Last week, I had a chance to attend an SPE meeting where the guest speaker was next year's President Alain Lebastie. The title of his presentation was The Oil & Gas Industry: What's Next?
It was a general talk about, well, what is next for the industry, with the focus on oil, not natural gas. The short summary is:
Demand - Long-term increase, short-term variability.
Energy Conservation - Lots of room for improvement, both with immediate measures and gradual technological improvements.
Reserves - This was the fun one. All historical production of about 1.07 Gbbls and proven reserves left of about 1.1 Gbbls which may come to about 40 years supply at expected rates of consumption. The kicker is that there is an estimated 1.3 Gbbls of undiscovered reserves available in the world and another 1.0 Gbbls that could be produced if the average recovery factor is increased form 35% to 45%. Recovery rates are quite variable and depend on the technologies used to increase recovery. What does this mean? Production will increase to a plateau of around 100 Mbbl/d around 2020 and stay around that level for 20-30 years, maybe more, maybe less.
Climate Security - I'll be honest, I was getting sleepy at this point. Late afternoon, dark room, overly warm and droll voice do not make me alert. But the gist is that carbon capture and storage is a field where much of the technical expertise will come from the oil and gas industry.
In summary, the message from the last few years has not changed. Cheap oil is over, expect long-term higher prices, and we have precious few decades to bring alternative energy sources up to speed.