Roger J. Wendell
Defending 3.8 Billion Years of Organic EvolutionSM


Oil Rig near Dalhart, Texas - 05-14-2006
My car near Dalhart, Texas...
Fossil Fuels
and Peak Oil
Oil Drop


"My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet airplane. His son will ride a camel."
(Saudi saying)


Do you really believe the price of oil will go down if our population continues to increase?

- Roger J. Wendell, September 2007


"Global warming and dwindling oil and gas reserves remind us that we are approaching the end of the fossil energy road."
- Dr. Ulf Bossel in The Myth of a Hyudrogen Future, Home Power Magazine 114, August & September 2006, p. 82


Yellow Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for my page on Climate Change and Global Warming...
Yellow Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for my page on why we should be riding more bicycles!
Yellow Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for my page on boiling nukes..."


Fracking: Delaying the Inevitable

Hydraulic Fracturing Hydraulic Fracturing, or "Fracking," is a completion procedure that has been used for over 150 years. In the earliest days they used to drill the hole to the reservoir and then drop a bottle of nitroglycerin down the empty hole hoping it would blow at the bottom (although that happened not as frequently as they liked). The goal of fracking is to increase permeability, that is, to increase the ability of a rock to flow fluids. Two characteristics of reservoir rock are porosity and permeability. Porosity is void space in a rock. If you take a normally well rounded beach sand and fill up a quart jar with it you would be able to pour an additional cup of water into the jar to the top. There is 26% porosity in that situation. If the sand grains are not cemented together, but simply poured into the jar there is very high flow possible in the little pore throats between the rounded grains. When the sand grains lithify (turn sediment into stone) and turn into rock there is either calcite or quartz cement that precipitates in those same void spaces and holds the grains together. In the Gulf Coast we see some of those porosities in the >20% range. In the Rockies we're happy to get to 8-12% (mostly because the rocks are older and have had more time for pressure and rock chemistry to reduce the void space).
Shales are low energy, deeper water deposits that are very fine grained. If they have rock fragments they are silt or smaller. There are a lot of clay particles and organic material as well. And as they are buried they wind up dewatering (water is squeezed out) in a dramatic reduction of any void space that exist. Any particles in the final lithified shale are very small, so any pore throat for fluid flow is really small as well. That brings into play surface tension and capillary pressure. The holes are sooooo small that no amount of pressure that exits in the subsurface can force fluids (gas or oil or water) through those pore throats. Since there is a lot of organic material in most shales, and the shales warm up as they are buried, the organic material goes through a transformation process to oil or gas. In the past we considered these shales source rocks for the much better reservoirs with porosity and permeability that store and flow the oil and gas migrated from shale. The maturation process creates pressure and the oil and gas many times breaks out of the rock. Sometimes it doesn't. The shale plays in the US today and around the world make use of the same fracking result as the nitroglycerin effort, only we use fluids to break down the rock at high pressure (hydraulic fracturing) and create a slurry of sand or other propping agent to pump into the cracks created to hold them open. In many cases these fractures do a great job of making a large volume of the shale able to flow their oil and gas into the borehole and up to the surface. So shale fracking removes the need for a high quality rock reservoir that we normally think of in conventional oil and gas exploration.

Depending on the maturity level of the organic material and its makeup there are some shales that are gas makers and others that are oil. Some make oil now, but would make gas in another 50,000-100,000 years perhaps. Gas gets through those pore throats more easily so shale gas wells should be longer lived than oil.

Peak oil was based on the technology employed at the time it was postulated. It took into account the idea of a limited resource of conventional reservoirs. Shale reservoirs have altered that equation significantly. It's not only fracking however. It's also horizontal well technology. We can get to more of the rock at a single level and produce more efficiently from a horizontal well than drilling a bunch of vertical wells. We also place the wells at one or two points on the surface per square mile rather than sixteen so not so many holes dotting the landscape. The resource still has a limit, but I think the peak has been moved out some number of years. The only other way to get the oil and gas out of shales is to mine it. There are surface shale deposits that are mined and crushed and retorted to release the oil and gas. Also oil sands that are mined (Canada has some huge oil/tar sand mines). Without fracking and horizontal drilling it's not possible to get economic amounts of oil and gas out of the shale.

