“Conventional peak oil is quite probably here”: ex BP geologist.

Resilience.org: Steve Andrews interview of Dr. Richard G. Miller. “Trained as a geologist, Miller joined BP as a geochemist in 1985. He studied peak oil matters since 1991, when BP asked him the following year to devise a wholly new way to estimate global oil resources.”
“In 2000, he was tasked with creating an in-house projection of global future oil demand and supply to 2030.  The model he created was updated annually through 2008; then the effort was disbanded and he moved on to his present work consulting on peak oil.
Miller: “Peak oil is not only coming, it’s quite probably here, in terms of conventional oil.”
….“While I was at BP I was able to look at IHS data, and it’s increasingly clear that a lot of their data is very old.  It was good when it was obtained, it was the best in the world, but some of it dates back 20 years and more.  It’s still the best data there is, there is no other comprehensive source for it.  At the same time, you know the data that goes into IHS is not really audited; there are no sources that you can cross-check for a lot of this stuff.
….“The funny thing is that that hump of undeveloped oil keeps moving forward.  It never got developed.  That was what got me thinking that that oil doesn’t exist as a reserve as we would generally understand it—something that is economically and technically worth producing.  Some of those reserves are actually discoveries that are probably not recoverable.
….”What is important to realize is that the crop of fields that we have today is losing production every year by natural decline.  For arguments’ sake, let’s say it’s 3 million barrels/day every year being lost.  That decline cannot be reversed by reserves growth to older fields; reserves growth is making them last longer but it isn’t making them produce faster, it’s just holding global decline to that 3 million barrels/day per year.  If you want to replace that 3 million barrels per day lost every year, you have to do most of it with new discoveries.  And new discoveries equal basically only half of annual consumption.
This is why I use the ATM analogy: it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got in your account, you’re still limited by the daily withdrawal limit.
It’s also fair to point out that although reserves have been growing year by year, it hasn’t stopped the price from jumping, which suggests that there is a supply issue there somewhere.
Q:  You mention in your paper that natural gas liquids can’t fully substitute for crude oil because they contain about a third less energy per unit volume and only one-third of that volume can be blended into transportation fuel.  In terms of the dominant use of crude oil—in the transportation sector—how significant is the ongoing increase in NGLs vs. the plateau in crude oil?
Miller: The role of NGLs is a bit curious.  You can run a car on it if you want, but it’s not a drop-in substitute for liquid oil.  You can convert vehicle engines in fleets to run on liquefied gas; it’s probably better thought of as a fleet fuel.  But it’s not a substitute for oil for my car.  By and large, raising NGL production is not a substitution to making up a loss of liquid crude.
Q:  A sobering point you make in your paper is the following: there is a substantial risk of a sustained decline in global conventional production that begins before 2020.  Why do you think that point is so under-appreciated, especially by policy makers?
Policy makers are only in there for the short haul.
….The Chinese are more rational about all this.  They get peak oil and they get climate change.  But they also get that they have to finish hooking up their far-flung populations to electricity supplies and to create a bit more personal mobility.  Without that they have civil unrest, with people still flooding in from the countryside where they might become useless and uncontrollable.  So their bigger problem for now is also growing their economy.
….”The only people who can do it tend to be folks like the Chinese and Russians who really don’t care about the democratic process and as a consequence can take very much longer views of things.  That’s the kind of comment that makes me persona non grata to anyone who’s reading this.  I’m not calling for dictatorships, tyranny or the rest of it.  I am saying that we have to find a way to get a democracy to take a meaningful look into the future that includes worrying about things like climate change and energy supply and the fact that you cannot grow an economy forever and to look at possible intelligent responses.  Are there truly “solutions” or are there just some responses that smarter than others, under the circumstances?
….The worst case scenario is that we keep desperately trying to find and produce more oil such that it brings us to a sharp peak.  If we get a sharp peak, we would simply get civil unrest and collapse, maybe in the space of a couple of years because that’s how quickly it could be.  A loss of 5+% of global supply in two years would just be awful.  But if we have a long slow decline in production with slowly rising prices—a bit like being in a war situation—none of the price change points would be sufficient to cause riots in the streets.  So, that’s what I hope.”