The end of the oil game

Profit from the Peak

The end of the oil game and the greatest investment event of the century.

Profit from the Peak is a book that I've been wanting to review for a while. An interesting premise is suggested in the sub-title. From some of the blogs that I follow it sounded like it may provide for an interesting read.
The end of the oil game and the greatest investment event of the century.

The end of the oil game and the greatest investment event of the century.

A little background on myself. With over 25 years of experience in the oil and gas industry I could see
this "Peak Oil" energy train wreck starting. In August 2003 I came up with an idea on how to solve it. And in September 2003 started the research into using the oil and gas industry standard JOC (Joint Operating Committee) as the key organizational construct of the innovative oil and gas producer. If we moved the compliance and governance that the hierarchy managed, with the legal, financial, operational decision making and cultural frameworks of the JOC. We would achieve an alignment in all five frameworks that would enable the science and engineering needs of the industry to be the focus, and mitigate the effects of Peak Oil.

What does this mean. As most people know oil and gas is made up of partnerships between companies. This is to reduce the risks inherent in the business, and because the aerial extent of many of the properties, multiple owners work together. Since its beginning this has been the culture of the industry. And as one can imagine their are legal documents, financial distributions and operational decisions made with the input of the producers in the JOC. What isn't done is the competition to this software development project, SAP, Oracle and Qbyte, haven't a clue what a JOC is. Their focus is on the compliance and governance and therefore only provide the producer with at best 20% of the functionality.

The end of the oil game and the greatest investment event of the century 2

The other major finding that I published was the software defines and supports the organization. Noting that SAP is the bureaucracy. To change an organization, one must first change the software. If we want innovative oil and gas producers, we need to build the software first. Or be relegated to manual systems. So this is what I have written about since the publication of my research in May 2004 and the posts in this blog. But enough about me lets review this book.

The first point I want to make is based on the following quotation in the Introduction and its associated implications. And regarding this graph entitled "Worldwide Oil Production".
For the past 50 years, we have explored the entire earth intensively looking for more oil. But despite the latest technology and the most elaborate efforts, global oil discovery peaked in 1962 and has declined relentlessly ever since. Generally we are finding less and less oil each year, and for the past 25 years, we have consumed more oil than we have found. In 2006 we found about 6 billion barrels of oil, but we consumed 28 billion, and the trends continue in the direction of increasing demand and decreasing supply. pp xvi - xvii
Although Peak Oil accurately captures where I think we may be in the history of the industry. My opinion is that we have established a high water mark that may be permanent. The graph clearly shows the discoveries peaked in 1962 and have declined since that time.

My question to the authors and everyone interested in this topic. Does this graph mean all the oil was discovered by 1962? Or did the industry stop looking for more oil after 1962. Now this is not an accusation that they purposely stopped exploring. But consider the world had an abundant volume of energy. Prices were in the very low single digits, and the need to "develop" these resources became the focus. This situation was followed by the 1980's and 1990's where low oil prices were causing no end of greif to the producers. The industry more or less cannibalized itself to survive over those two decades. To say that technologies in 1965 discovered all of the oil is an assumption that the Peak Oil theorists may have incorrectly assumed. Based on my current understanding of the oil and gas industry. And the process necessary to explore for oil and gas. The industry generally doesn't have a clue on what exploration is. The generation of oil and gas workers that started in the 1980's and 1990's never experienced an exploration mindset.

The end of the oil game and the greatest investment event of the century 3

The next incorrect assumption of the authors is stated on page 4 of the book.
"Matthew Simmons, the top oil investment banker in the world" p. 4
Now I have read Matthew Simmons for many years and overall he is correct in many things that he states. However he is the worlds top investment banker in the oil and gas services industries. Based on Mr. Simmons comments about the need to publish the worlds reserves data. So that it can be pointed to as the gospel truth of the Peak Oil situation, unfortunately disqualifies himself from making any comments about reserves.

I have now worked in the industry for over 30 years and have gone through the accounting, audit and systems areas extensively. I have been a CFO of small producers and I have looked at my fair share of reserves reports. I can't tell you if the reserves are the greatest thing since Ghawar, or the latest scam. Looking at reserves reports is the same at looking at art. Why would someone pay that much for those reserves, or art, reflect the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And indeed oil lives in the minds of oilmen.

The same criticism can be leveled against Dr. Daniel Yergin. He claims he and his 220 PhD's on staff have the best global oil and gas reserve data. This prompted him to make the claim in 2005 that "the world would soon see an unprecedented increase of 16 million barrels of oil". If I were you I would dig out some of those paintings your kids made in elementary school, I think I see a market for them.

