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The Return Of Peak Oil – Worrying Signs From U.S. And Russia

The Return Of Peak Oil – Worrying Signs From U.S. And Russia

Since around 2005 many countries have increased their oil production but more have decreased. But the combined production of the United States and Russia have kept the world on a slight uptrend since that time.


World oil production jumped in 2011, hardly moved at all in 2013 but it was up by more than 1.5 million barrels per day in 2014. And after such a huge gain everyone and their brother were singing “peak oil is dead’. But if you scroll down through the 37 major world oil producers it becomes obvious that a majority of nations have peaked and most of them are in steep decline.

The above chart is EIA data; however, the next four charts below are JODI data with the last data point February 2015. The data on all charts is thousand barrels per day.

In the last decade it has been two of the world’s three largest oil producers that have kept us from peak oil, the USA and Russia.


Russia grew like gangbusters in the first six years of this century but has slowed down considerably in the last five years or so while the US, due to the shale revolution, has had four years of dramatic growth.


Using a stacked, zero-based chart, it looks like nothing much has happened since early 2005. And that is correct, the USA and Russia have kept production slightly inching up while the rest of the world slightly declines. Related: This Deal Could Completely Change North American Energy Dynamics


Here we get an amplified view of the World less USA & Russia. The peak was in February 2006 and February 2015 is over 2,600,000 barrels per day below that point.

We have discussed, in several posts, why many of us believe that the USA has peaked, or will peak this year; but what about Russia? Is Russia at her peak also?

I have taken another look at the Global and Russian Energy Outlook to 2040 by two Russian think tanks, The Energy Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and The Analytical Center for the Government of the Russian Federation that was published last year. I never noticed it before but they actually predict peak oil. On page 35 of this study they say:

Conventional oil (excluding NGL) production will drop to 3.1 billion tonnes by 2040 from the current 3.4 billion tonnes, and the long-discussed ‘conventional oil peak’ will occur in the period from 2015 to 2020. The drop in its extraction will be due to the gradual working-out of reserves of the largest existing fields.

3.4 billion tonnes per year works out to be 68,000,000 barrels per day and world C+C was about 10 million barrels per day above that number so I don’t know what they are counting, perhaps crude only. Related: What Is Holding The Green Revolution Back?

They predict that Russian exports of all petroleum products will peak in 2015. Page 111:

Exports of petroleum products will peak in 2015 and will then gradually decrease until they reach 2010 levels by as early as 2040, mainly due to the decrease in exports of fuel oil and non-marketed petroleum products.

Then on pages 132 and 133 they predict the peak C+C for Russia

In Outlook 2014’s Baseline Scenario, production of oil and gas condensate in the Russian Federation reaches a peak and gradually declines, from 523 million tonnes in 2013 to 522 million tonnes by 2015, after which it continues to decline, right up to the end of the period, to a level of 468 million tonnes. This reduction in production is, for the most part, brought about by the working out of already exploited deposits in the key oil producing regions of the country (in Western Siberia).

They said that Russia peaked in 2013, the year before this document was published, at 10.46 million bpd then decline to 10.44 million bpd by 2015. That is a tiny, almost imperceptible decline of 20,000 bpd or .2% over two years. They could have said that Russia would plateau in 2013 and remain on that plateau through 2015, which is exactly what has happened… so far anyway.


Here is Russian C+C production through February 2015. It appears now that the peak will be 2014 and 2015 which means that they are at peak right now. The spikes in 2011 were likely caused by the huge Western Siberian wildfires they had that year.

It is interesting to note that both JODI and the EIA reports Russian C+C production at about half a million barrels per day less than what the Russian official web site CDU TEK reports. Related: Is Solar Energy Ready To Compete With Oil And Other Fossil Fuels?


Here they have the peak in 2015 but only a slow decline from here on out. Notice that about 60 percent of all Russian oil comes from those very old Western Siberian super giants fields with that percentage declining only very slightly in the future. How can that be? They drilled 8,688 new wells in Russia last year, most of them infill wells in Western Siberia. Do they really expect to poke more holes in those old fields and continue to get oil from them for another 25 years… or more?

