Hubbert’s Peak: Not Yet Reached

It is difficult to make predictions about the future. This is also true when it comes to oil production.
This article appeared in Vol. 11, No. 1 - 2015


Ca Halfda A previous prediction of world oil production showed it as peaking around the year 2000. In 1956, Shell geophysicist M. King Hubbert predicted that US oil production would reach its highest level in the 1970s. Hubbert’s prediction came true in 1971. The geoscientist got his fame and Hubbert’s Peak was, of course, named after him. 

Several doomsayers have later been inspired by Hubbert’s prediction. In the 1990s, analysts said that the peak year for world oil production would occur during the first decade of the new millennium. The press grasped the bait, naturally, but the analyses were also reported in respected scientific journals like Nature, Science and Scientific American. Their editors are, obviously, also only human beings.

We are writing in 2014. What happened? Did world oil production peak some years ago? And what about US production? Is it still declining from its peak 44 years ago? Luckily we are in a position to answer these questions by looking at some numbers. For this purpose I am using the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

The hard facts are that the world’s oil production increased from 75 MMbopd in 2002 to 86 MMbopd in 2012. And it will continue to increase, according to experts. IEA estimates that the world’s oil output will be 115 MMbopd in 2035 – that is 20 years from now.

Is there any lesson to learn? Yes, I believe there is.

Do not always believe in the gloomy chorus.


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