Hubbert peak theory

Hubbert peak theory

Overview

The Hubbert peak theory posits that for any given geographical area, from an individual oil-producing region to the planet as a whole, the rate of petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 production tends to follow a bell-shaped curve. It is one of the primary theories on peak oil
Peak oil
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field...

.

Choosing a particular curve determines a point of maximum production based on discovery rates, production rates and cumulative production.
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Encyclopedia

The Hubbert peak theory posits that for any given geographical area, from an individual oil-producing region to the planet as a whole, the rate of petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 production tends to follow a bell-shaped curve. It is one of the primary theories on peak oil
Peak oil
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field...

.

Choosing a particular curve determines a point of maximum production based on discovery rates, production rates and cumulative production. Early in the curve (pre-peak), the production rate increases because of the discovery rate and the addition of infrastructure. Late in the curve (post-peak), production declines because of resource depletion.

The Hubbert peak theory is based on the observation that the amount of oil under the ground in any region is finite, therefore the rate of discovery which initially increases quickly must reach a maximum and decline. In the US, oil extraction followed the discovery curve after a time lag of 32 to 35 years. The theory is named after American geophysicist M. King Hubbert
M. King Hubbert
Marion King Hubbert was a geoscientist who worked at the Shell research lab in Houston, Texas. He made several important contributions to geology, geophysics, and petroleum geology, most notably the Hubbert curve and Hubbert peak theory , with important political ramifications. He was often...

, who created a method of modeling the production curve given an assumed ultimate recovery volume.

Hubbert's peak


"Hubbert's peak" can refer to the peaking of production of a particular area, which has now been observed for many fields and regions.

Hubbert's Peak was achieved in the continental US in the early 1970s. Oil production peaked at 10200000 oilbbl/d. Since then, it has been in a gradual decline.

Peak oil
Peak oil
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field...

 as a proper noun, or "Hubbert's peak" applied more generally, refers to a singular event in history: the peak of the entire planet's oil production. After Peak Oil, according to the Hubbert Peak Theory, the rate of oil production on Earth would enter a terminal decline. On the basis of his theory, in a paper he presented to the American Petroleum Institute
American Petroleum Institute
The American Petroleum Institute, commonly referred to as API, is the largest U.S trade association for the oil and natural gas industry...

 in 1956, Hubbert correctly predicted that production of oil from conventional sources would peak in the continental United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 around 1965-1970. Hubbert further predicted a worldwide peak at "about half a century" from publication and approximately 12 gigabarrels (GB) a year in magnitude. In a 1976 TV interview Hubbert added that the actions of OPEC might flatten the global production curve but this would only delay the peak for perhaps 10 years.

Hubbert curve





In 1956, Hubbert proposed that fossil fuel production in a given region over time would follow a roughly bell-shaped curve without giving a precise formula; he later used the Hubbert curve
Hubbert curve
The Hubbert curve is an approximation of the production rate of a resource over time. It is a symmetric logistic distribution curve, often confused with the "normal" gaussian function. It first appeared in "Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels," geophysicist M...

, the derivative of the logistic curve, for estimating future production using past observed discoveries.

Hubbert assumed that after fossil fuel reserves (oil reserves
Oil reserves
The total estimated amount of oil in an oil reservoir, including both producible and non-producible oil, is called oil in place. However, because of reservoir characteristics and limitations in petroleum extraction technologies, only a fraction of this oil can be brought to the surface, and it is...

, coal reserves, and natural gas reserves) are discovered, production at first increases approximately exponentially, as more extraction commences and more efficient facilities are installed. At some point, a peak output is reached, and production begins declining until it approximates an exponential decline.

The Hubbert curve satisfies these constraints. Furthermore, it is roughly symmetrical, with the peak of production reached when about half of the fossil fuel that will ultimately be produced has been produced. It also has a single peak.

Given past oil discovery and production data, a Hubbert curve that attempts to approximate past discovery data may be constructed and used to provide estimates for future production. In particular, the date of peak oil production or the total amount of oil ultimately produced can be estimated that way. Cavallo defines the Hubbert curve used to predict the U.S. peak as the derivative of:


where max is the total resource available (ultimate recovery of crude oil), the cumulative production, and and are constants. The year of maximum annual production (peak) is:

Use of multiple curves



The sum of multiple Hubbert curves, a technique not developed by Hubbert himself, may be used in order to model more complicated real life scenarios.

