Is Peak Oil Real? A List of Countries Past Peak

Only 14 of the 54 oil producing nations in the world are still increasing their oil production. The era of cheap oil is definitively over, as shown below.

Is peak oil real? The BP Statistical Review of World Energy provides the data needed to answer this question. Using the 2009 edition, I have compiled a list of all oil producing countries and regions in the world, along with the production status of each, ordered by year of peak production. BP groups minor producers into categories like “Other Africa”, and “Other Middle East”, and that notation is used here. All production numbers are quoted in barrels/day.

Country Peak Prod. 2008 Prod. % Off Peak Peak Year
United States 11297 7337 -35% 1970
Venezuela 3754 2566 -32% 1970
Libya 3357 1846 -45% 1970
Other Middle East 79 33 -58% 1970
Kuwait 3339 2784 -17% 1972
Iran 6060 4325 -29% 1974
Indonesia 1685 1004 -41% 1977
Romania 313 99 -68% 1977
Trinidad & Tobago 230 149 -35% 1978
Iraq 3489 2423 -31% 1979
Brunei 261 175 -33% 1979
Tunisia 118 89 -25% 1980
Peru 196 120 -39% 1982
Cameroon 181 84 -54% 1985
Other Europe & Eurasia 762 427 -44% 1986
Russian Federation 11484 9886 -14% 1987*
Egypt 941 722 -23% 1993
Other Asia Pacific 276 237 -14% 1993
India 774 766 -1% 1995*
Syria 596 398 -33% 1995
Gabon 365 235 -36% 1996
Argentina 890 682 -23% 1998
Colombia 838 618 -26% 1999
United Kingdom 2909 1544 -47% 1999
Rep. of Congo (Brazzaville) 266 249 -6% 1999*
Uzbekistan 191 111 -42% 1999
Australia 809 556 -31% 2000
Norway 3418 2455 -28% 2001
Oman 961 728 -24% 2001
Yemen 457 305 -33% 2002
Other S. & Cent. America 153 138 -10% 2003*
Mexico 3824 3157 -17% 2004
Malaysia 793 754 -5% 2004*
Vietnam 427 317 -26% 2004
Denmark 390 287 -26% 2004
Other Africa 75 54 -28% 2004*
Nigeria 2580 2170 -16% 2005*
Chad 173 127 -27% 2005*
Italy 127 108 -15% 2005*
Ecuador 545 514 -6% 2006*
Saudi Arabia 11114 10846 -2% 2005 / Growing
Canada 3320 3238 -2% 2007 / Growing
Algeria 2016 1993 -1% 2007 / Growing
Equatorial Guinea 368 361 -2% 2007 / Growing
China 3795 3795 Growing
United Arab Emirates 2980 2980 Growing
Brazil 1899 1899 Growing
Angola 1875 1875 Growing
Kazakhstan 1554 1554 Growing
Qatar 1378 1378 Growing
Azerbaijan 914 914 Growing
Sudan 480 480 Growing
Thailand 325 325 Growing
Turkmenistan 205 205 Growing
Peaked / Flat Countries Total 49597 60.6% of world oil production
Growing Countries Total 32223 39.4% of world oil production

Only 14 out of 54 oil producing countries and regions in the world continue to increase production, while 30 are definitely past their production peak, and the remaining 10 appear to have flat or declining production [1]. Put another way, peak oil is real in 61% of the oil producing world when weighted by production. Since 2008 capped a record run for oil prices, most countries and oil companies were trying all-out to increase production. While a handful of producers (think Iraq) might be limited by above-ground factors, the majority of producers simply couldn’t do any better in 2008 [2].

The evidence of the demise of the cheap oil era has become insurmountable. In the face of the highest oil prices on record, the great majority of the world’s oil producers were incapable of taking advantage and producing more oil. Many nations including the US saw their oil production peak decades ago – there simply is no turning the clock back. This list shows that we are relying on a small number of countries to keep providing cheap oil. We need to move faster to alternatives and greater energy efficiency, before the last fourteen peak as well.

