on April 9, 2014 :
Peak of the Devil, and Devil in Details.
Surprisingly, many people are very much unaware of the Peak Oil, which is already in the rear-view mirror. Chip Haynes book PEAK OF THE DEVIL is an excellent summary of the Peak Oil and its implications on our lives. I do understand that the book is written in a simple convincing way and makes some simplifications to impact on as many (unsuspecting) souls as possible. Unfortunately, there are drawbacks and over-simplifications sometimes.
At the very start, the book says: “Oil geologist Marion King Hubbert was able to prove that a single oil well, using the conventional pumping technology of the day, would produce more oil every day until it reached mid-point...” M.K. Hubbert said or wrote nothing to that effect. The notion that a single conventional oil (or gas) well slowly builds up production to the mid-point and then symmetrically declines is, simply put, incorrect. As the matter of fact, every oilfield worker (not only petroleum engineers) knows that it is just the opposite.
The well is drilled, the casing (steel pipe) goes into the ground and cemented, then the well goes into production. After a very short (hours or days) period called “clean-up” the well goes into a maximum flow rate. The production stays at a plateau, limited by the size of the well and the other such technical factors, for a period of several years. Then, the production starts declining. The decline rates are determined by the geology of the formation in question and can range from 2% per year to as high as 100% year. Eventually, the flow of oil stops, or becomes so slow the well must be closed. Instead of the closure, the well can be re-rejuvenated by various methods (called “interventions”,) for example, the infamous hydraulic fracturing. After the intervention, the picture repeats, but on the shorter time scale: several hours or days of clean-up, maximum rate of production for several months or a couple of years, then a gradual decline to zero. In some cases, the second or third interventions may follow. Nothing to do with the symmetrical Hubbert curve!
What Hubbert has done, is that he understood that over the large finite oil field, the performance of the individual wells, started in production at different time, if summed together, produces, quite unexpectedly, a nearly-symmetrical bell-shape cure with a profound peak! This was, indeed, a non-trivial discovery, that, at the time of electronic bulb computers with 512 bytes of memory was not too easy to achieve. From randomly spaced asymmetrical curves – to a bell-shape curve? Hubbert then tested his method other few large oil fields, then applied the math to the Continental United States and, separately, to the World to make his famous predictions, both of which came true.
I can continue through more examples like this, but the point is: while writing books about the Oil Peak crisis, no technical short-cuts are possible. It just gives the “infinite oil” proponents something to bang upon.
(reviewed the day of purchase)