Definition of reserves


Almost all of Hubbert peaks must be put in the context of high ore grade. Except for fissionable materials, any resource, including oil, is theoretically recoverable from the environment with the right technology. In contrast, Hubbert was concerned with "easy" oil, "easy" metals, and so forth that could be recovered without greatly advanced mining efforts and how to time the necessity of such resource acquisition advancements or substitutions by knowing an "easy" resource's probable peak. Also, as reserves become more difficult to extract there is the possibility that mining or alternatives are too expensive for developing countries.

For heavy crude or deep water drilling attempts, such as Noxal oil field
Noxal oil field
Noxal is a deep underwater oil field in the Mexican waters of the Gulf of Mexico that was once believed to contain up to of crude oil. Further drilling has revealed a modest a modest natural gas find. The region is still expected to contain of oil and natural gas equivalent...

 or tar sands
Tar sands
Bituminous sands, colloquially known as oil sands or tar sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The sands contain naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, water, and a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen...

 or oil shale
Oil shale
Oil shale, an organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock, contains significant amounts of kerogen from which liquid hydrocarbons called shale oil can be produced...

, the price of the oil extracted will have to include the extra effort required to mine these resources. According to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement(formerly, the Minerals Management Service), areas such as the Outer Continental Shelf
Outer Continental Shelf
The Outer Continental Shelf is a peculiarity of the political geography of the United States and is the part of the internationally recognized continental shelf of the United States which does not fall under the jurisdictions of the individual U.S...

 may also incur higher costs due to environmental concerns. So not all oil reserves
Oil reserves
The total estimated amount of oil in an oil reservoir, including both producible and non-producible oil, is called oil in place. However, because of reservoir characteristics and limitations in petroleum extraction technologies, only a fraction of this oil can be brought to the surface, and it is...

 are equal, and the more difficult reserves are predicted by Hubbert as being typical of the post-peak side of the Hubbert curve.

Reliability



Hubbert, in his 1956 paper, presented two scenarios for US conventional oil production (crude oil + condensate):
  • most likely estimate: a logistic curve with a logistic growth rate equal to 6%, an ultimate resource equal to 150 Giga-barrels (Gb) and a peak in 1965.
  • upper-bound estimate: a logistic curve with a logistic growth rate equal to 6% and ultimate resource equal to 200 Giga-barrels and a peak in 1970.

Hubbert's upper-bound estimate, which he regarded as optimistic, accurately predicted that US oil production would peak in 1970. Forty years later, the upper-bound estimate has also proven to be very accurate in terms of cumulative production, less so in terms of annual production. For 2005, the upper-bound Hubbert model predicts 178.2 Gb cumulative and 1.17 Gb current production; actual US production was 176.4 Gb cumulative crude oil + condensate (1% lower than the upper bound estimate), with annual production of 1.55 Gb (32% higher than the upper bound estimate).

A post-hoc analysis of peaked oil wells, fields, regions and nations found that Hubbert's model was the "most widely useful"(providing the best fit to the data), though many areas studied had a sharper "peak" than predicted.

Energy return on energy investment


When oil production first began in the mid-nineteenth century, the largest oil fields recovered fifty barrels of oil for every barrel used in the extraction, transportation and refining. This ratio is often referred to as the Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROI or EROEI
EROEI
In physics, energy economics and ecological energetics, energy returned on energy invested ; or energy return on investment , is the ratio of the amount of usable energy acquired from a particular energy resource to the amount of energy expended to obtain that energy resource...

). Currently, between one and five barrels of oil are recovered for each barrel-equivalent of energy used in the recovery process. As the EROEI drops to one, or equivalently the Net energy gain
Net energy gain
Net Energy Gain is a concept used in energy economics that refers to the difference between the energy expended to harvest an energy source and the amount of energy gained from that harvest. The net energy gain, which can be expressed in joules, differs from the net financial gain that may result...

 falls to zero, the oil production is no longer a net energy source. This happens long before the resource is physically exhausted.

