- The good news is that panic scenarios about the world
running out of oil anytime soon are wrong. The bad news is that the price
of oil is going to continue to rise. Peak Oil is not our problem. Politics
is. Big Oil wants to sustain high oil prices. Dick Cheney and friends are
all too willing to assist.
- On a personal note, I've researched questions of petroleum,
since the first oil shocks of the 1970's. I was intrigued in 2003 with
something called Peak Oil theory. It seemed to explain the otherwise inexplicable
decision by Washington to risk all in a military move on Iraq.
- Peak Oil advocates, led by former BP geologist Colin
Campbell, and Texas banker Matt Simmons, argued that the world faced a
new crisis, an end to cheap oil, or Absolute Peak Oil, perhaps by 2012,
perhaps by 2007. Oil was supposedly on its last drops. They pointed to
our soaring gasoline and oil prices, to the declines in output of North
Sea and Alaska and other fields as proof they were right.
- According to Campbell, the fact that no new North Sea-size
fields had been discovered since the North Sea in the late 1960's was proof.
He reportedly managed to convince the International Energy Agency and the
Swedish government. That, however, does not prove him correct.
- Intellectual fossils?
- The Peak Oil school rests its theory on conventional
Western geology textbooks, most by American or British geologists, which
claim oil is a 'fossil fuel,' a biological residue or detritus of either
fossilized dinosaur remains or perhaps algae, hence a product in finite
supply. Biological origin is central to Peak Oil theory, used to explain
why oil is only found in certain parts of the world where it was geologically
trapped millions of years ago. That would mean that, say, dead dinosaur
remains became compressed and over tens of millions of years fossilized
and trapped in underground reservoirs perhaps 4-6,000 feet below the surface
of the earth. In rare cases, so goes the theory, huge amounts of biological
matter should have been trapped in rock formations in the shallower ocean
offshore as in the Gulf of Mexico or North Sea or Gulf of Guinea. Geology
should be only about figuring out where these pockets in the layers of
the earth, called reservoirs, lie within certain sedimentary basins.
- An entirely alternative theory of oil formation has existed
since the early 1950's in Russia, almost unknown to the West. It claims
conventional American biological origins theory is an unscientific absurdity
that is un-provable. They point to the fact that western geologists have
repeatedly predicted finite oil over the past century, only to then find
more, lots more.
- Not only has this alternative explanation of the origins
of oil and gas existed in theory. The emergence of Russia and prior of
the USSR as the world's largest oil producer and natural gas producer has
been based on the application of the theory in practice. This has geopolitical
consequences of staggering magnitude.
- Necessity: the mother of invention
- In the 1950's the Soviet Union faced 'Iron Curtain' isolation
from the West. The Cold War was in high gear. Russia had little oil to
fuel its economy. Finding sufficient oil indigenously was a national security
priority of the highest order.
- Scientists at the Institute of the Physics of the Earth
of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Geological Sciences
of the Ukraine Academy of Sciences began a fundamental inquiry in the late
1940's: where does oil come from?
- In 1956, Prof. Vladimir Porfir'yev announced their conclusions:
'Crude oil and natural petroleum gas have no intrinsic connection with
biological matter originating near the surface of the earth. They are primordial
materials which have been erupted from great depths.' The Soviet geologists
had turned Western orthodox geology on its head. They called their theory
of oil origin the 'a-biotic' theory-non-biological-to distinguish from
the Western biological theory of origins.
- If they were right, oil supply on earth would be limited
only by the amount of organic hydrocarbon constituents present deep in
the earth at the time of the earth's formation. Availability of oil would
depend only on technology to drill ultra-deep wells and explore into the
earth's inner regions. They also realized old fields could be revived to
continue producing, so called self-replentishing fields. They argued that
oil is formed deep in the earth, formed in conditions of very high temperature
and very high pressure, like that required for diamonds to form. 'Oil is
a primordial material of deep origin which is transported at high pressure
via 'cold' eruptive processes into the crust of the earth,' Porfir'yev
stated. His team dismissed the idea that oil is was biological residue
of plant and animal fossil remains as a hoax designed to perpetuate the
myth of limited supply.
- Defying conventional geology
- That radically different Russian and Ukrainian scientific
approach to the discovery of oil allowed the USSR to develop huge gas and
oil discoveries in regions previously judged unsuitable, according to Western
geological exploration theories, for presence of oil. The new petroleum
theory was used in the early 1990's, well after the dissolution of the
USSR, to drill for oil and gas in a region believed for more than forty-five
years, to be geologically barren-the Dnieper-Donets Basin in the region
between Russia and Ukraine.
- Following their a-biotic or non-fossil theory of the
deep origins of petroleum, the Russian and Ukrainian petroleum geophysicists
and chemists began with a detailed analysis of the tectonic history and
geological structure of the crystalline basement of the Dnieper-Donets
Basin. After a tectonic and deep structural analysis of the area, they
made geophysical and geochemical investigations.
- A total of sixty one wells were drilled, of which thirty
seven were commercially productive, an extremely impressive exploration
success rate of almost sixty percent. The size of the field discovered
compared with the North Slope of Alaska. By contrast, US wildcat drilling
was considered successful with a ten percent success rate. Nine of ten
wells are typically "dry holes."
- That Russian geophysics experience in finding oil and
gas was tightly wrapped in the usual Soviet veil of state security during
the Cold War era, and went largely unknown to Western geophysicists, who
continued to teach fossil origins and, hence, the severe physical limits
of petroleum. Slowly it begin to dawn on some strategists in and around
the Pentagon well after the 2003 Iraq war, that the Russian geophysicists
might be on to something of profound strategic importance.
