Shaping the Global Oil Peak

This review paper summarizes and evaluates the evidence regarding four issues that are considered to be of critical importance for future global oil supply. These are: a) how regional and global oil resources are distributed between different sizes of field; b) why estimates of the recoverable resources from individual fields tend to grow over time and the current and likely future contribution of this to global reserve additions; c) how rapidly the production from different categories of field is declining and how this may be expected to change in the future; and d) how rapidly the remaining recoverable resources in a field or region can be produced. It is shown that, despite serious data limitations, the level of knowledge of each of these issues has improved considerably over the past decade. While the evidence on reserve growth appears relatively encouraging for future global oil supply, that on decline and depletion rates does not. Projections of future global oil supply that use assumptions inconsistent with this evidence base are likely to be in error giant fields are critically important, while small fields are of limited significance. Reserve growth is real, significant and not primarily the result of conservative reporting. Post-peak decline leads to a significant (>4%) and growing loss of production capacity each year. Influential supply forecasts make implausible assumptions about regional depletion rates.