Note that it is important to understand the distinction between a barrel of oil, which is a measure of oil, and a barrel of oil equivalent
Barrel of oil equivalent
The barrel of oil equivalent is a unit of energy based on the approximate energy released by burning one barrel of crude oil. The US Internal Revenue Service defines it as equal to 5.8 × 106 BTU...

 (BOE), which is a measure of energy. Many sources of energy, such as fission, solar, wind, and coal, are not subject to the same near-term supply restrictions that oil is. Accordingly, even an oil source with an EROEI of 0.5 can be usefully exploited if the energy required to produce that oil comes from a cheap and plentiful energy source. Availability of cheap, but hard to transport, natural gas in some oil fields has led to using natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

 to fuel enhanced oil recovery
Enhanced oil recovery
Enhanced Oil Recovery is a generic term for techniques for increasing the amount of crude oil that can be extracted from an oil field...

. Similarly, natural gas in huge amounts is used to power most Athabasca Tar Sands plants. Cheap natural gas has also led to Ethanol fuel
Ethanol fuel
Ethanol fuel is ethanol , the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. It is most often used as a motor fuel, mainly as a biofuel additive for gasoline. World ethanol production for transport fuel tripled between 2000 and 2007 from 17 billion to more than 52 billion litres...

 produced with a net EROEI of less than 1, although figures in this area are controversial because methods to measure EROEI are in debate.

Growth-based economic models



Insofar as economic growth
Economic growth
In economics, economic growth is defined as the increasing capacity of the economy to satisfy the wants of goods and services of the members of society. Economic growth is enabled by increases in productivity, which lowers the inputs for a given amount of output. Lowered costs increase demand...

 is driven by oil consumption growth, post-peak societies must adapt. Hubbert believed:
Some economists describe the problem as uneconomic growth
Uneconomic growth
Uneconomic growth, in human development theory, welfare economics , and some forms of ecological economics, is economic growth that reflects or creates a decline in the quality of life. The concept is attributed to the economist Herman Daly, though other theorists can also be credited for the...

 or a false economy
False economy
A false economy is an action that saves money at the beginning but which, over a longer period of time, results in more money being wasted than being saved...

. At the political right, Fred Ikle
Fred Ikle
Dr. Fred Charles Iklé was a United States Department of Defense official during the presidency of Ronald Reagan who is credited with a key role in increasing U.S. aid to anti-Soviet rebels in the Soviet War in Afghanistan...

 has warned about "conservatives addicted to the Utopia of Perpetual Growth". Brief oil interruptions in 1973 and 1979 markedly slowed - but did not stop - the growth of world GDP.

Between 1950 and 1984, as the Green Revolution
Green Revolution
Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s....

 transformed agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 around the globe, world grain production increased by 250%. The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon
Hydrocarbon
In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons from which one hydrogen atom has been removed are functional groups, called hydrocarbyls....

 fueled irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

.

David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

, and Mario Giampietro, senior researcher at the National Research Institute on Food and Nutrition (INRAN), place in their study Food, Land, Population and the U.S. Economy the maximum U.S. population for a sustainable economy
Sustainability
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

 at 200 million. To achieve a sustainable economy world population
World population
The world population is the total number of living humans on the planet Earth. As of today, it is estimated to be  billion by the United States Census Bureau...

 will have to be reduced by two-thirds, says the study. Without population reduction, this study predicts an agricultural crisis beginning in 2020, becoming critical c. 2050. The peaking of global oil
Peak oil
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field...

 along with the decline in regional natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

 production may precipitate this agricultural crisis sooner than generally expected. Dale Allen Pfeiffer
Dale Allen Pfeiffer
Dale Allen Pfeiffer is a geologist and writer from Michigan, U.S. who has investigated and written about energy depletion and potential future resource wars. He has also written about class war, sustainability, direct action and the environment. He is also an anarchist activist and a member of the...

 claims that coming decades could see spiraling food
Food
Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals...

 prices without relief and massive starvation
Starvation
Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death...

 on a global level such as never experienced before.

Hubbert peaks


Although Hubbert peak theory receives most attention in relation to peak oil production
Peak oil
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field...

, it has also been applied to other natural resources.

Natural gas



Doug Reynolds predicted in 2005 that the North American peak would occur in 2007. Bentley (p. 189) predicted a world "decline in conventional gas production from about 2020".

