The global oil industry covered all of Earth’s continents in search of oil, and the limited results that they found prompted geologist M. King Hubbert to declare an impending peak oil situation; but the prospect of peak oil has not been reached more than 60 years later, and in fact, the rate of new oil prospectus has been growing in the past decade. The reason for this is sheer innovation; from the ground to the pump, in achieving further gains from existing oil fields, and opening up entirely new regions of untapped oil.
The first new technology since the 1950s is the least exciting, but cheapest option. It is the practice of using steam and gas in existing oil wells in order to loosen the hardened oil that is not easily pumped out in a liquid form. This technology has been used effectively in oil fields like the Kern River oil field in California, that had thought to have been exhausted in the 1960s because it pumped out an overage of 10,000 barrels a day. Now, with steam technology, the Kern River oil field has a daily output of over 85,000 daily barrels. (Moawad, 2007) This technology is particularly important to old oil fields in the Middle East and the United States in states like California and Texas in order to fully exhaust every available option when oil fields begin to die off. This process can yield unlimited more energy than geologists could have predicted in the 1950s.
A major breakthrough technology in the oil business was that of effective deep oil drilling rigs. These rigs are strategically placed in the ocean in order to best tap oil reserves stored deep underwater. When the oil is pumped up, it can be directly moved onto oil tankers for transport. The oil moves from the bottom of the ocean to the surface in a 21-inch pipe, and requires constant maintenance for safety concerns. The oil that is contained at these depths is generally mixed with flammable natural gas, and is highly pressurized.
These rigs represent miraculous technology, but can be dangerous as well due to the high risk environment of underwater drilling, as seen in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico. (Leovy, 2010) Oil giant BP was held responsible for $20 billion in payment for the accident, and took weeks to effectively put an end to the oil leakage into the Gulf of Mexico.
A third technology is that of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a highly controversial technology because of its effects on the environment. At its core, fracking is about pumping fluids into horizontal pipes underground, liquefying the natural gas contained there, and then pumping water through the pipes in order to flush out oil. (Hydraulic Fracturing, 2012) This process can be highly rewarding in many parts of the United States, but contributes to a problem of polluting water runoff into major waterways that may affect drinking water. The EPA has yet to reach conclusive results on the pollution side effects of fracking, but the Obama administration has expressed concern in the technology. Fracking is particularly important to the extraction of oil from the Canadian tar sands in the Canadian tundra.
The fourth new technology in reducing the onset of peak oil is that of alternative technology for the collection and use of energy. Specifically, hybrid cars, wind technology, and solar technology.(Torrent, 2011) These sources combined do not make up a major part of the world’s energy use, which is still woefully addicted to fossil fuels, but have made a small inroad to reducing oil consumed overall, and hold promise for the future of an Earth without the burning of fossil fuels. These technologies have developed extremely fast in the past twenty years, and hold a lot of promise for pushing back the approach of peak oil for years to come.’
The final new technology since the 1950s to push back the onset of peak oil is that of efficiency, both in the consumption of oil, as well as the general consumption of energy. Using less energy is a critical component of the prolonging of peak oil. Automobiles, which once had a mile per gallon rating of 5-7, can now be as high as 40-50 mpg, or even higher. Computers are more efficient in every generation, and new light bulbs have dramatically changed the consumer market for daily essentials that contribute to the problem of global warming. Computers installed in automobiles, as well as in shipping grids and supply lines, have greatly increased the efficiency of logistical movement around the world, which in turn reduces the requirements of oil for shipping freight. Even airlines are increasing efficiency, with the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft using carbon fiber technology to reduce the plane’s weight by 30%, and thus increasing fuel efficiency. (Local, 2012)
In conclusion, peak oil is not yet on the horizon, and new technology seems to be able to stay ahead of the curve on the imminent demise of growing oil production and requirements. Nobody doubts that some day peak oil may come, and that a rapid changeover off of oil will be required, but the rapid advances in energy technology, along with increased government interest in the energy sector, has had major ramifications for the future of international competitiveness and self sufficiency. The United States has a very big stake on the future of energy as the world’s largest energy consumer, and the control of international energy trade will be a key issue on debate during the 2012 Presidential elections.
“Hydraulic Fracturing Background Information.” Home. 23 Mar. 2012. Web. .
Leovy, Jill. “Greenspace.” Gulf Oil Spill: Drilling Technology Explained. 29 Apr. 2010. Web. .
“Local.” Gov. Brown Welcomes Fuel-Efficient Boeing Dreamliner To Long Beach — CBS Los Angeles. 12 Mar. 2012. Web. .
Mouawad, Jad. “Oil Innovations Pump New Life Into Old Wells.” The New York Times, 5 Mar. 2007. Web. .
Torrent, Lluis. “China Is the New Green Global Leader.” United Explanations. 05 Nov. 2011. Web. .
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