In the nineties we were trying to get to 30 years of reserve life for Rockies reservoirs. Today, because of shale gas and oil we see just the Marcellous shale play in Pennsylvania has created about 200 years of US demand natural gas. Shale gas has pretty much allowed the Obama administration to significantly cripple the coal industry. Natural gas fired power is much more efficient and a whole bunch cleaner. Although we will never completely run out of oil, gas (or coal) the fact remains that hydrocarbons will become increasingly more expensive to extract - eventually reaching a point where it's no longer economically viable to pursue them.




The Economist
The Americas, December 22, 2007, p. 55

Power Lines "Cantarell, in the Gulf of Mexico, was once the world's biggest offshore oilfield, holding over 35 billion barrels of the black stuff. Now, after nearly three decades, it is running out. At its peak in 2004 it produced 2.1m barrels of oil per day (b/d), making up 60% of Mexico's total output. That figure has already fallen by more than 500,000 b/d and could fall by another 200,000 b/d by the spring."

"This is a worry for both Mexico and the world. Although Mexico contains less than 1% of the world's proven oil reserves, it is the sixth-largest producer. Its output of 3.1m b/d is well above that of Venezuela or Kuwait. And although oil no longer dominates the Mexican economy - even at recent high prices it provided 16% of exports in 2006, down from 68% in 1982 - it lubricates the public finances, contributing nearly 40% of federal revenues."




More fun quotes:


"In Sweden we have strawberry fields where you can go out and pick for yourself. If you go out there in the morning there is a possibility that you can pick a big volume of strawberries. But the first picker picks the big ones. The last one is left with the small ones. It's very much the same thing when it comes to the production of gas and oil."
- Kjell Aleklett, Swedish Professor of Physics


"Aleklett believes the peak could arrive as soon as 2008 -- and that the struggle to adjust to the new energy reality could take 20 years, posing enormous challenges for developed nations. Some observers suggest that the decline will prompt an economic and social meltdown on a scale last experienced in the Great Depression -- or perhaps when the Black Death swept across Europe in 1347. Even the International Energy Agency, which mulls global oil issues on behalf of Canada and 25 other developed countries including the United States, Great Britain and Japan, is exploring 'barbarization' scenarios in which billions of people starve, national governments collapse, economies are forced to deindustrialize, and many regions of the world return to 'semi-tribal or feudal social structures.'"

- From the article, Get ready for oil supplies to dwindle, experts warn
by Scott Simpson, The Vancouver Sun, Sunday, March 04, 2007


"Evidence now conclusively shows that Saudi Arabia's oil production was down 8 percent in 2006 over 2005, even while the number of oil rigs went up substantially -- indicating that the Kingdom is drilling as fast as it can and still losing ground. (Production slipped from 9.9 million-barrels-a-day to about 8.4 mm/b/d.) Mexico's Cantarell field is crashing (minimum 15 percent annual decline and possibly much steeper rate, meaning in a year or two the US will cease getting oil imports from its number two foreign supplier). The North Sea is crashing, too. Russia is about to show steep decline. Iran is past peak. Iraq, as every six-year-old knows, is the world's clusterfuck poster child. Indonesia (OPEC member) is now a net oil importer. Venezuela is past peak and full of loathing for the US. Nigeria is collapsing politically. No amount of corn is going save the Happy Motoring utopia, and that's really all our economy is now based on."

- Jim Kunstler
Singing the Vegetable Opera - March 5, 2007




Although I started thinking about Peak Oil in the early 70s, when I was living first-hand the Arab oil embargo, I didn't start this page until July 18, 2004 (a Sunday evening) while watching CBS news (this was at somebody else's house since we have no TV receiption in our foothills neighborhood...). During the broadcast Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens (founder of the independent oil firm Mesa Petroleum) stated quite clearly that the era of cheap oil was over.

This, to me, was such a compelling situation that I searched around for a willing expert to appear on my radio show. As luck would have it, Paul Roberts, author of The End of Oil (On the Edge of a Perilous New World) agreed to appear on August 13th (2004).

