As an example, in 2017 global crude oil + condensate production (typically used to define oil-this does not include natural gas liquids, biofuels, or other hydrocarbon liquids) was about 30 billion barrels. Cumulative world oil production at the end of 2017 was approximately 1.36 trillion barrels (1,360 billion barrels).  Since WWII, approximately 95% of the cumulative total global oil production has been produced (See Figure 1 by Jean Laherrere-the top brown line represents global oil production).

Figure 1

Jean Laherrere, an international petroleum geologist with over 50 years of experience, had estimated ultimate recoverable oil, excluding extra heavy oil, at approximately 2.2 trillion barrels back in 2013.  It’s a good bet that the ultimate recovery of economically recoverable oil will be less than 3 trillion barrels.  At the clip we’re burning oil, we could go through a significant percentage of the remaining economically recoverable oil in the next 20 years.

Ugo Bardi makes the case that the actual oil production curve will look more like Figure 2.

Figure 2

Bardi is the author of a Club of Rome produced report titled “Extracted” that reiterated the earlier conclusions of the Club of Rome in their “Limits to Growth” report of 1972. Bardi concludes that the problem of depletion is real and that it is progressively getting worse.

In recent years, the rate of global oil discovery has been running less than 1/5th the rate of global oil consumption (Figure 3).  It appears that the 2017 discovery rate will end up around 1/10th of the consumption rate.  The most favorable geologic areas for oil have now been extensively explored so there isn’t that much oil left to find.

Figure 3

About 95% of transportation fuel is oil distillates.  It’s common to hear that electric vehicles are going to take over the motor vehicle market sometime soon and eliminate much of the demand for oil in the not-too-distant future.

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