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Oil May Be Finite, But U.S. Production Is Ramping Up 745

Posted by timothy
from the good-to-the-last-drop dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The WSJ reports that the discovery of the gigantic and prolific Bakken oil fields of Montana and North Dakota have already helped move the U.S. into third place among world oil producers, and according to Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, the 14th-largest oil company in America, if fully developed the field in Bakken contains 24 billion barrels, doubling America's proven oil reserves. One reason for America's abundant supply of oil and natural gas has been the development of new drilling techniques, including 'horizontal drilling,' which allows rigs to reach two miles into the ground and then spread horizontally by thousands of feet." Not surprisingly, Hamm considers some of the current administration's loans and subsidies for alternative energy ventures to be misplaced.
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Oil May Be Finite, But U.S. Production Is Ramping Up

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  • Don't they get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pcjunky (517872) <walterp@cyberstreet.com> on Sunday October 09, 2011 @09:44AM (#37653574) Homepage

    No matter how much oil we find here it would be unwise to burn. Hot planet!

  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 09, 2011 @09:59AM (#37653626)

    So they maybe found enough for three years and a half years of consumption at current rates. The problem is now truly solved.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by mattcsn (1592281) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:49AM (#37653934)

      Oh, come on. Don't you know anything about capitalism? If there's sufficient demand for oil, then the market will provide for more dinosaurs to be turned into oil on the supply side. Didn't you ever take an economics course?

    • If we SAVE that oil for now, when the world's supply starts to run low, we'll have 3.5 years of reserves (more with rationing).

      If we use it now, we'll have 3.5 years of reduced imports ... and fewer reserves when the other sources start to run low.

      Which plan is in the nation's best interest?

      • The flip side is that if we "save" that oil for now, we will be worse off economically when the problem hits, and will be less able to adapt as a consequence.
        • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @12:48PM (#37654718)
          You have it exactly backwards. If you were right, why was there so much innovation in the UK in WW2, when there were food and fuel shortages? In fact, if the economy is at a lower base and the costs of labor are lower, it is cheaper to adapt. If people are simply used to very expensive living standards, they will resist change. A good example is that the US was more affected than Europe by oil price rises - because the average European house is half the size of the average US house, the average European car uses half as much fuel - so individuals were actually less affected.

          The idea that only an oil-intensive economy is capable of adaptation is laughable.

          • Europe was less affected by the increase in the price of oil than the USA because of taxes. We pay 2-3 times as much as the USA for petrol, and that difference is almost all tax. When the price of crude oil doubles, the price at the pump in the USA almost doubles, while the price in Europe goes up by 10-20%. It's much easier to adapt to a 20% increase in a regular expense than a 100% increase.

            You see something similar with the recent increases in global food prices. In most of the western world, the pr

      • by gmuslera (3436) *
        Oil is not just for energy, it used to make i.e. plastics. Burning it as fuel solves the energy problem in the very short term, problem for what we have alternate solutions. But we have alternate solutions for all the products made from it?
  • Idiot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:00AM (#37653638)

    Not surprisingly, Hamm considers some of the current administration's loans and subsidies for alternative energy ventures to be misplaced.

    That guy is an idiot.

    24e9 barrels / 20e6 barrels per day just for the US / 365 days per year = a bit more than a 3 year supply, assuming it can all be recovered. Realistic recovery ratios are always WAY less than 100%... Figure just several months supply, realistically.

    So, some 1%er will make hundreds of billions of profit.. nice for him... and 3 years later, we'll be wishing you had a solar panel...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by roman_mir (125474)

      So, some 1%er will make hundreds of billions of profit.. nice for him... and 3 years later, we'll be wishing you had a solar panel...

      - isn't oil what you want? If you didn't want it, why would you buy it?

      If you think you have something better to offer, go ahead, offer it. Of-course somebody who develops an oil field and sells that product will be in top 1% of earners, what else is new? Do you know why he is going to be there? Because 100% of people want that product.

    • Re:Idiot (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pav (4298) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:32AM (#37653834)

      For anyone who hasn't seen it, check out this old mathematician (Albert Bartlett) talking about energy and exponential growth. He makes it so obviously clear why we'll be running out of oil shortly even given the most optimistic projections of future growth. It's clear enough for Joe Sixpack to understand - as Einstein would say "as simple as possible, but no simpler".