Some minor criticisms as to the accuracy of some of the claims made in the book. On page 42 of the book it is claimed that "hydrogen sulphide (sour gas)" is in injected into oil formations. H2S is one of the most toxic substances known to man. One breath of it and your dead, instantly. I'm sure the safety concerns of injecting H2S are adequate to assure that no one is doing it.

Enough criticism of this book now lets get on to many of the jewels. On page 49 "Its as though the adults of the oil industry have been forced to sit and watch as the children take control." In reference to the industry being knocked aside by the National Oil Companies (NOC's) desire for control. I can't agree more with that statement, and I'll comment on this later in the review.

The end of the oil game and the greatest investment event of the century 4

On page 67 the authors suggest "Essentially, it looks as though oil majors are running a shell game here, no pun intended. The question is: When will investors figure it out?" They have hit the pile driver on the pile with this one. As I have mentioned many times the management strategiesof the producers are acting in their best interests, not the investors or societies in general, with their muddling attitude toward the energy business. One has to take a jaded look at the stock options that are being distributed in many of these companies.

The first knock your socks off comment that is made by the authors, and I have not seen anything like this analysis before, but intuitively believed it to be so. And is the underlying reason why I blame the companies for the risks we now face. Is reflected in this quote;
"A strong man, working hard all day long, can do less work than an electric motor can with 10 cents worth of electricity." and "A barrel of oil contains the equivalent of 18,000 man hours of energy." p. 72
If the fact that the physical labor equivalent of energy is now static or declining doesn't scare you, then you must be a different type of animal. It was in 1870 when mechanical leverage exceeded the labor output of man. The reason we live in such a prosperous world is the fact that we have figured out how to mechanically leverage one barrel of oil so extensively. This however does not mean that we should consume most of it by hurtling a 4,000 lb. vehicle down the highway at 60 miles / hour. I'll have more to say on this point later.

I am not a believer in the scare tactics of the Al Gore's et al. To me climate change is real when the news of the day has video reflecting strange weather occurrences we only ever heard of before. Much in the way that the world thought the Japanese economy would rule the world in the 1980's; when the majority of people saw the world through a Japanese TV. Turn off the TV and go outside, notice any change? Nonetheless, that should not preclude us from coming up with solutions. The authors ring the bell with this next set of suggestions.
"The ultimate culprit is the American consumer culture that is responsible for most consumption in the world. At the end of the day, the culture of consumption must change." p. 88
"To heavily invest U.S. tax dollars in renewable energy production in China. Why? Because the Chinese have a chance to build their burgeoning economy on renewables from the beginning." p. 92
Brilliant! Although I would suggest not just the U.S. but the western world should subsidize renewable energy production in China. Not only does it limit the production of the highest levels of CO2 (China), but provides immediate value (reduction in CO2). Changing the western worlds infrastructure is not going to happen as quickly. These two authors should win an Academy Award and a Nobel Prize each for these comments. Its this out of the box type of thinking that we need a lot more of, if there is a climate change problem.

One of the key characteristics of this book is its focus on the facts. When it comes to the renewables, I find the activities in the U.S. so focused on keeping people in their cars that they can't see or think straight. Here the authors note that the value generated by ethanol is approximately equivalent to the inputs of oil. Therefore if the U.S. stopped producing ethanol. People would be able to afford food and a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington would loose their jobs. That's it, you'd have just as much energy. The facts are clear this is a foolish and dangerous game.

I have suggested in my blog many times that the oil and gas industry is in need of a desperate transition. One in which the survival and cannibalizing of the industry in the 1980's and 1990's be replaced by an exploration mindset that hasn't existed since 1962. A move to a science based industry and away from the banking mentality that pervades the incumbent management. The reason this hasn't happened is as I suggest. An organization today that doesn't have the software systems in place to make the transition, will be reduced to manual systems. Something that I know the incumbent management strategiesreadily appreciate. I have also suggested many times that the investors will need to fund this software development project to ensure that there is an alternative strategic method for them to manage their oil and gas assets.

This transition is necessary and time is waisting. What the industry did learn in the 1980's and 1990's was how to draw down the reserves of a field much quicker then they did in the 1960's. So not only are we not exploring, we don't know how to explore, can't get organized to explore, and, the past exploitation methods are the proverbial brick wall we are about to crash into.

