free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 187. FISHY HIRSCH WEDGES

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


In the Hirsch Report, the authors propose a 10-year crash program for "mitigating" peak oil. The plan looks like this:

Basically, the idea is to fill in the supply-demand gap opened by peak oil with five new streams of oil (amounts provided after 10 years are given in parentheses):

1) Fuel-efficiency (1 mbd)
2) Heavy oil/Oil sands (8 mbd)
3) Coal liquefaction (5 mbd)
4) Enhanced oil recovery (3 mbd)
5) Gas-to-liquids (2 mbd)

At 19mbd after 10 years, this is definitely a crash program. According to the DOE it took the world 30 years (1975-2004) to add the last increment of 20mbd to the world's supply of conventional oil.

Some of these wedges don't pass the smell test. Take Heavy oil/Oil sands (8mbd) for instance:

Note that most of the contribution from this wedge (5.5mbd) comes from Venezuela, compared to 2.5mbd from Canada. Venezuela is supposed to scale up from 0.6 mbd to 6mbd over 10 years, while Canada scales up from 0.5mbd to 3mbd. Why is it going to be so much easier to scale up in Venezuela than in Canada? And what makes Hirsch et al. think that Chavez is going to comply with America's crash program to save the U.S. economy? Chavez can make more money in the long run by dragging his feet.

It looks like about 30% (5.5/19) of the U.S. mitigation strategy blows a flat tire right there.

The fuel-efficiency wedge is fishy too. As the authors put it:
From the time world oil peaking occurs or is recognized, it may thus take as long as 15 years until strengthened vehicle fuel efficiency standards significantly increase average on-road fleet fuel efficiency. However, care must be exercised in making extrapolations. Most "realistic" enhanced vehicle fuel efficiency standards might not actually decrease future total gasoline consumed in the U.S. due to the anticipated continued increase in numbers of drivers and vehicles. Thus, a new CAFE mandate might decrease the rate at which future gasoline consumption increases, but not necessarily reduce total consumption.(P. 76)
The enhanced oil recovery (EOR) option, apparently involves a crash program of injecting CO2 into oil fields world-wide:
Because it is impossible to evaluate the worldwide impact of Improved Oil Recovery (IOR) techniques, we can only provide a rough estimate of what might be achieved. We focus on a major subset of IOR technologies – Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). While EOR can add significantly to reserves, it is normally not applied to a conventional oil reservoir until after production has peaked. As discussed earlier, the most widely applicable EOR process involves the injection of CO2 into conventional oil reservoirs to dissolve and move residual oil. Because EOR processes require extensive planning, large capital expenditures, procurement of very large volumes of CO2, and major equipment for large reservoirs, our simplified assumptions parallel those for our heavy oil and coal liquids wedges. We assume that the massive application of EOR worldwide will not begin to show production enhancement until 5 years after the peaking of world oil production, paced primarily by the difficulties of procuring CO2. We further assume that world oil production enhancement due to such a crash effort worldwide will increase world oil production by roughly 3 percent after 10 years. We translate the 3 percent to 3 MM bpd, based on our assumed world oil peaking level of roughly 100 MM bpd.(P. 82-83)
This clearly has problems. For example, what infrastructure is going to be used to deliver the CO2 to oilfields worldwide? And how much is the delivered CO2 going to cost? Are we going to be running it through pipelines, or transporting it in compressed form in ships?

Note: Dave has a detailed post on CO2 EOR at the Oil Drum today. The technique itself is definitely effective, as you can see from the following production profile for the Weyburn field (click to enlarge):

The problem is the logistics of moving around all that CO2.
-- by JD


At Thursday, December 15, 2005 at 2:45:00 AM PST, Anonymous Rembrandt said...

Interesting, what is your conclusion based on this review JD? That the 20 year timeframe necessary to mitigate the issue is too short? (If we only use the energy sources as mentioned by the Hirsch report)

At Thursday, December 15, 2005 at 4:01:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So are you saying Hirsch is too optimistic? That's a new tone.