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-QA2rkpBSY

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:01AM (#37653642)

    Please note the byline at the bottom of the article stating, "Mr. Moore is a member of the Journal's editorial board. ". This is an editorial, not a factual article. It's also informative to temper Mr. Hamm's personal enthusiasm with a look at the US oil production record from the U.S Energy Information Administration (205.254.135.24/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MCRFPUS1&f=M). Although there is an upturn in US production since 2006, it is unlikely that we will drill our way out of the peak oil decline.

  • Everybody panic!

    Oh, wait, nevermind, we keep [blogspot.com] finding [shaleoilplays.com] more [ogj.com] - and we keep developing new technology to get to the stuff.

    Granted, processed oil isn't the friendliest thing to the world, there is a finite (though huge) supply, and cleaner fuels are a better alternative once they're economically viable without gigantic government subsidies. But for now we're just fine.

    • by Ichijo (607641) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:26AM (#37653784) Homepage Journal

      But for now we're just fine.

      That reminds me about the man who fell off a tall building, and every time he passed another floor he said to himself, "so far, so good!"

    • by DaleGlass (1068434) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:27AM (#37653794) Homepage

      Your first link: 165 million barrels.
      US consumption: about 20 million per day.

      Yep, an 8 days supply proves that there's nothing to worry about.

    • Granted, processed oil isn't the friendliest thing to the world, there is a finite (though huge) supply, and cleaner fuels are a better alternative once they're economically viable without gigantic government subsidies. But for now we're just fine.

      My understanding is that new oil fields continue to be discovered, but the pace and size of the discoveries is trending downward or at least stagnating. Meanwhile global oil demand is accelerating.

      Since oil price is the congruence of supply and demand, and becaus

  • by Bayoudegradeable (1003768) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:09AM (#37653680)
    Regulations are so tight that Mr. Hamm has only been able to make the top 50 wealthiest Americans. This administration is killing billionaires! When a hard working man can't go from say, number 33 to number 5 in total wealth, it is time for us to realize Obama is killing oil production! (and now for something completely different)

    Hamm has the nerve to say Obama is killing US oil with regulations?? How the hell have we ramped up production in the last 5 years if the regulations are so bad? Why are companies developing the Bakken if regulations are so bad? More like they aren't making as much money as they want. Cause billions upon billions just is never enough... never enough. The greed is beyond repulsive; it's psychotic.

    (Happily will admit that US production helps keeps gas prices from soaring. I am not complaining about oil production. I am pointing out the greed of these bastards is insatiable.)
  • by mysidia (191772) * on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:10AM (#37653692)

    Call them "not economically viable"; or "in my opinion not good investments", if you like.

    There are reasons for government to put some money to effective use in promoting alternative energy technology research besides expected financial ROI. In fact... the government is really the only organization that really can put money in something that doesn't make economic sense... the private sector will mostly only invest if there is a profit to be made in a relatively short amount of time; the exception would be non-profit organizations, and their resources are more limited.

    Reasons like greater long-term viability of our civilization; liberating our people and our way of life from dependency on some scarce resources...

    We might lose money on the investment for the next 20 years, but it could still be a good "investment", if there's an ultimate improvement in our way of life

    Our government just needs to make sure it makes the spend intelligently, so as little of the money is spent on dead ends, fancy office furniture/meeting rooms/expensive/excessive office space, or bureaucrats' pocketbooks / other blatant waste as possible.

    • by Ichijo (607641)

      There are reasons for government to put some money to effective use in promoting alternative energy technology research besides expected financial ROI.

      Many of these reasons involve the government's meddling in making oil and its uses artificially cheap, and the government's inability to internalize the negative externalities of using oil.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by amiga3D (567632)

      I agree with you on the need for Government investment in things like alternative energy. My problem is in giving blank checks out like happened with the recent half billion dollars green energy scam. Giving any corporation a blank check is asking to get screwed, no matter if it's a "green" enery research project or a wall street bank that's, uh, bankrupt. You can guarantee that large chunks of that money are, at the least, going to get wasted if not just outright disappear. The best thing the US Govt.

      • by brit74 (831798)
        My problem is in giving blank checks out like happened with the recent half billion dollars green energy scam.
        Why do people keep using the word "blank check" and then following it with a dollar amount?

        As far as Solyndra: haven't you ever made a bad investment with your money? I've bought stocks that I've lost money on. While I've never had a company go bankrupt while I was invested, I'm certain that those investors exist. Solyndra was only a small fraction of the money being put into alternative ene
    • by vlm (69642)

      the private sector will mostly only invest if there is a profit to be made in a relatively short amount of time

      In a hyperregulated centrally controlled economy like ours, the government enforces the above.