Coal



Although observers believe that peak coal is significantly further out than peak oil, Hubbert studied the specific example of anthracite
Anthracite coal
Anthracite is a hard, compact variety of mineral coal that has a high luster...

 in the USA, a high grade coal, whose production peaked in the 1920s. Hubbert found that Anthracite matches a curve closely. Pennsylvania's coal production also matches Hubbert's curve closely, but this does not mean that coal in Pennsylvania is exhausted—far from it. If production in Pennsylvania returned at its all time high, there are reserves for 190 years. Hubbert had recoverable coal reserves worldwide at 2500 × 109 metric tons and peaking around 2150 (depending on usage).

More recent estimates suggest an earlier peak. Coal: Resources and Future Production (PDF 630KB), published on April 5, 2007 by the Energy Watch Group (EWG), which reports to the German Parliament, found that global coal production could peak in as few as 15 years. Reporting on this Richard Heinberg also notes that the date of peak annual energetic extraction from coal will likely come earlier than the date of peak in quantity of coal (tons per year) extracted as the most energy-dense types of coal have been mined most extensively. A second study,
The Future of Coal by B. Kavalov and S. D. Peteves of the Institute for Energy (IFE), prepared for European Commission Joint Research Centre, reaches similar conclusions and states that
""coal might not be so abundant, widely available and reliable as an energy source in the future".

Work by David Rutledge
David Rutledge
Dr. David B. Rutledge was elected Chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at the California Institute of Technology and started his term on September 1, 2005 as such. His research group is currently involved in building circuits and antennas for numerous electronic applications...

 of Caltech predicts that the total of world coal production will amount to only about 450 gigatonnes. This
implies that coal is running out faster than usually assumed.

Finally, insofar as global peak oil
Peak oil
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. This concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, projected reserves and the combined production rate of a field...

 and peak in natural gas are expected anywhere from imminently to within decades at most, any increase in coal production (mining) per annum to compensate for declines in oil or natural gas production, would necessarily translate to an earlier date of peak as compared with peak coal under a scenario in which annual production remains constant.

Fissionable materials



In a paper in 1956, after a review of US fissionable reserves, Hubbert notes of nuclear power:
Technologies such as the thorium fuel cycle
Thorium fuel cycle
The thorium fuel cycle is a nuclear fuel cycle that uses the naturally abundant isotope of thorium, , as the fertile material. In the reactor, is transmuted into the fissile artificial uranium isotope which is the nuclear fuel. Unlike natural uranium, natural thorium contains only trace amounts...

, reprocessing
Nuclear reprocessing
Nuclear reprocessing technology was developed to chemically separate and recover fissionable plutonium from irradiated nuclear fuel. Reprocessing serves multiple purposes, whose relative importance has changed over time. Originally reprocessing was used solely to extract plutonium for producing...

 and fast breeders can, in theory, considerably extend the life of uranium
Uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

 reserves. Roscoe Bartlett
Roscoe Bartlett
Roscoe Gardner Bartlett, Ph.D. is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 1993. He is a member of the Republican Party, and a member of the Tea Party Caucus...

 claims
Caltech physics professor David Goodstein
David Goodstein
David L. Goodstein is a U.S. physicist and educator. From 1988 to 2007 he served as Vice-provost of the California Institute of Technology , where he is also a professor of physics and applied physics, as well as the Frank J...

 has stated that

Helium


Almost all helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

 on Earth is a result of radioactive decay
Radioactive decay
Radioactive decay is the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing particles . The emission is spontaneous, in that the atom decays without any physical interaction with another particle from outside the atom...

 of uranium
Uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

 and thorium
Thorium
Thorium is a natural radioactive chemical element with the symbol Th and atomic number 90. It was discovered in 1828 and named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder....

