Global oil discoveries far from breaking even with consumption

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Preface.  According to Bloomberg (2016), oil discoveries in 2015 were the lowest since 1947, with just 2.7 billion barrels of conventional oil found globally (though Rystad calculated this differently at 5.6, nearly twice as much). Since the world burns 36.5 billion barrels of oil a year in 2019, we’re not even close to breaking even.

Rystad Energy (2019) in “Global discoveries on the rise as majors take a bigger bite” estimates barrels of oil equivalent, which includes both conventional oil and gas. Since oil is the master resource that makes gas, transportation, and all other goods and activities possible, I’ve taken the second number as the percent of oil in the BOE to come up with how much conventional oil was found. It falls way short of the 36.5 billion barrels we’re consuming. The pantry is emptying out, perhaps pushing the peak oil date forward in time as we continue to grow at 1% a year in oil consumption and put nothing at all back on the shelves.  Peak Demand? Ha!  Not until we’re forced to cut back from oil shortages.

2013 50:50 17.4 billion BOE  8.7 billion BOE oil  shortfall: 27.8 billion BOE
2014 54:46 16.0 billion BOE  7.4 billion BOE oil shortfall: 29.1 billion BOE
2015 61:39 14.4 billion BOE  5.6 billion BOE oil shortfall: 30.9 billion BOE
2016 57:43 8.4 billion BOE  3.6 billion BOE oil  shortfall: 32.9 billion BOE
2017 40:60 10.3 billion BOE 6.2 billion BOE oil shortfall: 30.3 billion BOE
2018 46:54 9.1 billion BOE 4.9 billion BOE oil  shortfall: 31.6 billion BOE

This doesn’t include fracked oil, but the IEA expects that to peak somewhere from now to 2023.

What it means is enjoy life while it’s still good, and stock your pantry while you’re at it.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report


Mikael, H. August 29, 2016. Oil Discoveries at 70-Year Low Signal Supply Shortfall Ahead. Bloomberg.

2016 figure only shows exploration results to August. Discoveries were just 230 million barrels in 1947 but skyrocketed the next year when Ghawar was discovered in Saudi Arabia, and is till the world's largest oil field.  Source: Wood Mackenzie

2016 figure only shows exploration results to August. Discoveries were just 230 million barrels in 1947 but skyrocketed the next year when Ghawar was discovered in Saudi Arabia, and it is still the world's largest oil field, though recently it was learned that Ghawar is in decline at 3.5% a year. Source: Wood Mackenzie

Explorers in 2015 discovered only about a tenth as much oil as they have annually on average since 1960. This year, they’ll probably find even less, spurring new fears about their ability to meet future demand.

With oil prices down by more than half since the price collapse two years ago, drillers have cut their exploration budgets to the bone. The result: Just 2.7 billion barrels of new supply was discovered in 2015, the smallest amount since 1947, according to figures from Edinburgh-based consulting firm Wood Mackenzie Ltd. This year, drillers found just 736 million barrels of conventional crude as of the end of last month.

That’s a concern for the industry at a time when the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that global oil demand will grow from 94.8 million barrels a day this year to 105.3 million barrels in 2026. While the U.S. shale boom could potentially make up the difference, prices locked in below $50 a barrel have undercut any substantial growth there. Ten years down from now this will have a “significant potential to push oil prices up. Given current levels of investment across the industry and decline rates at existing fields, a “significant” supply gap may open up by 2040″.

Oil companies will need to invest about $1 trillion a year to continue to meet demand, said Ben Van Beurden, the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, during a panel discussion at the Norway meeting. He sees demand rising by 1 million to 1.5 million barrels a day, with about 5 percent of supply lost to natural declines every year.

New discoveries from conventional drilling, meanwhile, are “at rock bottom,” said Nils-Henrik Bjurstroem, a senior project manager at Oslo-based consultants Rystad Energy AS. “There will definitely be a strong impact on oil and gas supply, and especially oil.

Global inventories have been buoyed by full-throttle output from Russia and OPEC, which have flooded the world with oil despite depressed prices as they defend market share. But years of under-investment will be felt as soon as 2025, Bjurstroem said. Producers will replace little more than one in 20 of the barrels consumed this year, he said.

There were 209 wells drilled through August this year, down from 680 in 2015 and 1,167 in 2014, according to Wood Mackenzie. That compares with an annual average of 1,500 in data going back to 1960.

Overall, the proportion of new oil that the industry has added to offset the amount it pumps has dropped from 30 percent in 2013 to a reserve-replacement ratio of just 6 percent this year in terms of conventional resources, which excludes shale oil and gas, Bjurstroem predicted. Exxon Mobil Corp. said in February that it failed to replace at least 100 percent of its production by adding resources with new finds or acquisitions for the first time in 22 years.

“That’s a scary thing because, seriously, there is no exploration going on today,” Per Wullf, CEO of offshore drilling company Seadrill Ltd., said by phone.

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2 Responses to Global oil discoveries far from breaking even with consumption

  1. hugh owens says:

    Hi Alice. I covered these oil discovery figures in a blog some weeks ago and I included some other interesting tidbits from some other sources which might interest you. What i found was stunning.The website is It is entitled: RIP: The End of the oil age That post is very long but skip to the section about halfway thru on the oil discovery graph and issues withe big 3 oil companies.It is so odd that so little has hit the media on this soon to be oil scarcity situation playing out under our noses. I loved your book on the trucks stopping running and it was an amazingly concise and well done monograph.Great podcasts as well. The cost of the book was awful but it was money well spent, Great Job.I reviewed it on Amazon. So much data for amateur analysts like myself. I never miss your posts BTW.

  2. Todd Cory says:


    **Sugar Supplies Are Running Low**