      1) Select a solution
      2) Create a problem the solution solves
      3) Announce the solution
      4) Profit!!!

      That is why:

      government to put some money to effective use in promoting alternative energy technology research

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Horizontal drilling or so called fracking poisons the ground water thus making it undrinkable. It should never be allowed!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEB_Wwe-uBM&feature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U01EK76Sy4A&feature=related
    It is disaster and big companies shoudn't get away with this but apparently they do.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:04AM (#37654042)

      What concerns me is that I live in a state that's right on the ocean, so, all that crap water coming from red states up river from me has the chance to screw up our crops and our drinking water. Fortunately, the city owns the entire water shed so those chemicals shouldn't be getting into our water, but there's a good chance that they'll end up polluting the fisheries in other states.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by patfla (967983)

      Horizontal drilling isn't fracking. You frack frist to break rock which then allows horizontal drilling.

      And of course the environmental impact of fracking is increasingly being called into question.

    • by RockDoctor (15477)
      Horizontal drilling is not the same thing as the much (and possibly unjustly) maligned "fracking".

      But you're a media consumer, so I wouldn't expect you to knw anything about either of those points. And as an AC, you don't deserve any more reply.

  • Oil "may be" finite (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:17AM (#37653724) Homepage Journal
    Unless one is a religious/capitalist wacko who believes in the abiotic origins of oil, at the current rate of consumption petroleum is a finite product.

    Economically, petroleum is even more of a finite resource. Currently Saudi and other middle eastern oil keep prices down. Estimates say it costs about $2 a barrel to extract oil in Saudi Arabia. Venezuela oil might costs three times that much to extract. US oil might be as much as $20 a barrel. At these extraction costs a barrel of oil is $80, and it costs over three dollars at the pump in the US. Now, one can blame the greed of the oil companies, but that is not going to change. Explorations costs are not going to decrease either.

    OTOH, conservative extraction costs for so-called shale oil, the better name is tar pits, is $75 dollars a barrel. If the oil companies sell at a comparative markup, this means that the selling price would be $300 a barrel. If we just add $60 profit, that would still be $135 a barrel. This puts gas firmly in the $5 a gallon range.

    Recall that the oil companies were going bust when oil was below $50 a barrel. This was still a large markup over extraction costs, but oil companies appear to be extraordinarily inefficient and require a large markup. It would be fantasy that the oil companies are going to give away the product. If shale oil forms a large percentage of the petroleum mix prices will go up, consumption will eventually go down as it did a few years ago. Oil companies will either have a choice of selling at higher prices for lower volumes, or find another product.

    Therefore shale oil is not an indication of a long term prosperous oil economy, but a clear signal that oil is becoming too costly to base an economy on.

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>OTOH, conservative extraction costs for so-called shale oil, the better name is tar pits, is $75 dollars a barrel

      Estimates range "from $12 to $95/barrel" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_shale_economics)

      >>If the oil companies sell at a comparative markup, this means that the selling price would be $300 a barrel.

      From the same link, says that it's competitive between $10-$30/barrel.

      So you're only off by, you know, a factor of 10x.

      >>Therefore shale oil is not an indication of a long term p

  • Molleindustria (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ebbesen (166619) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:22AM (#37653762)

    Funny how a game can emulate reality, and then reality can re-emulate the game: http://www.molleindustria.org/en/oiligarchy

  • After the initial rush, the Bakken wells settle down to about 100 barrels a day. The US uses about 18 million barrels a day. Do the arithmetic, then decide if it's even possible to drill that many wells.

  • meh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @10:51AM (#37653952)

    Unless there is a quantum leap in the efficiency with which electricity can be produced from non-fossil sources, we are eventually going to exhaust all the retrievable coal, oil and gas in the earth's crust. What is considered "retrievable" is a moving target determined by current extraction technology. Even if the U.S. were to institute subsidies that evened the playing field between fossil sources and green sources in the U.S., it is unlikely those subsidies would be duplicated across the entire globe. Ergo it would remain profitable to extract U.S. oil. It seems unlikely there will ever be the political will to forbid oil exploration and extraction altogether in the United States.