. Helium is extracted by fractional distillation
Fractional distillation
Fractional distillation is the separation of a mixture into its component parts, or fractions, such as in separating chemical compounds by their boiling point by heating them to a temperature at which several fractions of the compound will evaporate. It is a special type of distillation...

 from natural gas, which contains up to 7% helium. The world's largest helium-rich natural gas fields are found in the United States, especially in the Hugoton
Hugoton Natural Gas Area
Hugoton Natural Gas Area is a combination of large natural gas fields in the U.S. state of Kansas, the largest of which is the Hugoton Field. Its name is derived from the town of Hugoton, Kansas, near which the Hugoton Field was first discovered.-History:...

 and nearby gas fields in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The extracted helium is stored underground in the National Helium Reserve
National Helium Reserve
The National Helium Reserve, also known as the Federal Helium Reserve, is a strategic reserve of the United States holding over a billion cubic meter of helium gas. The helium is stored at the Cliffside Storage Facility about northwest of Amarillo, Texas, in a natural geologic gas storage...

 near Amarillo, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, the self-proclaimed "Helium Capital of the World". Helium production is expected to decline along with natural gas production in these areas.

Helium is the second-lightest chemical element in the Universe, causing it to rise to the upper layers of Earth's atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

. Helium atoms are so light that the Earth's gravity field is simply not strong enough to trap helium in the atmosphere and it dissipates slowly into space and is lost forever.

Transition metals



Hubbert applied his theory to "rock containing an abnormally high concentration of a given metal" and reasoned that the peak production for metals such as copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

, tin
Tin
Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn and atomic number 50. It is a main group metal in group 14 of the periodic table. Tin shows chemical similarity to both neighboring group 14 elements, germanium and lead and has two possible oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4...

, lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

, zinc
Zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

 and others would occur in the time frame of decades and iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 in the time frame of two centuries like coal. The price of copper rose 500% between 2003 and 2007 was by some attributed to peak copper
Peak copper
Peak copper is the point in time at which the maximum global copper production rate is reached. Since copper is a finite resource, at some point in the future new production from within the earth will diminish, and at some earlier time production will reach a maximum. When this will occur is a...

. Copper prices later fell, along with many other commodities and stock prices, as demand shrank from fear of a global recession
Late 2000s recession
The late-2000s recession, sometimes referred to as the Great Recession or Lesser Depression or Long Recession, is a severe ongoing global economic problem that began in December 2007 and took a particularly sharp downward turn in September 2008. The Great Recession has affected the entire world...

. Lithium
Lithium
Lithium is a soft, silver-white metal that belongs to the alkali metal group of chemical elements. It is represented by the symbol Li, and it has the atomic number 3. Under standard conditions it is the lightest metal and the least dense solid element. Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly...

 availability is a concern for a fleet of Li-ion battery using cars but a paper published in 1996 estimated that world reserves are adequate for at least 50 years. A similar prediction for platinum
Platinum
Platinum is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Pt and an atomic number of 78. Its name is derived from the Spanish term platina del Pinto, which is literally translated into "little silver of the Pinto River." It is a dense, malleable, ductile, precious, gray-white transition metal...

 use in fuel cells notes that the metal could be easily recycled.

Precious metals


The possibility of Peak Gold has emerged recently http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/mining/6546579/Barrick-shuts-hedge-book-as-world-gold-supply-runs-out.html. Aaron Regent president of the Canadian gold giant Barrik Gold said that global output has been falling by roughly one million ounces a year since the start of the decade. The total global mine supply has dropped by 10pc as ore quality erodes, implying that the roaring bull market of the last eight years may have further to run. "There is a strong case to be made that we are already at 'peak gold'," he told The Daily Telegraph at the RBC's annual gold conference in London. "Production peaked around 2000 and it has been in decline ever since, and we forecast that decline to continue. It is increasingly difficult to find ore," he said.

Ore grades have fallen from around 12 grams per tonne in 1950 to nearer 3 grams in the US, Canada, and Australia. South Africa's output has halved since peaking in 1970. Output fell a further 14 percent in South Africa in 2008 as companies were forced to dig ever deeper - at greater cost - to replace depleted reserves.

Phosphorus



Phosphorus
Phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

 supplies are essential to farming and depletion of reserves is estimated at somewhere from 60 to 130 years. According to a 2008 study, the total reserves of phosphorus are estimated to be approximately 3,200 MT, with a peak production at 28 MT/year in 2034. Individual countries supplies vary widely; without a recycling initiative America's supply is estimated around 30 years. Phosphorus supplies affect agricultural output which in turn limits alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol. Its increasing price and scarcity (global price of rock phosphate rose 8-fold in the 2 years to mid 2008) could change global agricultural patterns. Lands, perceived as marginal because of remoteness, but with very high phosphorus content, such as the Gran Chaco
Gran Chaco
The Gran Chaco is a sparsely populated, hot and semi-arid lowland region of the Río de la Plata basin, divided among eastern Bolivia, Paraguay, northern Argentina and a portion of the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, where it is connected with the Pantanal region...

 may get more agricultural development, while other farming areas, where nutrients are a constraint, may drop below the line of profitability.

