What evidence is there to support the proposition that the global supply of ‘conventional oil’ will be constrained by physical depletion before 2030?

The ‘peak oil’ debate is polarised, contentious and characterised by competing interpretations of the available data.

A growing number of commentators are forecasting a near-term peak in global oil production with potentially serious economic impacts. Others, however, argue that production will be sufficient to meet rising demand well into the 21st century.

The research, a review of over 500 studies, analysis of industry databases and comparison of global supply forecasts, seeks to bring some clarity to this debate.

The results find:

  • Despite large uncertainties in the available data, sufficient information is available to allow the status and risk of global oil depletion to be adequately assessed but the available methodologies can frequently lead to underestimates of resource size and overly pessimistic forecasts of future supply
  • The rate of decline of production is accelerating.  More than two thirds of existing capacity may need to be replaced by 2030 solely to prevent production from falling
  • While large resources of conventional oil may be available, these are unlikely to be accessed quickly and may make little difference to the timing of the global peak
  • A peak in conventional oil production before 2030 appears likely and there is a significant risk of a peak before 2020. Given the lead times required to both develop substitute fuels and improve energy efficiency, this risk needs to be given serious consideration


Technical Papers