Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Global Oil Depletion Report 2009

What evidence is there to support the proposition that the global supply of 'conventional oil' will be constrained by physical depletion before 2030?

The 'peak oil' debate is polarised, contentious and characterised by competing interpretations of the available data.

A growing number of commentators are forecasting a near-term peak in global oil production with potentially serious economic impacts. Others, however, argue that production will be sufficient to meet rising demand well into the 21st century.

The UK Energy Research Centre is the focal point for UK research on sustainable energy. It takes an independent, whole-systems approach, drawing on engineering, economics and the physical, environmental and social sciences. Their new report on Global Oil Depletion, a review of over 500 studies, analysis of industry databases and comparison of global supply forecasts, seeks to bring some clarity to this debate.

The report finds:
  • Despite large uncertainties in the available data, sufficient information is available to allow the status and risk of global oil depletion to be adequately assessed. But the available methodologies can frequently lead to underestimates of resource size and overly pessimistic forecasts of future supply
  • The rate of decline of production is accelerating. More than two thirds of existing capacity may need to be replaced by 2030 solely to prevent production from falling
  • While large resources of conventional oil may be available, these are unlikely to be accessed quickly and may make little difference to the timing of the global peak
  • A peak in conventional oil production before 2030 appears likely and there is a significant risk of a peak before 2020. Given the lead times required to both develop substitute fuels and improve energy efficiency, this risk needs to be given serious consideration
Energy 2050

UKERC's another report, Energy 2050, addresses two of the Government's toughest energy policy goals – delivering reliable energy to consumers while meeting its legal commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050.

Since 2006, researchers at UKERC have been working together on an ambitious project assessing how the UK can move to a resilient (‘secure’) and low-carbon energy system over the period to 2050. The Energy 2050 report synthesises the project findings. A more extended account of the project will be published in book form in early 2010.

The Energy 2050 project brought together a wide range of researchers coming from several disciplines to address a common problem, exploring all dimensions of the possible development of the UK energy system through to 2050. A common set of scenarios was used, making it possible to relate the different elements of the project to each other. While the project relied heavily on scenarios and modelling, it also placed great emphasis on the underlying policy and research questions and the conclusions and implications for action. This report focuses on
these aspects of the work, in order to make it more relevant to policy makers and a wider readership. Technical detail is kept to a minimum but is available in the full Research Reports that were produced by the various work streams of the project. These are being made available on the UKERC website.

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