The Department of Energy released reports indicating the effect enhanced recovery techniques are having on recoverable oil reserves. With all of the hand wringing going on and predictions of “peak oil” doom, these reports don’t get a lot of publicity, but they should. Our current proven reserves of 21.4 billion barrels could be increased by another 89 billion barrels, that’s additional reserves of more than 4 times what we already have.
The 89 billion barrel jump in resources was one of a number of possible increases identified in a series of assessments done for DOE which also found that, in the longer term, multiple advances in technology and widespread sequestration of industrial carbon dioxide could eventually add as much as 430 billion new barrels to the technically recoverable resource.
Other nifty capabilites we already have are things like directional drilling, which simply means we have a drilling rig over here and get the oil from way over there, the drill makes a turn once it’s down at depth. One rig can replace many separate rigs and reduce the surface footprint of the drilling operations. Cool.
Unfortunately, a lot of folks are convinced the oil is almost gone and there’s nothing we can do about it. Their view of drilling operations are formed more from old movies and environmentalist propoganda than reality. Directional drilling and enhanced recovery mean efforts to set up operations in Alaska’s ANWR, for instance, could make a major difference in our oil supplies, but the “don’t drill” crowd “knows” otherwise and nothing you say will change their minds. New technology must be solar or hydrogen or wind, new oil recovery technologies aren’t allowed or acknowledged because they keep trotting out the same old objections as though nothing has changed.
If the number above is right, 430 billion barrels means more oil than Saudi Arabia and of course, if we use those technologies, there’s no reason other countries can’t use them, too. If other countries also add to their recoverable reserves, a person might be excused for thinking we aren’t quite done with oil just yet. Once the price rises to today’s levels, all sorts of new technology becomes affordable and profitable. Combine this with tar sands, oil shale and some ethanol, too, and you have a very long future for the old reliable, liquid fueled internal combustion engine. I like that.