Helping America Navigate a New Energy Reality

Tom Whipple

About Tom

Tom Whipple is the editor of ASPO-USA’s two flagship publications, Peak Oil News and Peak Oil Review. Tom is a former senior analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Since retiring from the CIA, Tom has become a well-known researcher and writer on energy and oil issues. Tom writes a weekly column on peak oil for the Falls Church News, a daily newspaper based in northern Virginia. Tom holds degrees from Rice University and the London School of Economics.

Bernstein Research on the future of US shale

By on 17 Oct 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

“We believe that the Barnett shale offers compelling evidence that technology improvements ultimately cannot overcome geology. We believe the implication is that shale is a scarcer resource than generally considered and thus are more constructive longer-term as the world must seek a more marginal barrel to match future demand growth. That is bullish for longer-term oil price.”

“Increasing lateral length hurts all horizontal well performance as frictional losses increase and in the Barnett, optimal well length was determined by balancing reduction of fixed costs with reduced incremental production. Even correcting for lateral length, Barnett wells got worse with time. The E&P narrative is that a revolution in technology of improved completions (more sand, water, clusters, geo-steering, landing, etc.) is pushing down the cost curve. Yet we fail to see it in the most complete data record we have.”

Bernstein Research

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Peak Oil Review – 17 Oct 2016

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Peak Oil Review – 17 Oct 2016

Last week started with a flurry of speculator optimism deriving from the World Energy Congress in Istanbul during which the Russians backed Saudi efforts to raise prices using a production freeze, the details of which have yet to be determined. For the rest of the week, oil prices moved little as various reports affecting the oil markets showed that it is unlikely that a significant OPEC/Russian production agreement can be negotiated. The week ended with New York futures settling at $50.35 and London at $51.95. Most analysts do not expect any significant change in prices until the fate of the freeze becomes known around the end of November. In the meantime, technical exchange meetings will take place to see if an agreement can be worked out. Recent and projected increases in OPEC production make it likely that considerably larger production cuts than were agreed to at Algiers will be necessary to move prices higher. Goldman Sachs warned last week that the planned Russian/OPEC production freeze is unlikely to be enough to rebalance the markets in 2017.

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The Oil Industry in Alaska

By on 10 Oct 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

“This discovery [Smith Bay; see Briefs below] could be really exciting for the state of Alaska. It has the size and scale to play a meaningful role in sustaining the Alaskan oil business over the next three or four decades.”

Caelus CEO Jim Musselman.

“With an oil pipeline that is three-quarters empty, this is good news for the state of Alaska.”

Alaska Governor Bill Walker

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Peak Oil Review – 10 Oct 2016

By on 10 Oct 2016 in Peak Oil Review with 0 Comments
Peak Oil Review – 10 Oct 2016

The rally that began with the announcement of the OPEC production freezes in late September continued through Thursday last week. There is much skepticism that the tentative agreement, which will not be signed for another six weeks, will have a significant impact on global oil supplies. Crude prices slipped on Friday settling at $49.81 in New York and $51.93 in London. The 10-day rally now has taken prices up by about $5 a barrel. OPEC and the Russians have figured out that just talking about supply cuts can increase oil revenues substantially. A $5 price jump increases OPEC’s revenues from pumping roughly 33 million b/d by some $160 million a day.

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Statement by the Center for Climate and Security on the impact of climate change on US national security

By on 19 Sep 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

““There are few easy answers, but one thing is clear: the current trajectory of climatic change presents a strategically-significant risk to U.S. national security, and inaction is not a viable option.”

Statement by the Center for Climate and Security, a Washington-based think tank, signed by more than a dozen former senior military and national security officials

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Peak Oil Review – 19 Sep 2016

By on 19 Sep 2016 in Peak Oil Review with 0 Comments

Oil prices continued to fall last week, closing Friday in New York at $43.39 and $46 in London. There was considerable news tending to push prices lower. OPEC and the IEA revised their forecasts for the next year and concluded that the imbalance in the oil markets would continue into 2017 vs. predictions that the gap would close this fall. This coupled with increased Iranian production; the possibility that Libya and Nigeria oil production will soon rebound; the report that Bakken shale oil production grew in July and EIA’s admission that US oil production is not falling as rapidly as forecast; all contributed to the weaker oil markets.

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Analyst from Barclays talks about the 2017 industry outlook

By on 12 Sep 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

“2017 is the sweet spot for integrated companies. It took two to three years to adjust to the drop in oil prices, and a lot of the efficiencies introduced in recent years will roll into 2017 when projects kick in and free cash flow will improve.”

Lydia Rainforth, analyst with Barclays

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Peak Oil Review – 12 Sep 2016

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It was a volatile week, with New York futures starting out at around $43 a barrel on Monday, climbing to $47.50 on Thursday and then falling to close at $45.88 on Friday. The major event last week was the EIA status report, which came out on Thursday, reporting a near-record fall in the US crude stocks of 14.5 million barrels from the week before last. This was the largest weekly drop in 17 years and set off a short-lived buying frenzy. Traders ignored the impact of tropical storm Hermine which was thrashing around in the Gulf that week, closing production platforms and delaying tanker arrivals along the Gulf and East Coasts. The EIA reported that US crude imports were down by 12.6 million barrels from the week before, and that US refineries were running at 93.7 percent of capacity to satisfy US gasoline consumption demand over Labor Day. By Friday, traders realized that the crude drop was likely a one-off event and not the beginning of a trend.

