From: Richard Orange, The Business, London
Published November 7, 2004 12:00 AM

Oil Supply to Peak Sooner Than Thought, Says BP Scientist

Nov. 7—World oil production is likely to peak in the next decade, much earlier than many international forecasts, a senior BP executive has told The Business.

BP exploration consultant Francis Harper said he estimated the world's total original usable oil resources — the amount of oil before drilling began — at about 2.4 trillion barrels of oil. This is considerably less than the 3 trillion assumed by bullish commentators such as the US government's Geological Survey. This points to oil production peaking between 2010 and 2020.

His comments are a rare entry by a global oil company into the debate on the life of global oil supplies. If true, it would mean demand outstripping supply much earlier than energy projections by ExxonMobil and Shell. BP does not officially supply projections.

The International Energy Agency, the industry watchdog, expects oil demand to continue to rise until 2030. It assumes production will rise to meet demand.

Harper will argue at a London conference this week that production would start to slow in non-Opec members, concentrating the cartel's power.

He said: "When the world peaks isn't the critical thing. What's more salient is when non-Opec oil peaks, then you'll have the control of marginal production passed back to a progressively smaller group of countries."

He added that oil companies' public positions on the issue masked debate within them. "There are people in BP who happen to be economists and so happen to think there's no problem, and there are people in BP who are geologists who are saying it's getting hard to find."

Harper's prediction is higher than the 2 trillion posited by doom-sayers like Colin Campbell. Harper said: "I'm more conservative than Exxon Mobil with regard to future oil resources, but I'm not Colin Campbell."

Seth Kleinman at PFC Energy said oil companies had held back from such statements. "There's a certain degree of hesitancy for oil companies to go on the record and say, 'we are doing well with oil prices where they are now, but 10 years down the road things actually look pretty dire'."

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