WEC predicts oil peak in 10-20 years
Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

(Podcast) In a sign of just how rapidly peak oil is moving into the mainstream, a report from the World Energy Council has forecast that conventional oil production will peak in the next ten to twenty years. But in an interview with, WEC Secretary General Gerald Doucet insisted that the transition would be “managable” and that total world energy supply would nevertheless double by 2030.


The WEC forecast relies upon an assessment of ‘Estimated Ultimate Recovery’ – the total amount of oil that will ever be produced – from Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR). This assessment is arguably too generous since the BGR takes OPEC’s highly questionable official reserve numbers at face value. But even on this basis WEC’s 2007 Survey of Energy Resources concludes that “the depletion midpoint – when half the EUR will have been recovered – will be reached within the next 10 to 20 years. Afterwards, the decline of conventional oil production is inevitable.” The BGR itself forecasts 2017.

Mr Doucet argues that massive efficiency gains, biofuels and coal will allow the world to cope with peak oil, but foresees much greater volatility.

Listen to the interview with Gerald Doucet.

NB Some listeners have reported problems with podcasts using Quicktime, but they seem to play perfectly well on RealPlayer and Windows Media Player.

2 Comments on “WEC predicts oil peak in 10-20 years”

Julian Brown Says:
September 20th, 2007 at 8:55 pm

Predicting future trends on the basis of unreliable URR (ultimately recoverable resources) data is notoriously hard, which is why I personally prefer to base my inferences on known facts. If you look at the actual global production figures for the past few years, it is quite easy to see that total crude and condensate peaked sometime in the 2005-2006 timeframe and has been falling, albeit slowly, ever since. Moreover, total export volumes have fallen a very noticeable 10% from their 2005 peaks. In the absence of i) any particularly negative above ground factors and ii) any large new production due to come on line soon, the most obvious inference to draw is that Peak Oil has already occurred. Non-conventional sources are plainly not making up for the relentless decline in the mature fields and I haven’t seen anyone present convincing arguments as to why this trend should reverse anytime soon. Since the non-conventional sources like bioethanol and shale generally have miserable EROEI (energy-return-on-energy-invested) figures, higher prices are not going to stimulate these new industries all that much either – who is going to waste valuable gas on extracting oil from bitumen sands ?

Samu Says:
September 22nd, 2007 at 4:51 pm

Julian Brown makes a good point.

Crude Oil did peak in roughly May 2005 and has not gone up since.

Exports in many highest producing countries are either stalling or falling (often due to faster growing internal consumption).

So, production of crude oil is _not_ keeping up with demand.

Now we are riding on fumes and may be able to ride a little bit longer, until the reality hits in.

Barring any unexpected new super giant discoveries (very low probability), looks like the plateau we are on right now, might end within a few years.

But WEC is still predicting within 10-20 years?

It’d be interesting to see their full data and methodology that made them arrive at this conclusion.

I read parts of the WEC 2007 report and they quoted ASPO depletion studies in the Crude Oil section. However, it seems that their assessment is based on extra-heavy oil increasing, although I can’t imagine even them thinking it will push us up-to 17 years beyond the crude oil peak.

What is interesting that they give the peak a fairly tight margin of 10 years.

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