Monday, November 19, 2007

ASPO 10/07 - MP's Notes - Key Take-Aways

ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil)
Annual USA Meeting, 10/17-10/19, Hilton of the Americas, Houston, TX
Sponsored by City of Houston, U of H

MP’s Notes - Key Take-Aways

Bob Hirsch, SAIC

  • MP: Author of landmark study for DOE/NETL in 2004, which started being found in odd places on the internet in early 2005.
  • MP: Gist of Bob’s objective, 92 page paper from 2004 is that peak oil will occur, and it may be occur-ing, and that efforts to transition primarily transportation (but other things, as well, like the economy) take a finite amount of time, are not instantaneous. For instance, in 20 years, can convert fairly painlessly, in 5 years much pain to world economy. If wait (to take SERIOUS, pro-active actions) until AFTER peak - severe problems, dislocations!
  • MP: Initially, in 2/05, and for a good while thereafter, the paper was only found on a high school website in Chula Vista, CA
  • MP: Later that year World Oil (a very conservative trade journal) ran two Hirsch articles, subsets of his study.
  • Has been working on extending his study, updating effects, peaking profile. (MP: the few pundits to Peak Oil (CERA) seem to always site an “undulating plateau” – sounds so nice, and you often see those two words together. Jim Kunstler told me when I asked that they are “mellifluous” together.)
  • Found that the % drop in world GDP divided by the % drop in oil supply are about “1”, at least order of magnitude. Say ½ to 2. 10 is too high, 0.1 is too low. So, when world oil takes on a decline after the “plateau”, however wide, then the GDP drop in the world will likely mirror the oil decline rate.
  • Used 73 embargo and 79 crisis as models, among other things.
  • From USG’s “Oilshockwave” Scenario (Robert Gates), a 4% shortfall in oil led to $160/bbl, and led to a 4% drop in GDP.
  • Giant oilfield decline rates
  • Prudhoe produced at pipeline max of 1.5 – 1.6 MMBO/D beginning in 1982, started declining in 1988.
  • See 8 – 16 % initial decline (just past peak) in major field (MP: wow)
  • US production had very little plateau (MP: remember 10MMBO/D in 1970, only doing about half that now. All the new technology (3D, horizontal drilling, etc) didn’t do much for even the decline rate.
  • Europe had a 6 yr plateau (but that plateau included 3% variations – “remember the impact of a 3% drop/lack of supply”
  • NA had a sharp break then 3 % initial decline for 5 years. Remember, 3% for 5 years is 15% (he meant, think GDP drop)
  • Campbell – 2010 - 11 peak, 4 years to 4% decline, then 2% decline
  • Laherrerre – 2018 peak, 8 years to 4 % decline, then 2 % decline.
  • Most all analysts come up with 2 – 5 % annual decline for some period of time, just after peaking. (MP: implications for GDP again)
  • OEWS – something else he is studying
  • In 1950, 85% of reserves controlled by major oil cos., 15 % NOC controlled
  • Now: 10 % reserves control by majors, 90 % by NOC’s!
  • Thesis: Oil exporters WILL reduce exports due to windfall! (Putin did a thesis on this, interestingly)
  • Dwindling resource (MP: being exchanged for paper money of diminishing value)
  • Consumption rising (MP: most exporting nations subsidize/insulate their populace so as to ameliorate them, stay in power)
  • So, likelyhood of Oil Exporting Withholding”, or OEWS.
  • So, the REALITY is even worse – “effective peaking” will occur prior to peaking due to physics. (MP: and this is without major geopolitical problems, just the normal ones that lead to OEWS)
  • IEA watershed comments:
  • “unsustainable”
  • “doomed to failure”
  • “peaking in 2012”
  • but blame NOC’s – and have to wade through huge paper.
  • Plateau analysis
  • Best Case: 2-15 years, then 2- 5 % decline.
  • Middle Case: sharp peak, then 2 – 5 % decline
  • Worst Case: OEWS – early peak & worse than 2 – 5 %

Bottom-line: Need an immediate, crash program of conservation, demand mitigation.

Comments & answers to questions by Hirsch after Skrebowski spoke:

  • “Don’t see how we can do without rationing of transportation fuels.”
  • “Oil Shockwave exercise included supplies dropping 4 % for several years.”
  • “Non-equilibrium economics (MP: are scary as hell) – Markets/Demand can’t change as fast as decline takes place.”
  • “Futures market is looking to the past to determine the future – can be problematic at inflection points.”
  • “Not good at predicting the future, less good at doing something about about it.”

Chris Skrebowski, Editor, Petroleum Review, London - “How close are we?”