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The state of new oil & gas exploration

By on 5 Sep 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

New discoveries from conventional drilling are “at rock bottom. There will definitely be a strong impact on oil and gas supply, and especially oil.”

Nils-Henrik Bjurstroem, manager with Oslo-based consultants Rystad Energy

“…seriously, there is no exploration going on today.”

Per Wullf, CEO of offshore drilling company Seadrill Ltd.

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Peak Oil Review – 5 Sep 2016

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The struggle between fundamentals and speculators’ dreams of much higher prices continued last week with oil futures falling through Thursday and then rebounding on Friday to close at $44.44 in NY and $46.83 in London, down about $2.50 for the week. The fundamentals include growing stockpiles, increasing US and Canadian rig counts, and fears that US interest rates will be going up shortly which will lead to a stronger dollar and lower oil prices.

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Vienna Technology University’s study on Mayan civilization and water resource constraints

By on 29 Aug 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

“When it comes to scarce resources, the simplest solutions on the surface are not always the best ones. You have to change people’s behavior, reassess society’s dependency on this resource and reduce consumption—otherwise society may, in fact, be more vulnerable to catastrophes than safer, despite clever solutions.”

Linda Kuil, Vienna Technology University, in a study on Mayan civilization and water resource constraint

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Peak Oil Review – 29 Aug 2016

By on 29 Aug 2016 in Peak Oil Review with 0 Comments

Oil futures fell some 3 percent in New York and 2 percent in London last week, settling at $47.64 and $49.92 respectively. The markets have become volatile of late with traders reacting to nearly every API or EIA report and every utterance from the Saudi or Iranian oil ministers. Last week the markets were pressured by numerous comments pro and con the possibility of an oil production freeze next month; a jump in Chinese diesel exports; comments by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that there could be a price-depressing rate increase sooner-rather-than-later; increased exports from Iraq via Kurdistan; the possibility of a ceasefire in Nigeria; sluggish US and Chinese economies; and a jump in US crude and oil product inventories.

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Managing Director at ARC Financial Corp on the definition of “rig productivity”

By on 22 Aug 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

“The notion of ‘rig productivity’ has to be taken with caution. We can’t assume that the best-posted performance in the field is the norm for all wells…There is a statistical distortion at play. Starting in late 2014, the severe downturn in oil prices forced the industry to park three-quarters of their rigs and ‘high-grade’ their inventory of prospects. Producers focused on only their best rocks, drilling with only the most efficient rigs. All the low productivity stuff was culled out of the statistical sampling, skewing the average productivity numbers much higher.”

Peter Tertzakian, Chief Energy Economist, and Managing Director at ARC Financial Corp

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Peak Oil Review – 22 Aug 2016

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Oil prices climbed another $3 a barrel last week as traders continued to hope that not only will OPEC and Russia agree to a production freeze next month, but that it will eventually result in the elimination of global oversupply and reduce global stockpiles to a normal level. The week closes with New York futures at $48.52 and London at $50.88.

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Big Oil’s reaction to global oil prices

By on 15 Aug 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

“If we are to believe Lux Research, Big Oil should use the cash it has, while it still has it, to enter the energy storage market. It has become abundantly clear that lying low and waiting for oil prices to reach former heights is useless since nobody can say with certainty whether or even if this will happen at all.
“If we are to believe Big Oil, all is well, and crude will soon jump back to $100 a barrel to the joy of shareholders all around. If it doesn’t, Big Oil will just continue cutting costs and maintaining dividends. The problem with this approach is that it’s unsustainable over the long term. This is just basic survival, while in the meantime, other leaner, more far-seeing companies [like France’s Total] bet on a future in renewable energy.”

Irina Slav,

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Peak Oil Review – 15 Aug 2016

By on 15 Aug 2016 in Peak Oil Review with 0 Comments

Oil prices climbed a bit on Monday, fell on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then surged upwards on Thursday and Friday after the Saudi energy minister said his country would be willing to discuss rebalancing the oil market. The minister said Saudi Arabia would “take any action to help” the crude market and will discuss the issue at a meeting in Septmber. Coupled with an EIA forecast that foresees a “sustained tightening” of the crude markets and a reduction in product stocks, New York futures prices now have climbed from below $40 a barrel early in the month to a close of $44.49 on Friday. The IEA says that a combination of falling production and increasing demand, which will be up by 1.4 million b/d in 2016, means that there will be no oversupply in the second half of this year. The Agency believes that refinery processing of crude is now down about 500,000 b/d year over year and projects that production in North and South America alone will be down by 700,000 b/d in the third quarter.