Peak water



Hubbert's original analysis did not apply to renewable resources. However, over-exploitation often results in a Hubbert peak nonetheless. A modified Hubbert curve applies to any resource that can be harvested faster than it can be replaced.

For example, a reserve such as the Ogallala Aquifer
Ogallala Aquifer
The Ogallala Aquifer, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, is a vast yet shallow underground water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains in the United States...

 can be mined at a rate that far exceeds replenishment. This turns much of the world's underground water and lakes into finite resources with peak usage debates similar to oil. These debates usually center around agriculture and suburban water usage but generation of electricity from nuclear energy or coal and tar sands mining mentioned above is also water resource intensive. The term fossil water
Fossil water
Fossil water or paleowater is groundwater that has remained sealed in an aquifer for a long period of time. Water can rest underground in "fossil aquifers" for thousands or even millions of years...

 is sometimes used to describe aquifers whose water is not being recharged.

Renewable resources

  • Fisheries: At least one researcher has attempted to perform Hubbert linearization (Hubbert curve
    Hubbert curve
    The Hubbert curve is an approximation of the production rate of a resource over time. It is a symmetric logistic distribution curve, often confused with the "normal" gaussian function. It first appeared in "Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels," geophysicist M...

    ) on the whaling
    Whaling
    Whaling is the hunting of whales mainly for meat and oil. Its earliest forms date to at least 3000 BC. Various coastal communities have long histories of sustenance whaling and harvesting beached whales...

     industry, as well as charting the transparently dependent price of caviar on sturgeon depletion. Another example is the cod
    Cod
    Cod is the common name for genus Gadus, belonging to the family Gadidae, and is also used in the common name for various other fishes. Cod is a popular food with a mild flavor, low fat content and a dense, flaky white flesh. Cod livers are processed to make cod liver oil, an important source of...

     of the North Sea. The comparison of the cases of fisheries and of mineral extraction tells us that the human pressure on the environment is causing a wide range of resources to go through a depletion cycle which follows a Hubbert curve.

Criticisms


Economist Michael Lynch argues that the theory behind the Hubbert curve is too simplistic and relies on an overly Malthusian
Malthusianism
Malthusianism refers primarily to ideas derived from the political/economic thought of Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, as laid out initially in his 1798 writings, An Essay on the Principle of Population, which describes how unchecked population growth is exponential while the growth of the food...

 point of view. Lynch claims that Campbell's predictions for world oil production are strongly biased towards underestimates, and that Campbell has repeatedly pushed back the date.

Leonardo Maugeri, vice president of the Italian energy company Eni
Eni
Eni S.p.A. is an Italian multinational oil and gas company, present in 70 countries, and currently Italy's largest industrial company with a market capitalization of 87.7 billion euros , as of July 24, 2008...

, argues that nearly all of peak estimates do not take into account unconventional oil even though the availability of these resources is significant and the costs of extraction and processing, while still very high, are falling because of improved technology. He also notes that the recovery rate from existing world oil fields has increased from about 22% in 1980 to 35% today because of new technology and predicts this trend will continue. The ratio between proven oil reserves and current production has constantly improved, passing from 20 years in 1948 to 35 years in 1972 and reaching about 40 years in 2003. These improvements occurred even with low investment in new exploration
Exploration
Exploration is the act of searching or traveling around a terrain for the purpose of discovery of resources or information. Exploration occurs in all non-sessile animal species, including humans...

 and upgrading technology
Technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

 because of the low oil prices during the last 20 years. However, Maugeri feels that encouraging more exploration will require relatively high oil prices.

Edward Luttwak
Edward Luttwak
Edward Nicolae Luttwak is an American military strategist and historian who has published works on military strategy, history and international relations.-Biography:...