  • Best guess: 93 MMBO/D (v. 84 MMBO/D now) Peak in 2011/2012.
  • Assumption changes give a bit higher peak RATE, but don’t shift DATE/Curve that much!

Tom Petrie (formerly Petrie Parkman, now Vice Chairman of Merrill Lynch)

  • What does it take to offset natural declines?
  • At 2 % decline, 8 MMBO/D
  • At 5 %, 16 MMBO/D
  • At 8 %, 24 MMBO/D
  • Mentioned Putin’s papers on national patrimony
  • Will price signals work? “OEWS” may be worse than expected.
  • China about to exceed in total emissions.
  • Russia-China have oil & gas linkages.
  • Iran – Russia – helping Iran go nuclear
  • China – Iran – crude oil deal
  • India-Iran-Pakistan – gas pipeline
  • Book: The Black Swan – The Impact of the Highly Improbable
  • “Capital Markets and Energy M&A are in “remarkable denial” – still view Peak Oil as improbable.”
  • “2nd, 3rd order consequences”
  • Turkey analogy – had a great life, lots of good food, got fat – until the day before Thanksgiving. Using as an analogy.
  • “Markets are beginning to embrace Peak Oil.”
  • “May get a “head fake” in 6 -12 month when Rockies Express, LNG, Independence Hub bring major gas to market – BS, FS at risk.
  • “Series of Petro-Driven “Black Swan” events.”
  • “Will have been perceived as highly improbable, but in retrospect they were highly predictable.”
  • 10 of 14 LNG producers are OPEC countries.
  • “Don’t think historical economic behavior patterns will have predictive utility.”
  • “Inflation is FAR UNDERSTATED.”
  • “Problem with government/politicians – This is too real a problem to try to address!”
  • “Our system is designed to dumb-down things like this.”
  • CNBC asks: “What price to change behavior?”
  • “$30 - $88 is creating “cumulative drag” on the economyZ”
  • “$90 - $120/BBL will start to see change.”
  • “Europe less susceptible to adjustments because they have been taxing oil, seeing higher prices for a long time, increase will be smaller, percentage-wise.”
  • “Too much noise in financial systems to know what needs to be done strategically.” (MP: ie need to figure out what needs to be done with something other than price movements alone.)
  • “Abandoning economic growth?” POSSIBLE! (MP: wow, same Hubbert conclusion, but once again startling, coming from Petrie & Merrill Lynch)
  • “We are at a major historical inflection point.” “For many – pain. For the anticipatory – an opportunity.”
  • “If we jump to $120 quickly, demand elasticity will likely be triggered and price may drop to $45 for a short period.”

Tom Whipple - “Peak Oil and the Media”

  • Ex-CIA analyst, is often quoted in the Falls Church, VA paper, is Editor of Peak Oil News and Peak Oil Review. His summaries are found on (a site I frequent), weekly.
  • Why is Peak Oil not in the Mainstream Media (MSM)?
  • “Never heard about it.”
  • “Nonsense – there is plenty.”
  • “No gloomy news – people don’t like that.”

His take:

  • There is no “smoking gun, no reason”. (MP: IMO, this is unfortunate but is also a reflection of the populace and TV-induced non-thought. This is an issue that requires pro-activity and lead time to prevent catastrophy. It appears that it is unlikely that major action will be taken before it is too late (and it may already be, but any time we wait only worsens the impact).
  • GAO, NPC studies which came out got close to zero MSM attention – but they were thick, seemingly confusing studies with nothing spectacular in their conclusions.
  • “Only MSM can bring widespread attention.”
  • Coverage is indeed changing/increasing slowly, scattered stories.
  • Not yet a critical mass to move people and the government.
  • 10/17/07 article about $88 oil in NYT – had EVERYTHING BUT Peak Oil as a possible explanation. Some hints – spare capacity, harder to bring oil to market.
  • He thinks we are 80% there in terms of MSM getting it.
  • However, “only a pronounced shortage at the pumps may help explain it, price alone won’t do it.”

Vince Matthews, Director, Colorado Geological Survey (ex-UPR)
Oil, Minerals and The China Syndrome

  • Nuclear/Uranium
  • In US, last nuclear plant built in 1996 (and it was started in the 1970’s)
  • World using 180 MM# of Uranium per year.
  • World only producing 100 – 110 MM# of Uranium per year.
  • Uranium was $10 in 2003.
  • Uranium increased to $130 in 2007!!! (below $100 now)
  • US using 60 MM# Uranium per year
  • US only producing 2 MM# of Uranium per year.
  • Many of the US extraction industries ARE now foreign-owned.