I therefore disregard the comments of the authors made in chapter 6 "Twilight for Fossil Fuels" and suggest that oil lives in the minds of oilmen. On page 120 they note;
Ironically, one of the causes of the receding horizons problems is the very success of the oil and gas industry. Record oil revenues being raked in by oil producing countries of the Middle East are causing a boom in building and expanding their infrastructure.
Imputing, I think correctly, that the U.S. based oil and gas industry has not been welcome in the Middle East, Russia and China. I think it was reflected clearly around the time that Halliburton moved their head office from the U.S. to the Middle East. But was this transition away from western based capabilities a mistake? I believe it was. Since then the industry has had their head stuck in tar. The tar sands I mean. Their herd mentality is noted by the authors.
"In some cases the price of oil itself is stifling oil projects. For example, at Shell's Alberta oil sands project, the cost of producing a barrel of oil, after a planned 100,000 bpd expansion, will be six times higher than the cost when the project first started." and "Depending on a host of factors, the total net energy gain for tar sands production is in the range of 5 - 10 percent." p. 121
But hell, it is seen as the thing to do.

I think the energy executive, if that's not an oxymoron, is beginning to wake up to a brighter future. I note the following from Thursday July 10th's news. The Calgary Herald on Russia's changing attitudes towards western technology. ASPO International notes BP CEO Tony Hayward stating "He said the problem was a failure of supply growth to match demand growth." "Pemex oil output fell by 10% in May." And Total pulling out of Iran due to their fireworks.

The Russians are considering tax incentives for the western based companies! Is this an admission that the western technologies are superior? Russian production certainly leaped when they were invited in, now with Shell and BP more or less financially abused by the Russians the production declines. With Mexican production in steep decline it is fair to assume that the world could benefit from more western based producers and service industries. Iran wasn't expecting to be on the losing side of their missile launches, but western technology walked on a critical investment in Iran.

I would recommend this book to any and all oil consumers where ever you may be. It provides an understanding of the industry and its difficulties. But also educates them to use energy more wisely. In a globalized world we need everything that we can think of. If Ludwig von Mises correctly noted that the industrial revolution was the solution to hunger and over population, IT needs to be the solution to today's problems. Albert Einstein said, that today's problems are not solved by today's thinking. These authors give you the facts so that new strategies thinking can begin to address these problems. I personally think that IT and Segway's are two of the real solutions.

On the topic of alternatives the book provides excellent information about the changing economics of some alternatives. On page 137 they note;
The portion provided by solar and wind energy -- what most people think of when they think about renewable energy -- is a fraction of 1 percent of the total mix.
And bio-diesel has the potential of producing;
400 million gallons a year of bio-diesel. p. 143
Or 26,000 barrels / day. We've probably wasted more energy thinking and talking about bio-diesel then it will ever produce. There are three good alternative energy sources noted in this book. Unfortunately none of these alternatives has the ability to propel a 4,000 pound vehicle down the road at 60 miles / hour. But they are commercial, have huge potential and as the authors note, companies are making money.

Chapter 9 Endless Energy: "Here comes the sun." Starts with a quotation of Thomas Edison "I hope we don't have to wait till oil and coal run out before we tackle that." The future is solar, but the issues are daunting and much research should be put into the field.
The price of solar power has fallen to less than 4 percent of what it was in the 1970's. It is already economically competitive in states where electricity is expensive, including Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New strategies York, and states with good solar exposure and lots of land, like California, Nevada, and Arizona. p. 156
The entire chapter provides the comprehensive review of the solar industry with some very good recommendations on how to get in on the ground floor of this industry. Making Chapter 9 a must read for everyone who lives in a house.

The same can be said about Chapter 10 "Pressure Cooker: Tapping the Earth's Heat" on geothermal energy. And Chapter 11 "Nuclear's Second Act". Nuclear, solar and geothermal energy are now commercial, clean and available to be used in areas where gas and coal are used today. An opportunity to replace the electricity produced from gas and coal and leave those commodities to support industrial mechanized labor, or the 18,000 man hours per barrel.

Chapter 12 "What's Needed: A Manhatten Project for Energy. President Bush is quoted as saying "we need an energy bill that encourages consumption." and Vice President Dick Cheney "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy." Then the authors note the result of big government science based programs.
While both projects were famous for unprecedented technical achievements -- the Manhattan Project cracked the secret of the atomic bomb, and the Apollo Project put a man on the moon -- we need to do more than come up with new strategies technology to solve the problems we now face. We also need to rethink and remake our entire infrastructure, our economies, and even our culture. p. 180
A Manhattan Project will only boost the bureaucrats in Washington. This is a global problem. As a part time wanna be economist, I would suggest the market price mechanism is motivating the forces necessary to solve this problem. There was no market for the Manhattan or Apollo projects, I suggest we leave these energy problems to the market to solve.

