Prediction when earth will run out of petroleum?

Prediction when earth will run out of petroleum?

Despite efforts to find/promote alternative sources of energy, oil consumption is growing and the trillion Dollar question is when will it run out?
End of this century? That would be my guess.

dsvick | September 20, 2017

I remember in middle school they told us it would be 40 - 50 years ... not to date myself but .... that's pretty close now. :)

gar1116 | September 20, 2017

I was in grade school when they told us this (sorry dsvick, I must be younger). There will always be more oil. The question is do we want to burn it?

slasher0016 | September 20, 2017

I don't think it's any time soon, especially with more modern ways to mine such as fracking. Maybe by 2200 or something. Alternative fuels are finally coming to the forefront, that mixed with a very healthy supply makes me think overall earth supply is still quite sufficient for a very long time.

topher | September 20, 2017

Proven reserves (2013) : 1.5 Trillion Barrels
Daily Global Usage (2015) : 93 Million Barrels

Simple math says: 44.2 years (2062).

This is of course, one instance where simple math is unlikely to get you the right answer.
1) As you say, usage is increasing (shortening time til empty).
2) Prices change as supply dwindles (lengthening time til empty, but irrelevant for non-rich).
3) Change over to other sources of energy has probably reached a tipping point.
4) Burning the known reserves would push CO2 levels well past civilization disruption limits.

Thank you kindly.

El Mirio | September 20, 2017

@topher is likely that Saudi's reserves are inflated, for some reason there reserves stayed the same since mid 80's

Diplomatic cables leaked during the United States diplomatic cables leak in 2011 revealed that Sadad Ibrahim Al Husseini, former vice president of Saudi Arabia's oil monopoly Saudi Aramco, warned the US that the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia might in fact be 40% (300 billion barrels) lower than claimed

Coastal Cruiser. | September 20, 2017

It all depends on whether you subscribe to the notion of biotic or abiotic petroleum production.

My view in an ideal scenario: We NEVER run out. Not because new oil deposits are being formed, but because a) demand will be radically reduced, b) Fracking will be fracking outlawed, c) alternative ingredients to petroleum based products will continue to be found.

LostInTx | September 20, 2017

The Permian Basin has become profitable again and with improved arithmetic analysis, will become more so. The Gulf of Mexico will be profitable again before year end. Siberia is still virtually untouched but as a geologic twin of the North Slope has massive appeal. Deepwater drilling off Brazil and Nigeria, again geologic twins, speaks to proven reserves being just that; proven today.

We haven't even undertaken complex seismic or reservoir analysis in existing Saudi fields. What's been taken so far has been relatively easy to access. Fracking, for better or worse, complicates the calculus.

Every year, the year we run out of petroleum extends further into the future. Technological advances are often a double-edged sword. Minumum, another 250 years.

topher | September 20, 2017

"It all depends on whether you subscribe to the notion of biotic or abiotic petroleum production."

No it really doesn't. If the Earth produced 93 Million barrels per day, for its entire life, we would be swimming in a sea of oil more than 1000 km thick. If Earth produces oil at a rate consistent with current reserves, the production rate is so slow, as to be zero at the rate we are using it (2 barrels per day).

Thank you kindly.

phil | September 20, 2017

Run out? We have not even reached "peak oil" extraction yet. Wake me up when that happens...

Coastal Cruiser. | September 20, 2017

(2 barrels per day).

I can live on two barrels a day.


PaceyWhitter | September 20, 2017

My prediction is that the Earth will die with oil still under the ground. We will have moved away from fossil fuel is long before we run out.

topher | September 20, 2017

"We have not even reached "peak oil" extraction yet."

Look into exponential growth rates. And what they mean for extinction times.

Thank you kindly.

tstolz | September 20, 2017

We are not going to run out. Two reasons ...

1. There is lots - We have not reached peak technology in regards to extraction yet ... there is a ton left in the ground (we didn't talk price to get it out though).

2. We won't use it all - Renewables and EVs are only just starting to be a thing. Growth projections vary wildly but if you follow the money and pay attention to technology adoption cures .. it will happen way sooner than most projections!!

bmz | September 20, 2017

PaceyWhitter +1

The electric economy will displace at least half of the petroleum economy within the next 20 years.

phil | September 20, 2017

"Look into exponential growth rates. And what they mean for extinction times."

Look into the work of Thomas Malthus.


Iwantmy3 | September 20, 2017

The idea that we are running out of oil has been big since the 1970s yet here we are 40+ years later burning far more than we were then and showing more remaining years of proven reserves then ever before. Our ability to develop technologies to find and extract new sources of oil has easily exceeded our need so far.

The world economy is moving towards peak oil demand (certainly not peak oil supply) as we move towards alternative energies and electric mobility. There will always be a demand for oil for products other than fuel, but that will be only about 30% of the current demand. It is unlikely that there will be a shortage of oil in the foreseeable future.

All the more reason to shift our economy away from reliance o the oil industry for the future.

KP in NPT | September 20, 2017

+1 CC. We won't run out - because we'll stop wanting to extract it.

dmm1240 | September 20, 2017

If we burn it all the human race is toast. Literally.

phil | September 20, 2017

Not literally. Figuratively.

95dawg | September 20, 2017

Thing that some people seem to not consider (present company not included) is all the products that use petroleum as a component. Everything from cosmetics to carpets to producing hydrogen. Like many have said, peak oil production hasn't been hit and will continue to climb until we realize it has past. Here's to hoping soon won't have to fight the battle just to convince others why EVs make sense.