  • “Huge inflationary pressures are now built into the pipeline.”
  • “Increasing shortages.”
  • “Worry of a “Mine the West” mentality.”
  • “Allegiance of the multi-nationals to the US?”

Stuart Staniford/Euan Mearns – Ghawar Field/Saudi Arabia
(Stuart and Euan are “editors” on The Oil Drum, frequent posters. Stuart has a Phd in Physics, MS in CS. Both have taken on the “reverse engineering” of Ghawar and other Saudi fields on a voluntary basis, due to their concern. Their work can be found on

  • Saudi produced 8.25 MMBO/D in 03 – 04, then increased that to 9 – 9.5, until early 2006, then the rate has been decreasing linearly (interesting) since then to 8.5, leading many to wonder if this is voluntary or forced due to decline. However, there have been several flat months recently. It will be interesting to see if they can substantially increase production, and hold it there. Should know by summer 2008.
  • Ghawar produced 5 MMBO/D of the total, up through 2003 at least. It accounts for 1/3 of Saudi reserves, and 6% of global supply. Hence the focus on Ghawar.
  • 5 major areas, from N to S: Ain Dar, Shedgum, Uthmaniyah, Hawiyah, Haradh.
  • The perm and porosity decrease from N to S, 19%, 640 md in N, to 14%, 52 md in South.
  • Hawiyah not developed until 70’s, 80’s, and Haradh not until 2006.


  • Pre-nationalization EUR was 211 GB with 91 GB remaining.
  • Saudi EUR jumped from 170 B to 260 B in 1987. Some of this was probably warranted, as a result of better information, reserve growth, new technology.
  • Hubbert linearization of Crude + Condensate (with new production areas) shows about 200 GB EUR.
  • Mearns: C + C + NGL: EUR 240 GB, can get rate to 11 MMBO/D, but still peak rate still occurs in 2011.
  • Colin Campbell has said EUR 275 GB
  • KSA has said OOIP around 700 GB. May be correct. KSA says 60 % RF, Stuart calculates 52% RF.
  • Given cumulative production is 120 MMBO, and EUR is around 240 GB, then they are about half depleted. According to the physics, a rate decline could begin at any time, and likely on or before 2011.

Investing in Unconventional Fuels – M/C by Leslie Haines with Oil & Gas Investor mag.

Gentleman with Raymond James

  • At $80 oil, $3.70 bushel corn (note, we sold our 3000 bu. in June at $2.75), ethanol still works.
  • PV Solar become breakeven at $150/bbl
  • PV has .05% of power market here, less than 1% in Germany (the world leader)
  • Wind, Geothermal, Ethanol, Biodiesel – all economic now!
  • PV had 23 % CAGR, last 10 yrs!
  • MP note: Not a word on SC based ethanol!

Dick Vodra, CFP – Spire Investment Planners, McLean, VA

Two decision levels (relevant to Peak Oil):

  • Investment decisions
  • Life decisions

  • “PO will likely cause disruption at all levels and new rules at all levels” (wow, nothing new to us, but strange from a mainstream CFP)
  • Reduce personal debt
  • Reduce risk exposure generally
  • “... likely to create a world where transportation of all kinds is much more expensive ...”
  • Support farmer’s markets
  • Support local retail production
  • Participate in community organizations
  • Know your neighbors
  • Support alternative transportation.

“... likely to affect availability of products and services. Repairing and reusing will become common again. Self-reliance will be more important.
Become and stay healthy
Learn new skills

Keith Behrens – Energy Capital Solutions (Dallas)

  • Panda - $90 MM ethanol near Hereford, TX
  • It quickly became evident that ethanol is currently underwater, reeling substantially, probably due to a rush to market with so many plants, lack of distribution, marketing, increase in corn prices (notwithstanding the controversial economics/proposition in the first place)
  • 132 ethanol facilities now, 27 more under construction.
  • Much supply, not much infrastructure.
  • Ethanol price dropped 33% last yr, corn increased in price
  • $0.50 /gal tax break with ethanol, so usually ethanol should be $0.50 above gas prices – not so now.
  • Not a WORD on SC ethanol!

George Baker – Mexico Energy Intelligence

Big Mexican fields:

  • KMZ
  • Cantarell
  • Chicontepec


  • Flat at 1 MMBO/D for 10 years
  • Then in 2000 began injecting 1 BCF/D of N2, increased rate to 2 MMBO/D in 2005. (MP: Mexico total then 3.4 MMBO/D)
  • In 2007: 1.5 – 1.6 MMBO/D
  • In 2008: 0.8 MMBO/D
  • In 2009: 0.6 MMBO/D


  • $7 Billion, 10 years, 100 wells, H2S, CO2, heavy oil, FPSO used for production when infrastructure was already in place???


