How many decades of oil do we have left?

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Offline Larry

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How many decades of oil do we have left?
« on: 23/02/2010 11:30:02 »
Larry asked the Naked Scientists:
Does anyone really know how many more decades of oil reserves exist based on projected depletion demands???

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 23/02/2010 11:30:02 by _system »


Offline JimBob

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How many decades of oil do we have left?
« Reply #1 on: 24/02/2010 02:38:34 »
That's a hard one. Estimates vary widely. And there are many places in the world that have yet to be drilled, areas such as the eastern Siberian plate boundary, many of the thrust belts of Asia and south America, and much of the world's oceanic shelf areas.

Personally, I doubt we will (but would not say we couldn't) ever find as large an accumulation as there exist in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. Iran's production is from a different set of circumstances and thus does not fall in the grab bag of the "Persian Gulf" type fields.

I believe that for the next 20 years or so significant discoveries will be made but never enough to replace what we now have. This means that there will be an ever-widening gap between what is produce and what is left to be produced.

In the short term, coal will meet some of the needs for hydrocarbon sources. Oil will eventually be replace by biological sources of hydrocarbon. Algae is being genetically engineered to produce hydrocarbons. Grease weed is being tried as a source. There are many other replacements being explored. By the end of this century, most fossil hydrocarbon sources will be either known or developed. The economics of producing oil and gas from the earth may be so prohibitive that other sources may so far surpass that fossil sources that they may no longer be needed.

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