anyone who understands what has actually changed.

            Given the mischief that petrostate profits have been put to in the past few decades, lower oil prices certainly constitute a geopolitical revolution.

            The “revolution” often referred to is the fact that most of the world’s oil has been out of reach in porous source rock — until now. At least 90% of global oil resource suddenly has come into play. In most analysts’ books, that is an energy and economic revolution. Venezuela is the first casualty, but other petrostates are certain to follow.

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