At Thursday, December 15, 2005 at 4:23:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

I've always disliked Hirsch's concept of "mitigation" because it's a pro-Exxon, pro-automobile business-as-usual solution. So yes, he is too optimistic. The wedges he presents are not likely to do the job.

rembrandt: I disagree with Hirsch's definition of mitigation. The problem could be easily, and very effectively, mitigated in 5 years through demand-side mitigation. I don't like the assumption which Hirsch is pushing, i.e. that "mitigation=getting more oil". I prefer "mitigation=using less oil".

At Thursday, December 15, 2005 at 8:35:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always thought this too, the reason Hirsch is so gloomy is because he's trying to keep the CURRENT economic system intact, when all of us in the know realize that is clearly not the best way to run things.

Keeping business as usual running will lead to a horrible great depression, starvation in many countries (though the US will still keep the lights on and have food, domestic+coal2l+SPR is enough to ensure that, and we'll have to deal with our NG situation before Peak Oil arrives so hopefully people will adopt a more japan inspired way of heating their homes), and an all around bad time.

This is, why I think, doomers feel as they do. All things being equal the world as we know it will end when peak oil hits, IE if nobody anywhere in the world conserves a drop or changes their habbits one bit. This is probably not the case, even the 70s oil shocks caused the US to drop it's consumption MASSIVELY for several decades.

At Thursday, December 15, 2005 at 11:00:00 AM PST, Anonymous popmonkey said...

another thing hirsch fails to mention is that EOR is going to cause significantly higher rates of decline once an oil field peaks. to me EOR methods of mitigation are going to require more mitigation themselves.

At Thursday, December 15, 2005 at 11:09:00 AM PST, Blogger dub_scratch said...

IMO, the Hirsch Report is useful in demonstrating why business-as-usual suburban sprawl economy is dead in the water. By that, I'm glad they focused on propping that regime up in their scenarios. The national traffic jam is toast and there ain't nothing anybody can do about. The Hirsch Report's conclusions tell us that we better make plans to move away from it ASAP.

At Thursday, December 15, 2005 at 2:27:00 PM PST, Anonymous Rembrandt said...

JD how do you imagine this using less oil mitigation scenario. How would the goverment/corporations and citizens interact with eachother in an economy that is not growing but declining in consumption?

I wonder how you imagine the cultural forces that are at work in this sense.

At Thursday, December 15, 2005 at 6:57:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

Rembrandt, I don't imagine the social system would be much different than it is now. The primary difference would be the government's implementation of strong measures to reduce usage of oil -- like the ones listed in the IEA report "Saving Oil in a Hurry":

Employer trip reduction
Area-wide ridesharing
Public transit improvements
HOV lanes
Park and ride lots
Bike and walk facilities
Parking pricing at work
Parking pricing: non-work
Congestion pricing
Compressed work weak
Land use planning
Smog/VMT(Vehicle Miles Traveled) tax
Public appeals to reduce consumption without price effects
Public appeals to reduce consumption with price effects
Ban on motor sports events
Ban on driving by car to large scale events
Speed restrictions
Ban on driving every second Sunday
Ban on driving every second Weekend
General ban on Sunday driving
Restriction on use by administrative degree (public authorities set days on which drivers are banned)
Restriction on use by registration number (on each weekday two final registration numbers banned)
Implementation of fuel supply ordinance (rationing)

Also, I don't believe less oil use will result in poor economic growth. Economic growth is dependent on growth in energy, not growth in oil. Converting to a less oil-dependent system will involve enough work to keep people employed.

At Friday, December 16, 2005 at 12:26:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a problem with the 15 years he says will take CAFE standards to take effect, or how long it will take people to change from low MPG cars and trucks to the higher MPG ones. It did not take 15 years for people to change out their gas guzzlers to buy higher MPG cars in the 70s or early 80s. Yes, people did keep their low MPG cars and trucks longer UP UNTIL NOW, for the last 15 years we had cheap oil, now there is a reason to change and it is starting to happen now. Look at all the SUVs that are going on sale in used car lots!!


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