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The economic viability of U.S. drillers

By on 1 Aug 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

“The North America market has turned. We expect to see a continued modest uptick in the U.S. rig count during the second half of the year.”

Dave Lesar, Halliburton CEO said two weeks ago

[Among drillers] “There is a lot of hope, but hope is not a plan. Companies keep saying we can make money at $45 oil but these companies do not put their money where their mouth is.” Below $55 a barrel, about half of U.S. oil production is “uneconomic,” according to

Fadel Gheit, an Oppenheimer & Co. energy strategist in New York

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Peak Oil Review – 1 Aug 2016

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Oil prices fell steadily during July as the realities of oversupply trumped traders’ hopes that there would be balanced markets and higher prices later this year. July opened with London trading just below $51 a barrel and New York around $49.50. By month’s end, London was down to $42.71 and New York to $40.74. The month’s trading was dominated by reports of increasing oil product inventories and higher OPEC production. The decline of nearly $10 a barrel naturally has had repercussions across the oil industry. For most of July, the US rig count was growing as drillers anticipated that crude prices would soon be at a level where more wells would be profitable. By month’s end, however, these hopes had been dashed, and the US oil rig count had nearly stopped growing.

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The ensuing labor shortage in the oil industry

By on 18 Jul 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

“When oil prices crashed in the 1980s, the same thing that is happening today occurred in the industry then: companies went out of business and workers were laid off. And because there were few job openings, very few young people between the mid-1980s and 2000 went into oil and gas. As a result, much of the workforce that stuck around is now aging and moving closer to retirement, setting up the industry for a labor crunch, or the ‘Great Crew Change,’ as some dub it. There are too few experienced professionals to replace retiring workers.”

Nick Cunningham,

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Peak Oil Review – 18 Jul 2016

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Concerns are rising that the predictions of the oil markets coming back into balance later this year are wrong and that lower oil prices are ahead. Oil production is not falling as fast as predicted. Some outages are coming to a close and the growing glut of oil products could be as bad as last year’s crude glut. Many analysts now are talking about prices falling below $40 in the next few months and a few are even talking about a return to the $30 level. Although US crude stocks have been falling of late, the growth in the inventories of refined products continues to grow. Europe is running out of storage space for refined products which would force a cut in refining and result in lower demand for crude. Increased refining to support the summer driving season in the US has only another few weeks to run before the increased demand for gasoline comes to an end. The US oil rig count was up for the 6th time in 7 weeks and North Dakota reported that its oil production increased slightly in May.

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India’s growing demand for fuel and its impact on excess capacity

By on 11 Jul 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

“[India’s] fuel demand is rising, and India’s excess capacity is very small. We all need to expand if demand sustains.”

Sanjiv Singh, director of refineries at India’s biggest processor

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Peak Oil Review – 11 Jul 2016

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Futures fell about $4 a barrel during the holiday-shortened US trading week closing at $45.41 in New York and $46.44 in London. Prices edged down early in the week, recovered a bit on Wednesday, and the plunged after the EIA reported that the US crude inventory had dropped by only 2.2 million barrels as opposed to the 6.7-million-barrel drop that the API came up with after their weekly survey. The weekly decline for Brent was the largest since January.

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The connection between electricity generation and water

By on 4 Jul 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

“Electricity generation is a significant consumer of water: it consumes more than five times as much water globally as domestic uses (drinking, preparing food, bathing, washing clothes and dishes, flushing toilets and the rest) and more than five times as much water globally as industrial production…If policymakers fail to take into account the links between energy and water, we may come to a point in many parts of the world where it is water availability that is the main determinant of the energy sources available for use.”

Gary Bilotta, University of Brighton

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Peak Oil Review – 4 Jul 2016

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The oil markets remained volatile last week, trading around $48-50 a barrel, amidst much uncertainty about the future of crude prices. In the wake of the Brexit vote, analysts are all over the board as to where prices will be by the end of the year. Some are talking about $85 a barrel while others are looking for a retreat to less than $30 again. Nearly all agree that the markets will “rebalance” with supply and demand coming together as demand increases and the supply continues to drop as the impact of the much lower investment levels during the last two years reduces supply. For the next six months, however, there is uncertainty especially concerning the spate of unplanned outages that have taken place in the past few months. Oil worker strikes such as in France and Norway likely will be settled quickly, and Alberta tar sands production will soon be back to normal by the end of the summer. The outages in Libya, Nigeria, and Venezuela, however, are more uncertain and seem to be getting worse rather than better in the immediate future.

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Consulting geologist’s outlook on the future of oil markets

By on 27 Jun 2016 in quotes with 0 Comments

“The disturbing truth is that the real cost of oil production has doubled since the 1990s. That is very bad news for the global economy. Those who believe that technology is always the answer need to think about that…Tight oil may have bought us a few years of abundance but the resulting over-supply, debt and prolonged period of prices below the cost of production have exacted a terrible cost. Under-investment, a damaged service sector, weak oil company balance sheets and a decimated work force practically ensure cripplingly higher prices a few years in the future.”

Art Berman, consulting geologist

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