Private industry conference finds much less oil
Posted on Friday, September 28th, 2007

(Podcast) A secretive gathering some of the world’s biggest oil companies has concluded the industry will discover far less oil than officially forecast, according to an executive who attended the event, meaning global oil production may peak much sooner than many expect.

The Hedberg Research Conference on Understanding World Oil Resources was held by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in Colorado Springs last November to try to reconcile widely divergent estimates of likely future reserves additions. In an interview with, oil executive Ray Leonard said the majority view was that future oil discovery would amount to some 250 billion barrels, rather than the 650 billion barrels suggested by the United States Geological Survey.

Ray Leonard

The Colorado meeting was attended by technical experts from all the supermajors along with some of the biggest state-owned oil companies such as Saudi Aramco. According to Mr Leonard, a vice president of the recently-formed Kuwait Energy Company, who presented a paper on Russian reserves as the former head of exploration for Yukos, the experts challenged the USGS’s regional assessments on the basis of their companies’ more detailed proprietary data. Mr Leonard says the majority opinion was that reserves growth from current fields might add around another 500 billion barrels, against the USGS estimate of 612 billion, and that non-conventional oil production would reach only 4-5 million barrels per day by 2015, also much lower than the most optimistic predictions.

Journalists were barred from the conference to allow open discussion of confidential information, although the Oil & Gas Journal later reported that the meeting had concluded oil production would peak between 2020 and 2040 at 90-100 million barrels per day. But Mr Leonard said that based on the range of numbers accepted by the majority of delegates at the conference, he expects output to plateau in five years’ time. “If there’s a world recession it could be a little longer, if United States invades another oil producing country it may happen a lot sooner. But it’s going to happen in around five years so we need to make some preparations”.

The USGS oil resource estimates have long been regarded as wildly optimistic by many peak oil forecasters. Its World Petroleum Assessment published in 2000 implied that the oil industry could discover some 22 billion barrels per year between 1995 and 2025, but in the first quarter of the forecast period discovery has averaged just 9 bn bbls annually. Last month the USGS revised down one of its most controversial regional assessments, when it slashed its estimate of East Greenland’s oil potential from 47 billion barrels to just 9 billion.

Listen to the interview with Ray Leonard.

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

4 Comments on “Private industry conference finds much less oil”

David Says:
September 30th, 2007 at 1:14 pm

the problem I see with well-publicized, politically acceptable industry estimates of the iminent peak, estimates that range between 5 and 40 years from now… is that it feeds America’s temptation to wait until it is too late to demand that government and industry make any significant changes to mitigate the social and economic effects of Peak Oil.

As I see it, whether the peak happens in my lifetime or in my children’s…..IT WILL EVENTUALLY HAPPEN. The longer it takes to become self evident, the greater the impact will be on humanity since every day there will be more of us depending on that oil to live, and there will be less time and resources to enact broad incentives to prepare even a fraction of the human race to live beyond oil’s abundance.

Aridela Says:
October 19th, 2007 at 5:00 pm

The human race will eat up the whole planet earth until nothing will be left to eat.
Yeah what for a great success for humanity.

Don Says:
November 28th, 2007 at 11:25 pm

I’m thinking that it might not be a bad idea to take a crash (no pun intended) course in Amish lifestyle. I already do some gardening.

tony Says:
January 28th, 2010 at 7:29 pm

In my view, the only hope we have of saving civilization is to move towards an ecologically sustainable socialist type society.

Socialism will not bring back the oil, but at least it is not a profit driven society and therefore does not need constant growth in order to cover debts and pay shareholders profits. And since production is for need, and not for profit this type of society should use less energy.

The possible collapse of the present petroleum based society could, in my view, lead to another dark age. It is this we must avoid, at all costs.

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