  • Plan is from 2007 – 2016, to drill 10,692 development wells that each come on at around 150 BO/D, then decline to 50 BO/D!!! Impossible.
  • Claiming deepwater, 400 MMCF/D, 2012 – but that is just the gas, oil will take much longer.


  • Mexico Peaked in 2004.
  • Acting like “business as usual.”
  • KMZ, Chicontepec are suspect.
  • Deepwater on Mexican side, need 80 companies working on it, not one.
  • Cross-border fields may change government policy, or not? (MP: Draining them?)

David Hughes – Canadian Geological Survey – “Natural Gas and Coal: Some challenging facts.”
A series of nice, colorful graphs. In presentation available at link.

  • Bottom-line: Unfortunately, not much help from Natural Gas, nor even coal.

Scott Pugh – “Nuclear Power: Pros, Cons, and the Efficiency Card”

  • 2005 retired from Navy as a sub commander, joined Amory Lovins at the Rocky Mountain Institute as “Military Principal”, now works for Science and Technology Dept. of Homeland Security
  • It would take 1000 – 2MW nuclear plants to run all our vehicles, cost $3-4 Billion, at 10/yr take 100 years, and we’d run out of fuel before we were finished.
  • 12 companies are “talking about” applying for 27 plants, now.
  • Utilities have small market caps compared to the cost of just one nuclear plant.
  • Would take 7 – 10 years to build a plant today.

Roger Bezder – Co-Author, Hirsch Report, NETL

  • DC to West Coast, recent discount ticket for $150. If fuel prices double, ticket would only have to got to $190, that is still a good deal.
  • “Peak Oil ECONOMIC EFFECTS will have a larger impact (and a significant one) on aviation industry, rather than the cost of fuel relating to continuing to operate.” (MP: also supply shortfall, shortages, rationing he implies later, rather than price per se.)
  • “Air traffic grows faster than GDP, and air traffic will SLOW faster than GDP.”
  • “Model: Assume peaking in 2008, then oil declines 2 %.”
  • Chronic excess capacity – chaos in industry and beyond.
  • 100’s of billions of $ of stranded investment.
  • Tourism, cities that depend on travel will suffer.
  • AG, Healthcare, MFG, Emergency Services will have priority when fuel is in short supply.

Justin Ward – Toyota Motor Sales, USA – “Plug-in Hybrid Technology Update”

  • Bottom-line/stumbling block: Batteries not ready for EV, PHEV
  • Current Prius conversion batteries cost $15,000
  • Don’t warranty that long
  • Possible thermal management problems
  • Diesels: “Post 2007 rules require thousand of dollars of tailpipe cleaunup to meet CARB (CA) specs – which are no longer just CA but many states.” (Mercedes-Benz)

John Kaufmann, Oregon Dept. of Energy – “Summary from the Portland Peak Oil Task Force”

  • Sanctioned by the City Council
  • Major tenets of their group:
  • Peak Oil will happen – probably sooner rather than later.
  • It will be a “Long Emergency”, not sudden, not over quickly.
  • No Magic Bullet alternate supply alternatives.
  • Good presentation, is available on link.

Roger Duncan, Deputy Director, Austin Energy – “The View from a Municipal Utility”

  • Austin – no rate increase for 13 years – one is coming soon.
  • Takes 20 years to replace a 500 MW coal plant with solar.
  • Even with all the things they are doing in terms of conservation and alt energy in Austin, are not meeting load growth. Need new plants, costs are staggering.

Peter Bishop – Professor, U of H, “Houston after Peak Oil”, presentation online

  • “Puncutated equilibrium” – one era after another.
  • “Complexity of societyis a function of the energy it has.”
  • “Up to now, had an increasing energy density.”
  • “Transitions inevitably create problems.”
  • Houston – 50 % energy/chemical economy today, was 85% in 1983
  • Bottom-line (among other things):
  • Society that goes fewer places.
  • No internal combustion engines.
  • Biodiesel trucks.


Peter said...

Thanks for taking these great notes. I was involved early-on with ASPO Houston, but lately I'm focusing purely on mitigation. If people don't "get it", I can't help them. I'm very involved with transit now , see

MPayne said...

Peter: Thanks for the kind words, you're welcome. I'm with you, I am afraid mitigation is upon us, whether we like it or not. And I view "mitigation" as a chance for lots of positives, lots of opportunities, hence the name of this blog. But we can't give up on explaining the situation, or else the prevailing sound-bite thought process is likely to drive us in lots of wrong directions. Keep in touch!