Posted by: maboulette | March 8, 2011


Total World Oil Reserves by Type

Image via Wikipedia

“Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management now referred to as the Hirsch Report was sponsored by the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the Department of Energy.  Robert Hirsch is the Project Leader for the Science Applications International Corp.

There is a second report that was published in October 05 by Robert Hirsch and sponsored by DOE  is entitled “The Inevitable Peaking of World Oil Production”

Here is the link for the full report.

Click Here for Flash version of Dr. Hirsch presentation

Following is a summary of the report:

“Peaking” is the point where production reaches its max and begins to decline, whether we are describing a single oil field or the world’s oil fields as a whole.  Peaking is a reservoir’s maximum oil production rate, which typically occurs after roughly half of the recoverable oil in a reservoir has been produced.  This concept is important because satisfying increasing oil demand not only requires continuing to produce older oil reservoirs with their declining production, it also requires finding new ones, but we have declining finds for the past 30 plus years.

  • The peaking of world oil production presents the United States. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem.
  • To manage the problem we face we need 10-20 years of accelerated efforts including conservation.
  • Peaking will result in dramatically higher oil prices
  • Time table of peaking is unknown but many studies and experts believe we are in the decade that will see “peaking”, some predicting peaking before 2010.
  • The problem of the peaking of world conventional oil production is unlike any yet faced by modern industrial society.  The challenges and uncertainties need to be much better understood.  Timely, aggressive risk management will be essential.

The Hirsch Report asks the following question: With a history of failed forecasts, why revisit the issue now of world oil shortages.  Here is their answer.

  • Extensive drilling for oil and gas has provided a massive worldwide database that is much more extensive than in years past.
  • Seismic and other exploration technologies have advanced dramatically, nevertheless oil reserves discovered per exploratory well began dropping worldwide over a decade ago. (see charts at bottom of page)
  • Many credible analysts have become much more pessimistic about the possibility of finding the huge reserves needed to meet world demand.
  • Because oil prices have been high for the past decade oil companies have conducted extensive exploration, yet results have been disappointing.  This is but one of a number of trends that suggest the world is fast approaching the inevitable peaking of oil production.

Following are three charts that lend credence to the idea that Cheap Oil is a thing of the past.  The first chart represents Oil discoveries in billions of barrels.  The second chart from the Hirsch Report overlays production with discoveries and as you can see we began producing more oil than was being discovered in the mid 1980’s.  The last chart shows that the decline in discoveries continued even though there was unprecedented drilling during the 1980’s. I (James) added the first and last chart to clarify the second chart found in the Hirsch Report.   These charts represent a very sobering view of world oil production.

Oil Discoveries in Billions of Barrels 1930-2005
This chart, not part of the Hirsch Report but available on many oil statistic websites shows the oil discoveries in Billions of Barrels over the past 75 years.  The big spikes are:  late 30’s Texas, late 40’s Saudi Arabia, last tall spike in early 70’s is the North Sea.

Oil Discoveries

Oil Discoveries minus Production, we started using more that we discovered in the mid 80’s

This chart, from the Hirsch Report and found on many oil statistics websites, shows production and consumption combined.  As the chart shows for years the worlds oil companies found more oil than they were producing.  But the picture goes into the red in the mid 80’s.  From that time to present we are using more oil than oil being discovered.

Combined Production and Consumption

Same chart with Drilling Overlay, Yellow line = drilling.

More drilling worldwide did not stop the negative numbers.  This is the same chart as above but also showing the feet of wildcat drilling for oil.  This chart is used by many to show that more exploration worldwide did not stop the numbers from remaining n the red.  This chart is used by many experts to validate the notion that we have passed the era of cheap oil.

Same Chart with Drilling Overlay

To learn more about Peak Oil and the effect on our world:

Here is the link for the full report.

Click Here for Flash version of Dr. Hirsch presentation





  1. “To manage the problem we face we need 10-20 years of accelerated efforts including conservation.”

    I’ve picked out this one statement because it is one of the things that ALL of us can do. This is ONE thing that we don’t need any agency’s approval to do, no laws have to be changed, no scientific genius has to be hired, no studies need to be done. We, the average American from every financial class, from every race, religion, political standing, level of education…ALL OF US, can conserve! How empowering is that? We have the power to control how much fuel we use; therefore, how much money we spend on fuel.

    The national “Bike It Or Hike It” campaign has been put into action (April 15th & 16th) to get people out of their cars – walking, biking, using public transportation, or carpooling. If we reduce fuel consumption for 2 days, we may find that we like the benefits so well that we keep on conserving.

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