The global oil industry present and future
Table of Contents
THE GLOBAL OIL INDUSTRY PRESENT AND FUTURE
Oil is an organic substance that occurs naturally in rock formations. It is believed that oil is formed from the fossil remains of dead animals and plants that have been exposed to both pressure and heat in the earth’s crust over a long period of time. Over time, the decomposed deposit of dead animals and plants transforms gradually into oil reservoirs. Statistics reveal that oil plays a major and significant role in ensuring the survival of most nations and industries in the world. Records also portray that thirty million barrels(4.8 km³) of oil are consumed every year, with the developed nations being the main consumers .In terms of dollar value, the whole process of producing, distributing, refining and retailing of oil represents the largest trade in the world (Abdallah, 2009).
Production of oil involves a series of steps which include the processes of exploring, extracting, refining, transporting and finally the marketing of oil products. This industry is generally categorized into three main structures: upstream which involves exploration, while midstream involves development and production of crude oil and the downstream category involves transportation and retailing of oil. The main oil products are petrol (gasoline) and fuel oil but also other chemical products like plastics, solvents, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and fertilizers have petroleum as their main raw material (Ashley, 2010).
There are two main sources of oil: OPEC and non-OPEC countries. Most members of the OPEC are Middle East countries: the very countries that have been proven to possess the world’s main oil reserves. Demand for oil varies among different countries according to the various uses that the oil is put into. The graph below indicates the top consumers of oil in the world alongside the quantity each consumes in million barrels per day from 1960-2006. It is possible to extract about 40% of oil from most well reserves using current technology, as most of the easy to extract oil has already been extracted. The recent profitable prices of oil have led to oil being explored in areas where it is much more expensive to extract. Such areas include locations where high technology will be required and in deep wells with extreme temperatures in order to extract oil. This exploration has also led to the increase in prices of steel used to make drilling equipment and the general exploration costs will be required to extract the oil (Greer, 2006).
According to records there are few proven world oil reserves. The graph below indicates proven oil reserves according to a research conducted in 2009.
Oil is a critical factor in most industries and to a large extent affects virtually all the industries in the world, with their production levels and prices being pegged on oil prices. The consumption of oil in the world has been on an ever increasing trend. But the world’s oil production has been predicted to reach its peak at around 2020. Peak oil is a period when the ceiling of oil extraction is reached, and its production starts declining significantly. With decreasing supply of oil, prices are expected to rise followed by oil shortages and economic disruptions (Izundu, 2007).
The Future of the Global Oil
Since oil is a non-renewable resource, the oil industry is faced with the conviction of future shortages occurring when the global oil supply finally gets depleted. Studies by the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2007 have placed the probable lifespan of proven reserves in North America at 12 years; Latin America at 41.2years and the Middle East at 79.5years.Most economic sectors rely greatly on oil and with its depletion this might lead to the collapse of most industries. The oil industry has a great influence on modern society. In that, while it is actually evident that oil capacities are getting depleted. The future of global supply is vital to modern society as it will have various implications on the economy. The period of “peak oil” a concern that became very evident from the year 2004, indicates that the supply of oil products falls short of global demands. It is expected that the global productive capacity will reach 115 million barrels of oil per day by 2030.This suggests that oil supply will fall below demand at some future date due to depletion of major oil reserves (Kenneth, 2007).
The excess demand for oil and oil products will eventually lead to nations scrambling for the little that is available and consequently lead to an increase in oil prices .This may finally lead to wars erupting between countries as they compete against each other in a bid for the scarce oil. The cost of most items will increase leading to a great unrest in the world. Therefore most oil consumers in the world are urging for investment in alternative source of fuel and a policy change by governments as regards the extreme prices of oil and oil products. This might lead to the collapse of global civilization.
Oil price increases are predicted to have negative effects on the global economy, especially on most industries in the agricultural, industrial, and chemical and transport sectors. Because of their heavy reliance on oil, these industries are expected to suffer most in the wake of the oil peak. Although there are optimistic revelations of nations; investing in alternative sources of fuel before the post-peak crisis. As evidenced in 2008, the global recession was made worse by an increase in oil prices worldwide. The graph below indicates the general trend of oil prices from 1995-2009.
The concept of Peak oil which is the point of maximum production; is based on observations carried out on the production rates of individual oil wells, and their combined production rates in a field of related oil wells. Aggregate production rate from a field of oil wells over time usually grows increasingly until the rate of growth reaches a peak after which it starts declining until the field gets depleted. This concept is well illustrated by the Hubert curve on oil production. This model show the price of oil escalating at first and then retreating sharply after the peak. The peak is attributed to effects from rapid urbanization and development which have driven up the use of oil. Developing economies like India and China are becoming major oil consumers, hence increasing significantly the demand for oil (Kenneth, 2007).
Besides the economic effects, there also other concerns as regards the effect of oil on the environment. The oil industry operations have been responsible for water pollution through oil spills and the by-products of refining. Combustion of fossil fuels causes air pollution through production of greenhouse gases that lead to the global warming. Also, there are agricultural effects attributed to a fall in global oil supply. Since oil is essential to most modern agricultural techniques like production of fertilizers. Therefore, a fall in supply would lead to high food prices and finally a famine may occur after a few years time.
Alternatives to fuel use
Permanent fuel shortages would cause the world to plunge into an economic depression, and most people would end up losing their jobs. This implies that we are in a world where we need great amounts of additional energy, on which we are entirely dependent upon. Otherwise, wars will ensue due to lack of sufficient fuel. This has in turn increased the need of using an alternative form from of energy universally. Since the global price of oil is expected to keep on rising, social and economic problems of hyper-inflation and rationing are expected to follow. This is attributed to the explosive population growth over the past few years which have led to over consumption of resources such as oil. Researchers have advocated that solar, coal and nuclear energy are the most viable potential sources of energy alternatives to oil. But, switching to other alternatives of fuel supply may not be such an easy task according to current evidence (U.Kenergyresources, 2009).
Alternatives like liquid petroleum gas and compressed natural gas are non-renewable fossil resources whose reserves will also get depleted over time. Producing methanol, ethanol and hydrogen technology would be very expensive, while other sources like and fusion energy would be harmful to health as it produces radioactive elements as by products (Wood, 2004).
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Izundu, U. (2007). Aramco chief says world's Oil reserves will last for more than a century. Oil & Gas Journal , 12.
Kenneth, D. (2007). "Current Events - Join us as we watch the crisis unfolding". Princeton University.
U.Kenergyresources. (2009). Global Oil Depletion: An assessment of the evidence for a near-term peak in global oil production. UK Energy Research Centre.
Wood, J. H. (2004). "Long-Term World Oil Supply Scenarios - The Future Is Neither as Bleak or Rosy as Some Assert". London: Electronic Industries Alliance.