Monday, August 27, 2012

Extraction Rates and Developed Reserves

  If there are a given amount of developed oil reserves, let's say 900 billion barrels and the extraction rate is 3 % then 27 billion barrels of oil per year (bb/a) will be produced.  If the reserves fall to 800 billion barrels and the extraction rate is unchanged, output falls to 24 bb/a.  Consider a rise in extraction rates to attempt to maintain output at 27 bb/a as reserves deplete.  If extraction rates could be increased to 3.375 %, we would remain at 27 bb/a.

In reality, the extraction rate will rise and fall based on economic conditions, oil prices and the resulting level of oil demand.  As we reach the eventual peak in oil output, we will likely see a rise in extraction rate while developed reserves are declining (because we are producing oil at a higher rate than we can develop oil reserves).  

For a while the increased extraction rate could counteract the smaller level of reserves and enable either a plateau in output (like C+C since 2005) or possibly a slow rise in output.  Eventually we will be unable to maintain a plateau or increase output further because there is some limit to how high extraction rates can rise.  Eventually developed reserves will fall from the near plateau they have been on since 2004.  Consider the following model:

 
From the reserves and extraction rate above we get the C+C output below:


If extraction rates are limited to 4.5 %, the plateau would end in 2035 and a limit of 4 % would mean the plateau would end in 2030 for the scenario where the URR for C+C (including oil sands at 350 Gb and Orinoco belt at 250 Gb) is 2800 Gb.  See posts below for more conservative estimates.

DC

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