free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 283. LAHERRERE MORPHING INTO ODELL?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Looking at Laherrere's liquids forecast in the previous entry (#282), I couldn't help but notice the striking similarity to some old charts from the uber-cornucopian economist Peter Odell.

First, take a look at the peak oil forecast from Campbell & Laherrere's 1998 Scientific American article:

According to the caption in the article, the red line indicates conventional + unconventional oil. Note that the graph tops out prior to 2005 at a global production level of about 26Gb/year = 71mbd. This was substantially in error because the world is currently producing about 85mbd.

Now let's contrast this with Laherrere's most recent 2006 chart (referenced in the previous entry):

What a difference 8 years makes, eh? In the new chart, conventional + unconventional tops out around the year 2020 at 92mbd. Interestingly, Laherrere not only includes the likely case (unconventional = 1Tb) but also an "unlikely" case (unconventional = 2Tb). This is clearly a hedge. If 2Tb was truly unlikely, why even put it in the chart? It's almost as though he's toying with possibility of an unexpectedly large flow of unconventional oil.

Now compare Laherrere's new chart with this chart from a 2000 paper* by Peter Odell:

Isn't that resemblance striking? Laherrere starts out in 1998 with no secondary unconventional hump. In 2006, he commits to a little mini-hump (the purple dashed line indicating 1Tb of unconventional). But, at the same time, he hedges his bets with an "unlikely" full-size secondary hump (the orange dotted line indicating 2Tb of unconventional). And this "unlikely" hump sits side-by-side with the conventional hump, just like in Odell's 2000 paper! Laherrere seems to be slowly inching his way into the chilly waters of cornucopianism.

*) This paper "The Global Energy Market in the Long Term: The Continuing Dominance of Affordable Non-Renewable Resources" has been removed by the site which formerly hosted it, and can only be found now in the Google cache. If you're interested, you should download it before it disappears. It is located here.
-- by JD


At Wednesday, April 12, 2006 at 12:12:00 PM PDT, Blogger Chris Vernon said...

Nice comparison. Laherrere's 'unlikely' is remarkably similar to Odell's although Laherrere's two peaks are between 15 and 20 years sooner than Odell's!

My response is that Laherrere is unrealistically optimistic about the production rates of unconventional oil and Odell is unrealistically optimistic about the production rates and the timings for both conventional and unconventional oil. Odell’s conventional curve peaks at 4.5Gtoe (~90mbpd) in 2030 – what a joke!

I think what’s more likely is that conventional oil peaks sometime between 2005 and 2010 and unconventional oil from tar sands, heavy oil, oil shale, coal to oil, gas to oil, bio-liquid fuels etc gradually increases over the next few decades getting to maybe 20mbpd by 2050. It’s a wild-ass guess but then so are the two other projections for unconventional liquid fuels above.

At Wednesday, April 12, 2006 at 3:31:00 PM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...

The problem with this arguement is the assumption that just because man has been able to increase oil production for the last 150 years, then we will continue to do so.

There is A LOT of evidence that world production (conventional and non) will not be able to satisfy demand as early as 2010.

Indeed, unconventional oil will become more and more important as conventional oil peaks. However, delpetion rates in old fields like Cantarell and Burgan will far outstrip what tar sands, oil shale, heavy oil, etc will provide.

This doesn't make me a "doomer" just because I recognize problems in other people's arguments. In fact, I don't think that society will collapse into some sort of post-apocalyse future hell. What I do see is much instability on the way, a lot of jobless people, and a lot a broken dreams.

Here's some proof about unconventional oil, since JD and so many others are clearing pinning their hopes on it. Me, I'm developing a plan B.

Buena suerte,

At Wednesday, April 12, 2006 at 3:58:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

I actually hope that Lahherere's "unlikely" scenario (the one where we're still producing the same amount of oil in almost 2050) doesn't pan out, because the amount of Co2 that would result in is immense. But on the other hand I doubt oil will be our main source of energy by then, if you look at the growth rate of wind and solar.

At Thursday, April 13, 2006 at 1:27:00 PM PDT, Blogger Freak said...

"What I do see is much instability on the way, a lot of jobless people, and a lot a broken dreams."

I might conced that, but how is that not something that has been around for a while? Although I'm not sure how much it has to do with oil depletion, and how much it has to do with ignorance and unbridled greed and self-righteousness. in the spirit of sharing, what is your plan B and will it work?

At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 12:01:00 PM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...


Thanks for asking!

For more on plan B, visit:

Buena suerte,

At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 12:19:00 PM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...

Also Freak,

There is a danger that peak oil will result in a massive economic contraction not seen since the Great Depression. We're not talking about slightly higher unemployment or a rise in forclosures. Rather, the coming crisis will shake the WORLD economy to its foundations.

I hope I'm wrong, but facts are pointing to a negative outcome.

Buena suerte

At Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 9:17:00 AM PDT, Blogger antytarcza said...

You are missing two very important issues here. One is lower BTU content of some non-conventional liquids like NGLs, or ethanol. Second is the energy input required. What is really important for our modern society is how much useful energy is left for the economy and not just how much liquid fuels we get. What we should be discussing is the NET ENERGY GAIN, not the number of barrels. If you count those two factors in you will get a really fast decline rate.


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