From: B.Hamilton@irl.cri.nz (Bruce Hamilton)
Subject: Re: how many years left for automobile?
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 1995 17:53:03 GMT
Organization: Industrial Research Limited
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>
email@example.com (Len Evens) writes:
>In article <...>,Bruce Hamilton <B.Hamilton@irl.cri.nz> wrote:
>>In article <...> paai <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
>>>Could somebody point me to a sensible prediction of how long
>>>fossil fuel-burning automobiles may exist for individual traffic,
>>>including e.g. electric automobiles that get their power from coal
>>>or oil-burning electricity plants or similar constructs?
>>If you mean when will we run out of fossil fuels, the answer
>>depends on what criteria you wish to use. It is almost certain
>>that alternative sources of energy will replace fossil fuels long
>>before we exhaust the supply.
In another post the original poster worries about how much
fossil fuel is used for chemical processes - it is fairly small
amount and these days is often natural gas which can be
used to make oxygenates which are added to gasoline.
The bigger non-transportation usage would be industrial power
and heat, and domestic power and heat. If he is really interested
he should refer to the references I provided, especially the
BP Statistical Review of World Energy, as usuage patterns are
extremely regional eg
USA = 42.6% Gasoline, 29.7% Kerosines(eg Jet fuels), 7.3% Fuel Oil
20.4% others ( lubricants, chemicals etc.)
Europe = 25.6%, 40.8%, 16.6%, 17% respectively.
He should note that there exists techniques for converting coal
and natural gas to other transportation fuels, as well as using them
directly, so they don't have to just be considered for EVs. In other
worlds all resources of Fossil Fuels have the potential to be used
as sources for transportation fuels, but the economics may not
justify their use.
Now to Len's post....
>>4.2 When will we run out of crude oil?
>>It has been estimated that the planet contains over 1.4 x 10^15 tonnes of
>>petroleum, however much of this is too dilute or inaccessible for current
>>technology to recover . The petroleum industry uses a measure called
>>the Reserves/Production ratio (R/P) to monitor how production and
>>exploration are linked. This is based on the concept of "proved" reserves
>>of crude oil, which are generally taken to be those quantities which
>>geological and engineering information indicate with reasonable certainty
>>can be recovered in the future from known reservoirs under existing economic
>>and operating conditions. The Reserves/Production ratio is the above
>>reserves divided by the production in the last year, and the result is the
>>length of time that those remaining reserves would last if production were
>>to continue at the current level .
>But how is all this affected if the fuel is burned at a faster
>rate because of population growth and development?
The petroleum industry is not concerned about such issues, and it is
the gross misuse of the R/P by vested anti-fossil fuel and anti-car
lobbies that causes the problem. The R/P is an industry marker that
is one of many aids that help establish the appropriateness of investing
in exploration, recovery, or refining. The R/P has been between
25-50 years since the 1920s. There is no commercial sense for multi-national
oil companies in spending money on exploration if they already have the
demand covered. Obviously nations want to find and use their own - to
reduce dependence on inports, and multinationals will do that, providing
the economic incentives are provided ( they don't want to waste money
search in the Great south Basin off NZ for oil that could not be recovered
for less than $30/bbl - better use of the money is made elsewhere in
enhanced oil recovery from cheaper wells )
The current crude oil R/P is one of the highest in the last 50 years, why
invest in more exploration?, especially as improving yields of existing fields
is very cost-effective. Note that R/P = 31 years in 1967, 27 in 1979, and 43
in 1993. Note that coal and natural gas R/P have also increased.
The issue of demand for fossil fuels is fairly predictable, but it is not
constant, and is very dependant on development. eg in 1968 = 40 mbd
( million barrels/day ), 1973 = 58,1975 = 56, 1979 = 65, 1983 = 57, 1990 = 63,
and 1994 = 64 ( join the points and you have the pattern, it seems likely
that 1995 will match the 1979 peak ( perhaps a corrected 1994 value may
have already - these numbers do change slightly as data is updated ).
As alternative energy sources are starting to substitute for crude oil,
even at $17/bbl ( usually because a premium is placed on self-sufficiency),
the share of fossil fuels will very much depend on the efficiency of the
heat engines. This is why there is such an outcry over China's plans,
the proposed coal-fired power stations were very inefficient ( but lower
capital cost ) compared to modern systems. Note that improvements in
CAFE have ceased
Cars ( standard = 27.5mpg for 1992-1995).