95dawg | September 20, 2017

+1 Phil. I'll end up as a whole grain toast. :)

mntlvr23 | September 20, 2017

We will all eventually end up becoming petroleum

phil | September 20, 2017



ebiggs | September 20, 2017

There's been a lot of research into answering this question. Of course, there's the end, and then there's the beginning of the end (peak oil)... looks like many of us should expect to live to see peak oil. A rather sharp decline in consumption is predicted following peak oil.


Carl Thompson | September 20, 2017

To put it more succinctly (I hope): We won't run out because as it grows more scarce the increasing cost to extract it will make its total cost higher than the cost of using alternative energy sources (many of which are decreasing in cost).


phil | September 20, 2017

And, of course, we could greatly accelerate the peak and decline if we stand up a couple hundred nuclear power plants.

Or, alternatively, a few million windmills...

bmz | September 20, 2017

Carl-- we hit peak oil price in 2008.

Coastal Cruiser. | September 20, 2017

mntlvr23: "We will all eventually end up becoming petroleum"

Best comment by far.

jpcollins9 | September 20, 2017

Sheik Yamari, former Saudi Oil Minister was once quoted, " The Stone age came to an end not from a lack of stones and the Oil age will come to an end not from a lack of oil."

mntlvr23 | September 20, 2017

@jp +1000
Great quote !!

KP in NPT | September 20, 2017

Exactly, @jp. :)

topher | September 20, 2017

"Look into the work of Thomas Malthus."

Ah, the rallying cry of people who don't like what the math tells them.

Thank you kindly.

95dawg | September 20, 2017

+1 jpcollins9

2015P90DI | September 21, 2017

I think the more appropriate question is: When will the world run out of Lithium to make the batters for all the EV's that manufacturers say they're going to be making in the next 5 to 10 years? What happens when we run out of that resource?

noleaf4me | September 21, 2017

@2015P90DI - lithium is not is short supply as it is found in many places -- it's just not in that high of demand yet -- there is thousands of years of Lithium supply on this earth.

noleaf4me | September 21, 2017

And my oil guess-----demand will begin to drop within the next few years until it is about 30-40% of what it is today. At that rate - we will have 100+ years supply left.

PrGrPa | September 21, 2017

Unlikely to run out of either oil or lithium any time soon I'd say.

The current reserve estimates are likely based on the economic viability of extraction. We know that with the USA's move towards shale oil and the like that many traditional oil fields have been made dormant as the ROI is too low to sustain extraction. This could change if scarcity increases the price and makes extraction more viable.

With lithium, a similar story. Except that as element #3, lithium is pretty abundant.

Shock | September 21, 2017

It will never run out. Costs will get high enough demand will peter out.

ReD eXiLe ms us | September 21, 2017

My younger Brother has a theory regarding the primary ecological reason why extraction of oil should stop... He believes that oil, in its natural state, acts as a lubricant for the Earth itself. So it eases the stresses of moving plates as continents shift. The absence of oil, or greatly reduced quantity of it in places where it belongs -- in the ground -- results in a higher frequency and magnitude of major earthquakes.

I like that idea. I have no clue if scientific evidence backs it up, but it works for me. It goes a long way toward explaining recent disasters both by major storm fronts as well as seismic events. Both are caused by mankind being stupid.

"Do I believe in god, do I believe in me?
Some people want to die so they can be free
I said life is just a game, we're all just the same, do you want to play?"

hsadler | September 21, 2017

I agree with your younger brother 'ReD eXiLe ms us'.

But that can be solved with gigantic ball bearings.

7thGate | September 21, 2017

Another simple, but wrong equation:

Proven Crude oil reserves, 1980: 642 Billion Barrels of Oil
Proven Crude oil reserves, 2015: 1.615 Trillion Barrels of Oil
Linear equation for remaining oil X years after 1980: Y = 642 + 2.51 X
Y never equals 0.

Exponential resource use only leads to running out of that resource if it has a higher power coefficient than the simultaneously occurring exponential resource gain. Scientific advancement is also exponential, as it is based in no small part on the population itself that is exponentially growing, in addition to advances feeding back on themselves through developments like the computer.

We are highly unlikely to ever run out of oil. As supplies dwindle, demand will raise prices which will spur the development of new technology which will lift the supply issue through some combination of recovering more resources and introducing substitutes. Eventually, I suspect the end game will probably be large scale nuclear and/or solar based synthesis of synthetic hydrocarbons for non-energy petroleum use coupled with direct nuclear and/or solar power for transportation/heating/other energy use.

But really, technological advances have lifted prior resource constraints in all sorts of interesting ways, so who knows what specifics the future will hold. Maybe it will be straightforward development of renewable energy that looks most likely, or maybe it will be something crazy like automatic factories building plastics on Titan. The one thing I feel fairly confident is asserting that it is probably not going to be a future in which we don't have access to oil. | September 21, 2017

Florida ran out of gas last week. Does that count?😉

ReD eXiLe ms us | September 21, 2017

President georgehawley: Yes. Yes it does.

Part of the reason I laugh at movies like MAD MAX or WATERWORLD is that they perpetuate the notion that petroleum based fuels would survive as the go-to transportation fuel of choice in the wake of a natural or man-made apocalypse. It's as if the writers of those flicks simply forgot about refineries entirely. Or as if they entirely neglected the shelf lfe of diesel and gasoline. Then they go extra far to show the most inefficient vehicles burning gallons per mile.

coolnewworld | September 21, 2017

Not soon enough.

locnguyencalalum | September 21, 2017

We will either reach a point where we rely mostly if not all on renewable energy or we reach a point of our extinction. Either cases, fossil fuel will likely still remain for a long time IMO