Well yes and no. The chart below shows where they expect all that new oil to come from.


As you can see from the shrinking red column they expect those old fields to decline rather dramatically. But at the same time they expect them to grow. By 2040 they expect fully half of their production to come from “reserves growth”. And they are not bashful in admitting such:

One should point out the significant role that will need to be played by geological exploration during the forecast period, since by 2040 more than 50 per cent of production in all scenarios will need to come from growth in reserves, and final reconnaissance of fields resulting in category C2 reserves becoming category C1.

So those tired old Western Siberian fields will shrink but at the same time they will grow. But in all fairness they will not grow quite as fast as they shrink.

Despite the fall in production in the Baseline Scenario, even at the end of the forecast period the key production capacities of the country will continue to be concentrated in the Tyumen region, with its share accounting for 51 per cent of all crude oil and gas condensate production by 2040 (compared with 61 per cent in 2010).

The Tyumen region, and the areas surrounding it, are the areas in Western Siberia where their oil fields are. So the share of Russian oil production from this region will go from 61% today to 51% in 2040. Because those tired old fields are gonna grow!

Bottom line, USA peaks in 2015 and Russia peaks in 2015 which means the world peaks in 2015. Also many other nations that have increased production over the last few years are also at peak and will be declining soon. And Russia will be declining just a whole lot faster than those two think tanks believe they will. Those old reserves are not going to grow nearly as much as they think they will.

Of course there is a possibility that the peak could actually be in 2014 or even 2016, but I am firmly convinced that we are at peak oil right now. If you have a counter argument I would love to hear it so please post it in the comments below.

I have published a new page, World Oil Yearly Production Charts with annual data charts for all the world’s major oil producers.

By Ron Patterson

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  • Michael on May 06 2015 said:
    It depends on how you define "peak" oil. If it means the gradual fall of in output from current reserves, without supplementary investment, then yes, it's a peak.

    We've been through these cycles many times. As that happens, the long leadtimes to develop new conventional reserves causes prices to rise, given the inelasticity of demand. As new reserves come online, the talk is "where's that peak again?" Supply cuts prices once the futures market catches up to what's going on, investment dries up, and the cycle repeats.

    There is a difference this time. Shale reserves are short lived with short leadtimes to develop. That will shorten the cycle and create more responsive markets, with a cap on price spikes, since the new technology can bring new reserves online quickly. And the innovation cycle isn't done, producers are now figuring out how to develop shale reserves at lower average cost.

    There's a lot of oil in the crust, whether it gets extracted depends on price, technology, and production cost. "Peak oil" the way you seem to be defining it is really environmentalist wishful thinking.
  • Christopher on May 12 2015 said:
    "3.4 billion tons per year works out to be 68,000,000 barrels per day and world C+C was about 10 million barrels per day above that number so I don’t know what they are counting, perhaps crude only."

    NB that the report says "tonnes". Not "tons". That is neither a typo nor an alternate spelling; "tonne" refers to the METRIC ton of one thousand kilograms (2200 pounds). 3.4 billion tonnes a year works out to 78712328.8 barrels a day. They're counting crude and condensate.
  • allister on May 25 2015 said:
    ...I find peak oil a very interesting prospect - in evolutionary terms - what is its significance ? Fossil fuels were a very "easy" or "convenient" phenomena . We
    lived for many thousand years without it - and how long will we have to live
    without it ..... We will have to look for other forms of energy - and lifestyle. It will
    make us use our brains again - come up with solutions. It will make us come together as a race - to work together to a far greater degree than we have in the
    past - it may be a great "unifier" of people and cultures. Maybe the great problems of poverty and inequality may be addressed as our resources are distributed in a
    more intelligent way....sometimes we only do certain things if we are forced to
    by circumstances.....
  • Joe on May 31 2015 said:
    Russia and America peaks in 2015. China peaks next year. Saudi Arabia is peaking as we speak and they are adding a record amount of wells just to not decline. 2017 is when we'll see the ramifications and a possible global economic meøtdown resulting in $10 a barrel oil.

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