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Future Proof Kilkenny

Frustrated by the UK governments denial and lack of response to the Peak Oil issue, a UK Industry task force on Peak Oil & Energy Security has been established by a group of independent companies including Arup, FirstGroup, Virgin Group, SolarCentury, Yahoo! and others. You can read the full report here. Within the executive summary the group outline the severity of the challenges ahead.

“Neither the government, nor the public, nor many companies, seem to be aware of the dangers the UK economy faces from imminent peak oil. Big as our current economic problems are, peak oil means a very high probability of worse problems to come. The risks to UK society from peak oil are far greater than those that tend to occupy the government’s risk-thinking, including terrorism.

Conventional wisdom holds that the peak is many years in the future, allowing a timely transition to alternatives that can replace falling oil supply. However, the International Energy Agency has warned of an oil crunch by 2013. Other authoritative voices warn of severe problems earlier than this.”

Peak Oil Consulting contributed to the report and present an analysis pointing to a peak in global oil production in the period 2011-2013. Even Royal Dutch Shell posit that we face an “easy oil” supply gap with production flattening by 2015.
The task force highlight several areas of concern:

1 – Production figures of all the five major international oil companies have been falling for five consecutive quarters.
2 – National oil companies now control 80% of global production.
3 – No significant oil discoveries have been made for years
4 – New discoveries, if found, will have very long lead times
5 – OPEC governments are not transparent in stating oil reserve figures
6 – There are allegations that global oil reserves are overstated by 25%
7 – Much of the current infrastructure is over 30 years old and under-invested
8 – Recruitment is a major issue with average age of personnel at 49

The report goes on to assess three peak oil scenarios: Plateau, Descent and Collapse. In the plateau scenario production flattens out in 2015 with supply from “hard-to-get” oil, such as tar-sands, making up for the decline in “easy-to-get” oil fields. In the Descent scenario production steadily falls, possibly at 5% per year, as new production fails to keep up with declines in existing fields. In the Collapse scenario the descent is steepened by abrupt declines in older super giant fields to 10% per year or greater. On assessing the three different scenarios the report finds:

“On balance, having reviewed the state of play in global oil production, the task-force considers that the ‘descent’ scenario is a highly probable global outcome. We also fear that a ‘collapse’ scenario is possible.”

The report goes on to look at alternatives and opportunities and proposes many national and international recommendations. Wisely, it warns that expansion of tar-sand production or coal-to-liquids plants in response to peak oil would exacerbate climate change. Unfortunately it fails to give any serious debate to the issue of fertiliser production and food security. Overall, however, it is a welcome document and an honest attempt by big business to face up to the challanges ahead. Hopefully it will inspire further acceptance of the issue amongst the mainstream and galvanise some meaningful responses, including some closer to home.

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