BP’s Latest Estimate Says World’s Oil Will Last 53.3 Years

OilPrice.com, By Andy Tully, July 13

According to BP, drivers whose vehicles rely on burning oil have a little more than a half-century to find alternate sources of energy. Or walk.

BP’s annual report on proved global oil reserves says that as of the end of 2013, Earth has nearly 1.688 trillion barrels of crude, which will last 53.3 years at current rates of extraction. This figure is 1.1 percent higher than that of the previous year. In fact, during the past 10 years proven reserves have risen by 27 percent, or more than 350 billion barrels.

The increased amount of oil in the report include 900 million barrels detected in Russia and 800 million barrels in Venezuela. OPEC nations continue to lead the world by having a large majority of the planet’s reserves, or 71.9 percent.

As for the United States, which lately has been ramping up oil extraction through horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, BP says its proven oil reserves are 44.2 billion barrels, 26 percent higher than in BP’s previous report. This is more than reported most recently by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which had raised its own estimate by 15 percent to 33.4 billion barrels.


Nevertheless, BP is cautious in defining oil reserves. At the top of an introductory web page on the subject, the company states baldly: “Nobody knows or can know how much oil exists under the earth’s surface or how much it will be possible to produce in the future.”

And while the amount of proven oil reserves, and their extraction, are rising each year, so is concern about how their recovery. Not only do new extraction methods use huge amounts of energy to get even more energy, particularly from shale, they also use chemicals and metals that many fear poison nearby soil and groundwater, and generate huge amounts of toxic wastewater.

Such methods are helping the United States, for example, to achieve energy independence. But that won’t apply to China, a huge customer for fossil fuels. BP says Asia-Pacific oil reserves will last only 14 years at current rates. That means China will have to keep importing oil, putting further strain on global reserves.

Plenty of time, people, plenty of time!

11 Replies to “BP’s Latest Estimate Says World’s Oil Will Last 53.3 Years”

  1. Unlimited, inexhaustible, clean fusion energy is only 50 years away, same as it has been since the 1950’s. That ought to solve the problem. If that doesn’t pan out, I’m sure there is more than 50 years of “clean” coal left to dig up and burn.

  2. Well, look at it this way; somebody finally put a time line (even if it’s bullshit).
    So, can we finally get on with renewables?
    And this from BP; wonders never cease…

  3. Some things never get old:

    No combination of alternative fuels will allow us to run American life the way we have been used to running it, or even a substantial fraction of it. The wonders of steady technological progress achieved through the reign of cheap oil have lulled us into a kind of Jiminy Cricket syndrome, leading many Americans to believe that anything we wish for hard enough will come true. These days, even people who ought to know better are wishing ardently for a seamless transition from fossil fuels to their putative replacements.

    It’s worth reading the whole thing once again.

  4. A concept even many liberals haven’t gotten their heads around yet is EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested). It isn’t when you pump the last drop of oil out of the Earth. Its when EROEI reaches 1.0 or less. The laws of thermodynamics have not been repealed.

    Time was four men could drive steel pipe into the ground and using foot pumps, extract petroleum. Very high EROEI. The economy boomed. That oil is gone. Now, we send multi-million dollar platforms fifty miles out into the Gulf of Mexico and drill 6,000 feet below the sea to get oil. Very low EROEI. Do the math.

    1. There’s talk at Real Climate that development of renewable sources might make the situation worse, from a climate perspective. Apparently one can use energy from renewable sources to hydrogenate otherwise unusable oil – tar sands or whatever – and extract more:

      Nope. I’m thinking of something different. Worse living through chemistry: use renewable energy to split water, then pump the hydrogen into petroleum source rock to sop up the type IV kerogen which has too low a hydrogen content to form liquids or gas otherwise. Then bring the resultant hydrocarbons up to use as fuel. That would give access to carbon that we would not bother with if we did not have a source of low cost energy to throw at it. Low cost renewable energy almost makes it inevitable that immature source rock like the the Green River Formation will be heat processed to get oil. But as renewable energy becomes even cheaper, even more irresponsible schemes may be put in place. This sort of thing has already been proposed for coal-to-liquid and biomassto-liquid. http://www.pnas.org/content/104/12/4828.full What is novel here is to use the heat and pressure at the depths of oil source rock to run the reaction. I guess you might call it a hybrid renewable hydrogen-geothermal-fossil carbon way to make things much much worse than we’ve yet imagined at a profit.

      If you want to call it a feedback, it would be a Buckminster Fuller feedback where our time spent with fossil fuels has given us the technological wherewithal to move to renewables in a world shaking manner. Misapplication of those new powers could have much more deadly consequences than what got us here so far.

      The whole concept that peak oil would help with the m-word is mistaken. We haven’t even begun to produce oil from fossil carbon unless we control emissions by choice and leave those profitable but deadly schemes alone. Tar sands, oil shale, and now in situ hydrogenation must be stopped.

      Too bad we’ve already burned (for a safe target of 1 degree C increase) through our carbon budget.

      1. I don’t think your link is correct, Raja. I followed the first link to an open thread. But anyway, to your point – anything can be used for ill purposes. Alfred Nobel didn’t realize when he invented dynamite the formula would used to make artillery shells and bombs that would kill millions of people. If mankind has any hope of long-term survival, we need to move to decentralized geothermal, wind, solar and other renewables immediately to power and heat our homes and businesses and electric or hydrogen cars and trains and other mass transit for transportation.

        1. Yes, the text is from one of the comments to that thread.

          I didn’t intend to argue against renewables, but merely to observe that we might have more fossil-fuel available than current estimates indicate. (Which, of course, we probably oughtn’t burn).

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