I therefore disagree with the authors on their call for a Manhattan styled project. And fundamentally agree with the President and Vice-President. If 18,000 man hours of effort are contained in each barrel of oil, then we should encourage its use at any cost. Its a competitive advantage to those who use it most effectively, which happens to be the U.S. The alternative is to hire 18,000 people to do the work of one barrel. Therefore the President and Vice President are absolutely correct.

If we look at the numbers of the oil dollars flowing to the Middle East we will be distracted into believing that we should reduce our consumption. I suggest we start using our heads here and employ the Information Technologies and stop waisting the energy hurtling vehicles down the road at 60 miles an hour. I repeat get a Segway as a supplement to your vehicle. Use it for the short trips (24 mile range on most models) and cut your costs substantially. (Segway's cost less then $1.00 of electricity for that 24 miles). Secondly the Segway runs at 12.5 mph which is 4 mph faster then a car stuck in grid-lock. I repeat, IT and the Segway are the solutions to the problems of today.

On page 193 Carbon Taxes and Cap-and-Trade Systems are introduced by the book;
Carbon taxes are probably the simplest, most effective, and least economically damaging option, because they let the market decide what the best solutions are.
July 11, 2008 the Wall Street Journal wrote an article entitled "Kyoto's Long Goodbye" which addresses these mechanisms silly and wasteful ideas.
The irony is that Kyoto has handed them every reason not to participate. Europe knew strategies all along that it couldn't meet its quotas, so it created an out in "offsets." A British factory, say, buys a credit to pay for basic efficiency improvements in a Chinese coal plant, like installing smokestack scrubbers. This is a tax on the Brits to make Chinese industries more competitive. Sweet deal if you can get it.
It gets worse. The offsets are routed through a U.N. bureaucracy that makes them far more valuable in Europe than the cost of the actual efficiency improvements. So far, Kyoto-world has paid more than €4.7 billion to eliminate an obscure greenhouse gas called HFC-23; the necessary incinerators cost less than €100 million. Most of the difference in such schemes goes to the foreign government, such as China's communist regime.
Lets not chase any bunny trails that lead us down this ridiculous waste of money and energy. Recall that Al Gore hasn't reduced his personal large "carbon footprint", he just offsets his abundant use of energy with these bureaucratic Cap-and-Trade Systems. Enough said?

Gasoline taxes are are also recommended as deterrents to people using too much energy.
Most observers agree that the best, and possibly the only, way to achieve a reduction in the amount of oil used in this country is through the price mechanism, particularly in transportation fuels. It seems a pinch in the pocketbook is necessary to make consumers drive less.
It is well known that the U.S. has the lowest taxes on gasoline in the western world. This is the motivation in the authors desire to raise more taxes. I would assert this is the wrong direction on two fronts. Increasing the cost of fuel will impede the productivity of the U.S. economy. Taxes at high levels, such as in Europe certainly deter driving, however, the U.S. out performs Europe by a substantial margin. This is why China chooses to subsidize the use of fuel in their economy. At 18,000 man hours per barrel, the lowest cost producer will ultimately win. That is China in the developing world and the U.S. in the western world. For example France currently has a per capita GDP that is lower then Mississippi's, the poorest state of the union.

It seems the authors are on the other side of the political strategies fence in terms of how and where the solution to these problems will come from. Thankfully they debunk the Hydrogen fuel source as an alternative. Through their calculations they show that Hydrogen requires 5 energy inputs for each energy output. Not a smart direction to turn. What the authors don't mention is the cost of building an appropriate delivery system that can scale to what gasoline is now distributed as. Hydrogen requires stainless steel in all of its pipelines, tanks everything that it touches. And the cost of that is beyond what we are able to calculate with modern computers.

But then again, maybe the authors and I are not so far off in our expectations. On page 239 under the heading "Never Sell Short Humanity" the authors note;
And that's the true moral of the story: Every crisis -- no matter how dismal it looks -- contains the blueprints for its own solution.
And with that I highly recommend this book. For the average consumer, little is known about the complexity and difficulty in bringing the abundant and valuable energy resources to their door, and place of work. This fact-based book refutes many myths on its own and I have pointed out some of where I think they may be a little short. Given the price of the commodities today. And given the volume of words that are being consumed by the energy issues. The solutions will soon be at hand and society as a whole will be able to profit from the peak.

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