* More information on these countries:

  • Russian Federation – Russia’s oil production collapsed by the early 90’s as the Soviet Union collapsed, but despite a decade of growth, Russia’s own oil execs don’t think the old peak can be surpassed.
  • India’s production appeared to plateau in 1995, and has stayed within a steady range since. The EIA forecasts Indian oil production to remain flat or decline slightly in the near future.
  • Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) hit a production plateau in 1998, though current production is still very close to 1999 peak levels.
  • Other Central & South America – The remaining countries of the Americas hit a production peak in 2003, though it’s still too soon to know if this will be final peak.
  • Malaysia has been on a production plateau since 1995, and the EIA projects flat or falling production.
  • Other Africa – Oil production in much of Africa is potentially impacted by above-ground constraints, so it’s definitely possible that production will rise here. It will rise from a low base of only 50,000 bpd however, and may not have much impact on total world production.
  • Nigeria is impacted by domestic insurgencies in its oil-producing regions, and may be able to lift production if the political situation improves.
  • Chad’s oil production history is too short to definitively identify a peak in production, but the drop-off since 2005 has been dramatic.
  • Italy has been on a production plateau for over 10 years, and it’s unlikely that a mature economy is significantly under-exploiting its resource potential.
  • Ecuador’s production grew rapidly until 2004, but has leveled off and declined somewhat since then.

[1] To be considered past-peak, a producer’s current (2008) production has to be at least 10% less than its best year, and the best year must have occurred prior to 2005. Some countries’ production has been artificially constrained by political and other non-geological considerations. But in some of these cases, it will be difficult to pass an old peak because decades of depletion have occurred since that peak. Iraq peaked in 1979, making it all the more difficult to pass that now.

[2] While OPEC maintains formal production quotas, it is widely believed that only Saudi Arabia had true spare capacity in 2008, while all other OPEC nations were producing at capacity. The truth is unclear, since OPEC nations do not provide detailed reserve statistics for their oil fields.

Total has created its own short list of oil producers past peak, and Wikipedia has a list here.

How much energy do we need?

energyvshumandevelopment

Energy usage vs UN Human Development Index, 1997

How much energy do we need? In traditional economics, this question is meaningless, as humanity simply consumes the amount of energy demanded at the market-clearing price. But in a resource-constrained world, this question becomes pertinent. Can the world’s energy supplies power a future in which all of mankind uses the same amount of energy as the average American? What level of energy usage is possible, and as fossil fuel sources run short, what kind of renewable energy investment will be required? Let’s examine some scenarios:

Scenario 1: The World at American Standards

The United States consumes 100 quadrillion btu of energy annually. If the world’s population stabilizes around 9 billion, bringing the entire world up to US energy consumption would require 6000 quadrillion btu per year. This is more than twelve times current energy production, a figure that even optimistic forecasters doubt possible. If solar panels cost 50 cents per watt installed (90% cheaper than today and cheaper than coal), an investment of $500 Trillion would be required to provide this amount of energy.

Scenario 2: The World at European Standards

The graph above shows that the US could cut per capita energy consumption by 70% without a significant drop in quality of life. Achieving this standard worldwide would require total energy production of 1800 quadrillion btu per year, still more than triple today’s capabilities. An investment of $150 Trillion would provide enough solar energy to power the world at these standards, a number over double current world GDP.

Scenario 3: Current Energy Usage per Capita

The scenarios above assume that the developing world eventually reaches parity with the industrialized world. Assume instead that current energy usage is maintained on a per capita basis, with the world’s population stabilizing at 9 billion. The world would consume 700 quads of energy per year. This level of energy usage would require $60 Trillion in investment, which might be achievable over time.

Conclusion

Unless energy prices drop by 99 percent via nuclear fusion, the world’s economy is likely to be energy-constrained in the future. It’s highly unlikely that the entire world will ever reach an American or even European level of energy consumption, and even current energy consumption levels will require a massive investment to reach sustainability. The calculations above assume that renewable energy will become significantly cheaper than coal, and yet the cost of replacing the world’s energy infrastructure is enormous. But in the long run, it will be necessary!

Calculations

At 50 cents per Watt installed, what’s the price per kilowatt-hour that I’m assuming? Assume that a 1kW solar system produces 1800 kWh per year, as according to SolarBuzz. Over a 30 year lifetime the system would produce 54000 kWh. If this system costs $500 at 50 cents per watt, then $500 / 54000 kWh = 1 cent per kWh. This is much cheaper than retail delivered electricity generated from coal.

Scenario 1:

1800 kWh * 3413 btu / kWh = 6143400 btu per $500 system

6000 quadrillion btu / 6143400 btu/system = 976 billion 1kW systems needed

At $500 each, that’s $490 Trillion.

Scenario 2: 1800 is 30% of 6000, so 1800 quadrillion btu would require $147 Trillion in investment.

Scenario 3: 700 is 11.6% of 6000, so 700 quadrillion btu would require $57 Trillion in investment.