USA Domestic average 1992=27.0, 1993 = 27.8, 1994 = 27.3, 1995 = 27.5
Imported average 29.0, 29.6, 29.6, 29.7mpg
Trucks ( standard 1992 = 20.2, 1993 = 20.4, 1994 = 20.5, 1995 =20.6 mpg)
USA Average 20.8, 21.0, 20.6, 20.4mpg
As North American truck sales have increased from 6.03 million ( 1993 ) to
6.77 (1994) and car sales from 9.66 million (1993) to 10.17 (1994) we expect
the fuel consumption to increase ( assuming mileage/vehicle is constant )
>After all, think of all the debate about whether or not it is possible to
>stabilize CO_2 emissions at current levels. Are there models which
>estimate how long supplies will last under plausible scenarios for
>growth in use?
Probably most of them got thrown out in the first oil shock which greatly
perturbed the historical production curves. The Dec 26 1994 Oil and
Gas Journal ( p36-40 "Shifting production trends point to more oil from
OPEC") gives some scenarios out to 2020, based on three projections
Roughly from the curves 1995 = 65-67mb/d, 2000 = 70-75, 2020 = 82-88
million barrels/day ( 1993 production was 3165 million tonnes ).
There is not much point in projections further out.
If you wish you can work out the theoretical time, assuming we can
utilise 1.0% of the available petroleum. World cumulative production
is around 1.17 x 10^11 tonnes. Thus, from the above estimate of the
total, we have so far only used 0.8% of the oil available to us.
Assuming current use ( unlikely - it will decrease as renewable and
nuclear increase ), we have 4,000 years worth. Time to start building
more pyramids? - I think not :-).
From: B.Hamilton@irl.cri.nz (Bruce Hamilton)
Subject: Re: How much petroleum is left
Date: Sat, 16 Dec 1995 21:53:08 GMT
Organization: Industrial Research Limited
Just to put quickly put some numbers into my previous post.
The following are from the 1994 BP Statistical Review of World Energy,
and the Oil and Gas Resources chapter in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of
1993 World Production - crude oil 3164.8 x 10^6 tonnes
- natural gas 1888.4 x 10^6
- coal - hard 3138.4 x 10^6
- soft 1264.6 x 10^6
Carbon contents of 85% m/m for all ( soft coal will be much lower )
then total fossil fuel production = 8.04 x 10^9 tonnes of carbon in 1993.
Cumulative world production for crude oil will be 1.17 x 10^11 tonnes
by the end of 1995, so lets assume cumulative production is the same
ratio for coal and natural gas. Thus 3.5 x 10^11 of fossil fuels will
have been used, representing 3.0 x 10^11 tonnes of organic carbon.
As the large secondary cycle ( fossil fuels ) is 6.4 x 10^15 tonnes of
organic carbon, but only 5.0 x 10^15 is in sedimentary rocks, and the
historical accumulation rate ( from primary to secondary cycles ) is
estimated to be around 3.2 x 10^6 tonnes per year - compared to the
estimated primary cycle of 2.7-3.0 x 10^12 tonnes of organic carbon.
The preservation rate is also estimated to be 0.1-0.01% over the
If we assume that 18% of the organic carbon has contributed to the
genesis of petroleum ( from Ullmann ), then 1.12 x 10^15 tonnes of
petroleum-bound carbon were produced. Let's assume that 99% of
that is not available to us, then we have 1.12 x 10^13 tonnes to
play with. We have used 3.0 x 10^11, so there are 1.09 x 10^13 tonnes
left. If we are consuming it annually at 8.04 x 10^9 tonnes, then we
have 1350 years left - even at our current wasteful rate, and only
recovering 1% of the petroleum.
There are some amazing stupid assumptions in the above, and I'm
very keen to have them corrected - in particular the 18% contribution
doesn't mean that 18% of the carbon is now petroleum, but if somebody
has better numbers on the ultimate quantity - I'm not interested in
the recoverable reserves/resources issue - they incorporate economic
considerations, I'm keen to have them, along with details of the
To ensure I maintain my " don't panic " position, the 1% level is
conservative, and I'm quite likely to move it to 10% - if the need