Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Examining the theory of peak oil

No matter how much it is currently being enjoyed, oil remains to be a finite resource, which means that people can take advantage of this resource only until supplies last. And while people might dismiss this fact as something hypothetical and untimely, science has come up with several theories that attempt to explain this impending phenomenon. One such attempt was Hubbert’s peak oil theory.

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The theory of peak oil suggests that the world’s crude production is already nearing its limit. This theory was formulated by M. King Hubbert, a Texas-based geoscientist who worked at the Shell research laboratories in the 1950s.

Hubbert observed that the amount of oil found underground in any region is limited. Grounded on this fact, Hubbert theorized that the rate of discovery follows a bell-shaped pattern, with early years characterized by a drastic increase, quickly reaching to its peak in just a few years. From thereon, however, the trend will be downhill, resulting to decreased production because of resource depletion.

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Using this model, Hubbert predicted that the oil output in the lower 48 states in America would peak by the 1970s. True enough, 1970s became a highly profitable decade for oil capitalists, as Hubbert’s curve rightly fitted American oil production during that time.

This theory, however, was not impervious to criticism. BP, a British oil company, suggested that the theory’s suggested pattern may need to be redrawn, considering the technological advancements which were not foreseen by Hubbert. This new technology has intensified the unlocking of huge volumes of gas from American shale beds, hence setting the US for another peak in the next couple of decades.

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