, an economist and historian, claims that unrest in countries such as Russia, Iran and Iraq has led to a massive underestimate of oil reserves. The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, or ASPO
Aspö
Aspö is a small village on the Aspö Island in Väståboland, Finland. Until 2009 it belonged to the municipality of Korpo. Its Finnish-language name is Haapasaari, although this name is seldom used. The village is known for its white limestone church that has a red brick roof. The current church was...

 responds by claiming neither Russia nor Iran are troubled by unrest currently, but Iraq is.

Cambridge Energy Research Associates
Cambridge Energy Research Associates
Cambridge Energy Research Associates is a consulting company in the United States that specializes in advising governments and private companies on energy markets, geopolitics, industry trends, and strategy...

 authored a report that is critical of Hubbert-influenced predictions:
CERA
Cambridge Energy Research Associates
Cambridge Energy Research Associates is a consulting company in the United States that specializes in advising governments and private companies on energy markets, geopolitics, industry trends, and strategy...

 does not believe there will be an endless abundance of oil, but instead believes that global production will eventually follow an “undulating plateau” for one or more decades before declining slowly, and that production will reach 40 Mb/d by 2015.

Alfred J. Cavallo, while predicting a conventional oil supply shortage by no later than 2015, does not think Hubbert's peak is the correct theory to apply to world production.

See also



  • Gross domestic product per barrel
    Gross domestic product per barrel
    Energy efficiency as it relates to oil usage can be described by the gross domestic product per barrel of oil used . The original data for this is taken from two sources, the and the List of countries by GDP article from Wikipedia...

  • Hirsch report
    Hirsch report
    The Hirsch report, the commonly referred to name for the report Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management, was created by request for the US Department of Energy and published in February 2005....

     on peak oil
  • Hubbert curve
    Hubbert curve
    The Hubbert curve is an approximation of the production rate of a resource over time. It is a symmetric logistic distribution curve, often confused with the "normal" gaussian function. It first appeared in "Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels," geophysicist M...

  • Kuznets curve
    Kuznets curve
    A Kuznets curve is the graphical representation of Simon Kuznets' hypothesis that economic inequality increases over time while a country is developing, and then after a certain average income is attained, inequality begins to decrease....

  • Limits to Growth
    Limits to Growth
    The Limits to Growth is a 1972 book modeling the consequences of a rapidly growing world population and finite resource supplies, commissioned by the Club of Rome. Its authors were Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III. The book used the World3 model to...

    (book)
  • Low-carbon economy
    Low-carbon economy
    A Low-Carbon Economy or Low-Fossil-Fuel Economy is an economy that has a minimal output of greenhouse gas emissions into the environment biosphere, but specifically refers to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide...

  • Oil crisis
    Oil crisis
    Oil crisis may refer to:1970s*1970s energy crisis*1973 oil crisis*1979 energy crisisPost 1970s*Oil price increase of 1990*2000s energy crisis...

  • Oil reserves
    Oil reserves
    The total estimated amount of oil in an oil reservoir, including both producible and non-producible oil, is called oil in place. However, because of reservoir characteristics and limitations in petroleum extraction technologies, only a fraction of this oil can be brought to the surface, and it is...

  • Olduvai theory
    Olduvai theory
    The Olduvai theory states that industrial civilization will have a lifetime of less than or equal to 100 years . The theory provides a quantitative basis of the transient-pulse theory of modern civilization...

  • OPEC
    OPEC
    OPEC is an intergovernmental organization of twelve developing countries made up of Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. OPEC has maintained its headquarters in Vienna since 1965, and hosts regular meetings...

  • Peak uranium
    Peak uranium
    Peak uranium is the point in time that the maximum global uranium production rate is reached. After that peak, the rate of production enters a terminal decline. While uranium is used in nuclear weapons, its primary use is for energy generation via nuclear fission of uranium-235 isotope in a nuclear...

  • Reserves-to-production ratio
    Reserves-to-production ratio
    The Reserves-to-production ratio is the remaining amount of a non-renewable resource, expressed in years. While applicable to all natural resources, the RPR is most commonly applied to fossil fuels, particularly petroleum and natural gas...

  • World energy resources and consumption
    World energy resources and consumption
    ]World energy consumption in 2010: over 5% growthEnergy markets have combined crisis recovery and strong industry dynamism. Energy consumption in the G20 soared by more than 5% in 2010, after the slight decrease of 2009. This strong increase is the result of two converging trends...


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