Peak oil theory could become a stark reality  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The recent upswing in people talking about peak oil in the mainstream media continues, with Arup head Philip Dilley being quoted by the Scotland Herald - Peak oil theory could become a stark reality.

“Within five years we think peak oil is going to affect every aspect of our daily lives,” warned Philip Dilley, chairman of engineer Arup, yesterday. We are set for shortages and rising prices. And just to cheer you up, gas is probably going the same way too.

It all sounds familiar. The concept of “peak oil”, the stresses caused when oil production stops increasing, has been kicking around since the 1950s. ...

But the membership of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, whose report Dilley was introducing, suggests these concerns are reaching the mainstream and business is getting anxious.

As a man known more for his fondness for pursuing commercial space flights and his airline brand than his love of the environment, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson makes an unlikely green advocate.

As do others, including Ian Marchant, chief executive of Scottish Hydro Electric owner Scottish & Southern Energy and Brain Souter, founder and boss of transport firm Stagecoach.

Published yesterday, the taskforce’s second report (their first in autumn 2008 sank without trace because we were too busy worrying about our banks going bust) was notable for the starkness of some of its conclusions.

As the global economy expands, oil demand could rise from 80 million barrels a day to 120 million barrels a day by 2030. It could hit 180Mb/d by 2050. Yet the scope for production increases is limited.

Arup director John Motes said: “There may be a huge amount of oil in the ground, we are not saying there isn’t. But there is a limit to the rate at which we can extract it.”

This is because much of the stuff is in the form of tar sands or inaccessible locations such as Antarctica where it is time consuming and expensive to get the stuff out of the ground.

Currently around 80Mb/d comes out of the ground, the report found. But the taskforce is sceptical that this can get much above 92Mb/d.

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