    It's also worth noting that extracting and refining this particular cache of oil does not significantly alter the global price, and therefore does not significantly alter global consumption. It is not the case that more oil will be used because this particular batch was extracted. More U.S. oil will be used, on the other hand, which means more jobs, etc. for U.S. citizens.

    Given the economy is in the dumps, the only reasons I can see not to extract it are:

    * Strategic. When oil becomes scarce (and thereby prohibitively expensive) we want to have national reserves on tap for military consumption.

    * Environmental, but in a local sense. You could argue that the environmental costs at the point of extraction are just too high.

    "Global warming" doesn't seem like a compelling reason at the moment given the small percentage of global production these new fields represent. "Drill here, drill now, pay less" is a ginormous fallacy. To the extent "pay less" is fallacious, though, so is the notion that domestic drilling will lead to more consumption and consequently more atmospheric CO2.

  • by lotho brandybuck (720697) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:32AM (#37654216) Homepage Journal
    After reading TFA, I say this: "Not surprisingly, Hamm considers some of the current administration's loans and subsidies for alternative energy ventures to be misplaced." is a pretty disingenuous statement. He seemed not to be against the new energy subsidies so much as pissed they were harrassing his company over a minor bird kill... and if the situation is as de describes I agree with him. Anyways, we should be able to do both... help kick start new energy sources and allow the market to continue to develop traditional ones.
  • by RockDoctor (15477) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @11:53AM (#37654310) Journal

    ... of techniques. Nor is it new, for any meaningful meaning of "new". In fact, it was old hat a decade ago. As was "extended reach" drilling, which is likely to be next week's buzzword.

    I've been doing horizontal drilling, in the oilfield sense, using Norwegian techniques from Finnish and South Korean rigs, with multiple nationalities, for longer than I've been posting on Slashdot. All of which time spans are bloody long times (in a non-geological sense of "bloody long").

    ("Extended reach" drilling ... about the same duration that I've been on Slashdot. Give or take a half-decade.)

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @02:20PM (#37655256)

    OK, guys here's the deal.

    First review the numbers around oil (i.e. how much we've got and what that means energetically). For that, look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubic_mile_of_oil [wikipedia.org]

    Then look here to see how much we have access to in the USA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org].

    I'd refer everyone to a web site for consumption rates, but the ballpark answer is that the world uses 28-30 billion barrels of oil per year, and the USA uses between 7-8 billion barrels per year. We have about 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable conventional oil left. Perhaps about 50% of that is economically recoverable today. Perhaps a bit more as prices rise, if prices don't rise enough to break the world's supply chains or cause nationalistic hoarding - two very distinct possibilities.

    The most optimistic assumptions regarding conventional oil that's both energetically and economically profitable is about 40 years max. Realistically, expect about half that. After that, we're um, scraping the bottom of the barrel. Oil doesn't disappear (It never will). We just won't be using it as much. Too expensive energetically and economically.

    Bottom line? All the "Drill ANWR and we're saved " idiots would have us destroy the Alaska ecosystem for about 2 years extension of our oil supply. Every moronic Reuters news story that so breathlessly reports that over 1 billion barrels of oil have been found ignores the fact that 1 billion barrels is less than 2 months supply just for the USA, much less the planet.

    There are plenty of alternatives and solutions, just none that involve having 7 billion people or more living on Earth in the year 2100 using as much energy as an American uses today.

  • by vtcodger (957785) on Sunday October 09, 2011 @05:16PM (#37656396)

    For starters, the US would be the world's number three oil producer with or without the Bakken Shale. In fact it has been second or third (depending on what is going on in Russia and Saudi Arabia) since 1970. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum_industry_in_Russia [wikipedia.org] and note that the accompanying chart shows conventional oil production only. The US also produces about 3 million barrels a day of "Natural Gas Liquids" -- Basically liquid hydrocarbons that are coming out of gas wells along with natural gas.

    And production from the Bakken Shale is about 400,000 bpd -- about 5% of total US production and about 2.5% of US oil consumption. Yes, the Bakken (and other formations) will help. No, these discoveries are extremely unlikely to solve the US energy problems. Anyone who is seriously interested in world and US energy issues should spend some time at www.theoildrum.org

    I assume that "Hugh Pickens" is getting his information from the editorial page of the WSJ. IMHO. The Wall Street Journal editorial page should be read only by those whose goal is to be systematically and seriously misinformed on a wide variety of subjects. The paper version of the editorial page is excellent for lining bird cages.

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