The Oil Age Journal


Most mainstream oil forecasts, from organisations such as the IEA and some oil majors, now recognise that global production of conventional oil is roughly at plateau. But there is still a large gap between these forecasts, which see ‘all-liquids’ production as increasing to meet increases in demand out to their forecast horizons, typically to 2035 or 2040, and those forecasts, mainly from oil consultancies and individuals, which see a near- or medium-term peak in the global production of ‘all-liquids’. A main reason for this difference in forecasts is the volume assumed for the ultimately recoverable resource (‘URR’; or ‘EUR’) of global conventional oil.

This is the first part of a [now, three-part] paper that looks at this issue. The topic is first discussed in terms of categories of oil considered, and what is meant by ‘ultimately recoverable resource’; and placed in the context of current forecasts. Tables are then given of URR estimates of global conventional oil (with predicted dates of global peak production, where available) made between 1956 and 1981; and of URR estimates of both conventional and non-conventional oil made between 1992 and 2005. Over the latter period, while some forecasters predicted a peak in global oil production, and gave dates for this, others saw no such peak in sight.

The paper then examines assessments made by the USGS of the global conventional oil URR. This is because a number of the mainstream oil forecasters use these data in their models. Tables are given of USGS estimates issued in 1991, 1994, 2000 and 2012; and the reasons for the differences over time in these estimates are discussed.

Finally, this part of the paper concludes that of those that forecast a relatively near-term peak in global oil production, their estimated values for the global conventional oil URR (ex-NGLs) have not changed much over the years, despite increasing knowledge and technological progress and still typically take values in the range 1,800 – 2,500 Gb. By contrast, mainstream oil forecasters typically use higher URR values for conventional oil; as mentioned, often those of the USGS.

More detailed data by forecaster, and general conclusions, are given in the second and third parts of the paper.

Bentley, R. W. (2015) A Review of some Estimates for the Global Ultimately Recoverable Resource (‘URR’)of Conventional Oil, as an Explanation for the Differences between Oil Forecasts (part 1) The Oil Age 1 (3) 63-90.

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