- If Russia had the scientific know-how and Western geology
not, Russia possessed a strategic trump card of staggering geopolitical
import. It was not surprising that Washington would go about erecting a
"wall of steel"-a network of military bases and ballistic anti-missile
shields around Russia, to cut her pipeline and port links to western Europe,
China and the rest of Eurasia. Halford Mackinder's worst nightmare--a cooperative
convergence of mutual interests of the major states of Eurasia, born of
necessity and need for oil to fuel economic growth--was emerging. Ironically,
it was the blatant US grab for the vast oil riches of Iraq and, potentially,
of Iran, that catalyzed closer cooperation between traditional Eurasian
foes, China and Russia, and a growing realization in western Europe that
their options too were narrowing.
- The Peak King
- Peak Oil theory is based on a 1956 paper done by the
late Marion King Hubbert, a Texas geologist working for Shell Oil. He argued
that oil wells produced in a bell curve manner, and once their "peak"
was hit, inevitable decline followed. He predicted the United States oil
production would peak in 1970. A modest man, he named the production curve
he invented, Hubbert's Curve, and the peak as Hubbert's Peak. When US oil
output began to decline in around 1970 Hubbert gained a certain fame.
- The only problem was, it peaked not because of resource
depletion in the US fields. It "peaked" because Shell, Mobil,
Texaco and the other partners of Saudi Aramco were flooding the US market
with dirt cheap Middle East imports, tariff free, at prices so low California
and many Texas domestic producers could not compete and were forced to
shut their wells in.
- Vietnam success
- While the American oil multinationals were busy controlling
the easily accessible large fields of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and other
areas of cheap, abundant oil during the 1960's, the Russians were busy
testing their alternative theory. They began drilling in a supposedly barren
region of Siberia. There they developed eleven major oil fields and one
Giant field based on their deep 'a-biotic' geological estimates. They drilled
into crystalline basement rock and hit black gold of a scale comparable
to the Alaska North Slope.
- They then went to Vietnam in the 1980s and offered to
finance drilling costs to show their new geological theory worked. The
Russian company Petrosov drilled in Vietnam's White Tiger oilfield offshore
into basalt rock some 17,000 feet down and extracted 6,000 barrels a day
of oil to feed the energy-starved Vietnam economy. In the USSR, a-biotic-trained
Russian geologists perfected their knowledge and the USSR emerged as the
world's largest oil producer by the mid-1980's. Few in the West understood
why, or bothered to ask.
- Dr. J. F. Kenney is one of the only Western geophysicists
who has taught and worked in Russia, studying under Vladilen Krayushkin,
who developed the huge Dnieper-Donets Basin. Kenney told me in a recent
interview that "alone to have produced the amount of oil to date that
(Saudi Arabia's) Ghawar field has produced would have required a cube of
fossilized dinosaur detritus, assuming 100% conversion efficiency, measuring
19 miles deep, wide and high." In short, an absurdity.
- Western geologists do not bother to offer hard scientific
proof of fossil origins. They merely assert as a holy truth. The Russians
have produced volumes of scientific papers, most in Russian. The dominant
Western journals have no interest in publishing such a revolutionary view.
Careers, entire academic professions are at stake after all.
- Closing the door
- The 2003 arrest of Russian Mikhail Khodorkovsky, of Yukos
Oil, took place just before he could sell a dominant stake in Yukos to
ExxonMobil after a private meeting with Dick Cheney. Had Exxon got the
stake they would have control of the world's largest resource of geologists
and engineers trained in the a-biotic techniques of deep drilling.
- Since 2003 Russian scientific sharing of their knowledge
has markedly lessened. Offers in the early 1990's to share their knowledge
with US and other oil geophysicists were met with cold rejection according
to American geophysicists involved.
- Why then the high-risk war to control Iraq? For a century
US and allied Western oil giants have controlled world oil via control
of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or Nigeria. Today, as many giant fields are declining,
the companies see the state-controlled oilfields of Iraq and Iran as the
largest remaining base of cheap, easy oil. With the huge demand for oil
from China and now India, it becomes a geopolitical imperative for the
United States to take direct, military control of those Middle East reserves
as fast as possible. Vice President Dick Cheney, came to the job from Halliburton
Corp., the world's largest oil geophysical services company. The only potential
threat to that US control of oil just happens to lie inside Russia and
with the now-state-controlled Russian energy giants. Hmmmm.
- According to Kenney the Russian geophysicists used the
theories of the brilliant German scientist Alfred Wegener fully 30 years
before the Western geologists "discovered" Wegener in the 1960's.
In 1915 Wegener published the seminal text, The Origin of Continents and
Oceans, which suggested an original unified landmass or "pangaea"
more than 200 million years ago which separated into present Continents
by what he called Continental Drift.
- Up to the 1960's supposed US scientists such as Dr Frank
Press, White House science advisor referred to Wegener as "lunatic."
Geologists at the end of the 1960's were forced to eat their words as Wegener
offered the only interpretation that allowed them to discover the vast
oil resources of the North Sea. Perhaps in some decades Western geologists
will rethink their mythology of fossil origins and realize what the Russians
have known since the 1950's. In the meantime Moscow holds a massive energy
- William Engdahl is the author of A Century of War: Anglo-American
Oil Politics and the New World Order, Pluto Press Ltd.. http://www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net