How Much Oil Have We Used?
How Much Oil Have We Used?
Green Car Congress
9 May 2009
Estimates of how much crude oil humans have extracted from the planet vary wildly (as do estimates on how much remains). UK researchers have published a new estimate of total crude oil extracted in the International Journal of Oil, Gas and Coal Technology that suggests we may have used more than we think.
In 2008, chemists Istvan Lakatos and Julianna Lakatos-Szabo of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences theorized that less than 100 billion tonne of crude oil has been produced since 1850 and that the average annual production rate is less than 700 million barrels per year.
They compared proven reserves and estimates of yet-to-find (YTF) resources and echoed the sentiment that we will soon face oil shortages even though a substantial part of those reserves remain in the ground untapped.
Now, John Jones in the School of Engineering, at the University of Aberdeen, UK, suggests that the figures cited by Istvan Lakatos and Julianna Lakatos-Szabo for which they give no references grossly underestimates how much oil we have used already. Jones says that we have used at least 135 billion barrels of oil since 1870, the period during which J.D. Rockefeller established The Standard Oil Company and began drilling in earnest.
The oil industry now spans several generations, says Jones, and has historically been as uninterested in how much oil has been drawn as were economists, day-to-day and annual figures being of much greater concern. However, in 2005, The Oil Depletion Analysis Centre (ODAC) in London provided a total figure of almost 1 trillion barrels of crude oil (944 billion barrels) since commercial drilling began. Even that figure does not add up, Jones explains.
He has calculated an estimate by using the volume of a barrel (42 US gallons, or 0.16 cubic metres) and a crude oil density of 0.9 tonnes per cubic metre. ODAC’s 944 billion barrels is thus the equivalent of 135 billion tonnes.
Jones explains that this figure is of the same order of magnitude as the estimate offered by Lakatos and Lakatos-Szabo, but is nevertheless 35% higher than ODAC’s figure. “Their assertion that less than 100 billion tonnes has been produced is significantly inconsistent with the ODAC,” says Jones. The implication is that either ODAC or the Hungarian team are incorrect in their estimates, and suggests that clarification of this important figure is now needed.
- J. Jones (2009) Total amounts of oil produced over the history of the industry. Int. J. Oil, Gas and Coal Technology, 2009, 2, 199-200 doi: 10.1504/IJOGCT.2009.024887
- Lakatos and Lakatos-Szabo (2008) Global oil demand and role of chemical EOR methods in the 21st century. Int. J. Oil, Gas and Coal Technology, 2008 1, 46-64 doi: 10.1504/IJOGCT.2008.016731
Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol. Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program. Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector. On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline. Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.