- Roger J. Wendell, summer '04

Arm, leg, first born gas pump
Here's a bit of what I learned [oil, at the time of this broadcast, had reached a new high of just over $45 USD per barrel!]:
  • Trillions of barrels of oil and natural gas have leaked away into the atmosphere over millions of years.
  • World oil supplies will peak by around 2035 (Although many others are now saying it could be as early as 2006 or 2007 - we probably won't know, for sure, until we're well on the other side of the peak...).
  • The peak in world oil supplies is being accelarted not only by the United States (comprising about 5 percent of the world's population, America currently uses 25 percent of the world's total energy) but China is quickly growing as a huge user as well.

Yellow Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for info on fuel economy..."




A few months later I read this in the November 8th, 2004 edition of The Nation:

Fossil Fuels "...we will have to undergo several decades of punishing scarcity until a new energy regime has been put in place. Worldwide economic activity will contract during this period, billons of people will starve or suffer, and the major industrial powers will engage in ceaseless 'resource wars' over any remaining pools of petroleum.

"If this scenario is even somewhat credible, American and international leaders should drop whatever else they are doing and devote their full attention to preparing the world for post-peak petroleum. This means, for example, imposing tough new restrictions on the minimum fuel economy of all new cars and SUVs (say 40 mpg, an entirely achievable standard), ceasing new highway construction, building high-speed rail lines and investing hundreds of billions of dollars in the development of renewable energy supplies and other alternatives to petroleum."

Michael T. Klare - in his article Crude Awakening, p. 37




In 1956 Dr. M. King Hubbert, a geophysicist, predicted US oil production would peak
in 1970 - he was right! Other scientists, using Dr. Hubbert's methods, have predicted
a peak in world oil production occurring before 2010. Here are a couple of quotes from
the website named after Dr. Hubbert (The Hubbert Peak Web Page):

Roger J. Wendell and a Toy Oil Rig at Norman, Oklahoma - 05-17-2006
Me in Norman, Oklahoma
"1,750 Gb [1.75 Trillion Barrels], the estimate of all the conventional oil that there ever was or ever will be, is less than the amount of sunlight that hits the earth in one 24 hour day."

"1,750 Gb of oil is equal to 67 cubic miles. The (conventional) oil already consumed globally, plus all the oil yet to be consumed, could be fit into a cube slightly over 4 miles on a side!"

"If spread over the entire surface of the earth -- land and oceans combined -- 1,750 Gb of oil would constitute a layer 21.5 mils thick -- about the equivalent of a spark-plug gap!"








"In India, rural China, and Bangladesh, in large parts of Southeas Asia, Latin America, and the Caribean, and in most of Africa, 2.5 billion people still rely on wood, dried animal manure or other so-called biomass for nearly every calorie of energy used for cooking, heating, or lighting. Another 500 million people burn coal - not in furnaces, but in cooking fires and braziers - produccing poor-quality heat and constant clouds of asphyxiating soot. In all, some 3 billion people - roughly half the world's population - rely on enery systems that fail to meet even the most basic human needs."

- Paul Roberts in his book, The End of Oil p. 241


Cheap Oil is our Right Did You Know?
  • 3.7 Pounds of fossil fuels and chemicals are needed to create a single 2-gram microchip.
    Source: Environmental Science & Technology, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

  • The world has used 24 billion barrels of oil a year, since 1995, but has found an average of only 9.6 billion barrles of new oil annually.
    Source: Paul Roberts in his book, The End of Oil p. 51

  • Each year humans dump eight billion metric tons of carbon into the Earth's atmosphere
    Source: National Geographic - February, 2004 page 89.

  • Oil is the most energy dense, versatile substance known to science - There is no known replacement!




How do we prepare?
Although reaching the peak in world oil production is an inevitability, there's a lot that
can be done to lessen the impact on us, as individuals, and on the world environment as well:

