Topic: Peak oil

In a Nutshell

Until a replacement is found, crude oil will remain the most critical fuel which powers the world’s economy, command an outsized impact to the world’s financial system, and be the source of much geopolitical turmoil. Yet, the dynamics governing the supply and demand of this strategic commodity and how the wealth generated from it drives the financial system remains poorly understood.


Crude oil and its derivatives are the most versatile, portable and dense energy which humans have ever discovered. We have yet to find a replacement containing comparable attributes, as the world’s known supply is steadily depleting. Consider also:

90+% of the world’s transportation runs on liquid fuels derived from crude oil.

Plastic and a ton of other petrochemical products are derived from crude oil for which there is currently no substitute.

Much of the world’s fertilizers are derived from crude oil for which there is no substitute.

About 85 million barrels per day.

Conventional oil is extracted using traditional drilling processes whereby oil trapped in a reservoir is forced out of the ground under pressure.

Un-conventional oil does not come out of the ground under pressure but has to be extracted by other means. Examples of un-conventional oil include:

  • Tight oil – oil is extracted using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to break up the rock formations where the oil is trapped.
  • Oil sands – heavy and thick bitumen needs to be heated and diluted before being refined into crude.
  • Arctic and deepwater oil – the oil fields are located either in ultra-deep ocean beds or in hostile environments.

The vast majority of oil is conventional oil and comes from mature fields. Conventional oil production has stayed stagnant or barely grown since 2005.

Un-conventional oil is a lot more expensive to produce. In other words, the term ‘un-conventional’ is a euphemism for expensive.

No, tight oil from the US amounts to about 4% of the world’s production. So in the overall scheme of things, it is not a game changer one way or another, regardless of the hype from the media and industry.

Since the Q3 of 2014, the world has swung to a supply surplus of about 1 to 2 million barrels per day. The nature of commodity pricing caused the price of oil to crash as a result. With global consumption being about 85 million barrels a day, 1.5 mbpd represents a surplus of just under 2%. If that is considered a glut, then, yes, there is a glut.

The recent surge in production from the tight oil ‘revolution’ and the price crash have caused the vast majority of the people to wrongly conclude that Peak Oil is a myth and the world is suffering from too much oil. But consider this:

  • Conventional oil – the easy oil – production has been stagnant since 2005 and most if not all conventional oil producing countries have either plateaued or are in terminal decline.
  • Un-conventional oil – by the most optimistic forecast (EIA), tight oil production will peak around 2020 and steadily decline thereafter. That’s four years away.

Not only is Peak Oil alive and well, it is happening right under our nose.

The short term price of a commodity is driven by many supply and demand factors, the most important of which are:

  • The tight oil companies are producing oil at a loss. The industry collectively has not made a penny since the so called ‘revolution’ began. Driven by the insane zero interest rate policy of central banks, the capital markets are happy to let these companies literally drill their money into the ground.
  • The Saudis, in an effort to maintain market share and hurt Russia in its geopolitical struggle with Iran/Syria, ramped up production in order to drive down prices.
  • The world economy is rapidly cooling, reducing demand.



‘Nothing To See Here’ – Frackers Ignore Rising Well Decline Rates

The steep decline rates of shale tight oil wells represent a mathematical certainty from which the fate of shale oil cannot escape. Now the math seems to be catching up sooner than expected.

August 11, 2017

Is The Bakken a Bust?

This latest piece from Peak Oil Barrel provides additional insight into the state of decline of the Bakken oil production. Bakken and North Dakota December 2016 oil production data Bakken production down 86,150 barrels per day to 895,330 bpd. Bakken an …

February 27, 2017

Drilling Deeper Reloaded – 2016 Tight Oil Reality Check

Two years after its tight oil analysis, a new report drills deeper into and deconstructs the EIA’s subsequent annual energy outlooks. Catch phrase: very to extremely optimistic.

February 25, 2017

Oil Majors in Serious Trouble

The latest numbers from the Big Three of the oil majors are indicative of the tectonic forces transforming the oil industry.

February 21, 2017

Keystone XL Needs Much Higher Oil Prices To Be Viable

Latest piece from Art Berman arguing that the Keystone XL Pipeline is a bet on much higher oil prices a few years from now. Some key observations: It will take at least $85 oil prices to develop the new oil sand projects needed to fill the pipeline. U. …

February 13, 2017

Why Cheap Natural Gas Is History

With shale gas production declining and conventional gas having been in terminal decline for the past 15 years, the supply surplus that has existed since December 2014 has disappeared and a supply deficit began in January 2017.

February 11, 2017

Exxon Signals Major Trouble Ahead for Oil Industry

The latest financial report from ExxonMobil sounds a major alarm bell that the oil industry is in serious – very serious – trouble.

November 12, 2016

Art Berman: Labor Day Weekend Oil Special

this interview with oil expert Art Berman is a must-listen for those who want a better understanding of the macro drivers of oil prices.

September 5, 2016

Big Oil Pulls The Plug On Arctic Oil, Relinquishes Drilling Rights

Oil majors putting a hiatus on their arctic drilling programs, for now. Shell pulled out earlier after pouring 8 billion with no result.

May 11, 2016

The Oil Short Squeeze Explained: Why Banks Are Aggressively Propping Up Energy Stocks

Distressed shale oil and gas companies are taking advantage of the recent oil price short squeeze to raise capital with the help of the investment banks. The catch? The money raised is to pay back the bank loans owned by the same banks before another w …

March 19, 2016