Just a few years back, there were many articles discussing “Peak Oil” and whether the world had already passed the peak. A typical headline was one in Fortune Magazine in 2008 with a headline predicting a dramatic increase in oil prices – “Here comes $500 oil.”
At the recent HIS CERA Week, it was reported that “Peak Oil” was already a distant thought for most presenters, and that much of the talk was about growth in natural gas and oil from unconventional shale resources in the U.S.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), crude oil production in the U.S. exceeded an average seven million barrels per day (bbl/d) in November and December of 2012, the highest volume since December 1992.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that the United States will overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world's leading oil producer by 2017.
The WSJ MarketBeat Blog notes we are only at the beginning. “U.S. tinkerers discovered a way to extract oil and gas from shale, the source rock for oil and gas that was previously deemed uneconomical. That has boosted U.S. production to levels not seen in two decades, and that’s only the beginning: shale recovery factors could improve, and vast shale formations in Argentina, China, Russia and other countries are yet to be tapped. If technology ever allows the industry to recover 70% of oil from conventional reservoirs and to double or triple the current recovery rate from unconventional resources, the world could almost quadruple the reserves of global liquids.”
In addition, Iraq passed a critical milestone last year by producing three million barrels a day of crude oil for the first time since before the Persian Gulf War, reaching a high of 3.4 million bbl/d in December. Given its access to vast reserves at low costs, Iraq could play a significant role in the growth of energy supply. Of course, in Iraq there is much geopolitical risk attached to supply.
Even with increased production, there was still not enough oil to meet demand in the beginning of 2013. The EIA estimates a 1.3 million bbl/d average draw-down in global oil stocks for January and February.
There are numerous uncertainties as we move forward including the rate of technology advancements, geopolitical risk in many energy rich nations, growth in demand as the world continues its economic recovery, etc. Perhaps the only certainty is continued volatility and the need for oil trading risk management software to manage the volatility.
As Jim Rogers, Chairman, President, and CEO of Duke Energy has been known to express in speeches, “Ben Franklin said there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. To that, I would add the price volatility of natural gas.”
The future of energy is going to be quite interesting!