  1. Get our population explosion under control!
  2. Since America consumes about 25 percent of all the World's resources it's important to start doing the right thing here at home. As citizens we should be demanding that the American government cooperate with other nations in all aspects of conservation and the development of alternative energy. Uncle Sam could start setting an example by simply agreeing to the Kyoto Protocol and other related treaties.
  3. Here in America, our government should emphasize conservation - Uncle Sam needs to quit "rewarding" people for buying Hummers and other huge gas guzzlers!! Instead, he needs to reward (tax incentives) people for conserving, recycling, and using renewables (wind, solar, biomass, etc.). Uncle Sam also needs to quit wasting so much energy himself - the United States Government's vehicle fleet, building inventory, military operations and highway system are all energy intensive, wasteful, and set a poor example for the rest of the country and the world..
  4. On and individual level there's a lot we can do in our daily lives to delay and lessen the impact of "Peak Oil." Each of us can find dozens of ways to reduce energy consumption at home and in the work place - turning off lights, traveling less by car, heating less, or just lowering our overall level of consumption by living more simply and sustainably. Recycling, composting, and consuming at a lower, more thoughtful levels need to be a part of our lives each and every day!




Ten Oil Supply Basics (Vis-a-Vis Peak Oil and Sudden Shortage)
by Jan Lundberg

Gasoline Pump (Jan Lundberg is founder of www.CultureChange.org and
has appeared on my Connections radio program - I've
posted this article, on my site, with Jan's permission)

"The end of abundant, affordable oil is in sight, and the implications are colossal. About now in our hydrocarbon phase of human history, we have pulled out of the Earth approximately half of the available petroleum (crude oil and natural gas). The other half still in the ground is harder to extract and may not -- as assumed -- fuel the global economy or even provide a transition to another phase."

Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for the rest of Jan Lundberg's Ten Oil Supply Basics

The Most Important Thing You Don't Know About "Peak Oil"
(Posted on my site with permission from Steven Lagavulin)

"When nothing happens for a long time, people begin to assume that
nothing /ever/ happens. But, sooner or later, something always
happens." - Steven Lagavulin

Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for the rest of Steve Lagavulin's piece on Peak Oil...




Hydrogen Atom Hydrogen Fuel Folly:
Although I'd love to see some success with Hydrogen fuel cells
I'm really skeptical and believe there are some huge problems with it:
- Roger J. Wendell


"Hydrogen is not a new energy source, but rather an energy carrier - like water in a hydronic heating system or electrons in a copper wire. And this energy has to come from somewhere. In a sustainable energy future, hydrogen will be produced mainly by the electrolysis of water. But to carry the energy equivalent of 1 gallon (3.8 l) of gasoline, 2.4 gallons (9 l) of water are needed to yield 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of hydrogen. To satisfy all present transportation energy needs of the city of Los Angeles with hydrogen would double the water consumption rate of the city and require the continuous output of the equivalent of about 100 nuclear power plants." p. 82

"Hydrogen is not a good energy carrier, mainly as a result of its unique physical properties of being the lightest of all elements and having an extremely low boiling point. Because of it low density, it must be compressed or liquefied for transport. Both of these processes require energy. Compression requires about 10 percent of hydrogen's energy content; liquefaction consumes about 30 to 40 percent. Twenty-two tube trailers loaded with hydrogen at 3,500 psi would be needed to match the energy contained in a single gasoline tanker truck." p. 83

- Ulf Bossel, in The Myth of a Hydrogen Future,
Home Power Magazine 114, August & September 2006
Ulf Bossel holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering a
doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley.


"The pseudo-fuel hydrogen will be considered on higher orders of unreality. The so-called 'hydrogen economy' centered around hydrogen-powered cars, as promised by President Bush in his 2003 State of the Union message, is at this point a fantasy, and an especially dangerous one insofar as it promotes complacency about the predicament we face. If there is ever going to be a hydrogen economy, then we are not going to segue seamlessly into it when the fossil fuel economy begins to wobble. At best, the world is going to suffer an interval of economic chaos and social stress between the end of the fossil fuel age and whatever comes next. The question is how long this interval will last: ten years, a hundred years, a thousand years, or forever."

- James Howard Kunstler
The Long Emergency Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and
Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century pp. 100-101


"Using a hydrogen fuel cell as a source of electricity for Field Day is hardly a 100% "green" operation ["A Green Field Day," QST June 2009, pages 70-71]. While it is true that the chemical combination of the hydrogen with oxygen produces only water, I am surprised that the writers of this article didn't pause to consider where the hydrogen comes from.

"We have no chemically uncombined hydrogen available for our use. Rather, it must be obtained from the decomposition of hydrogen compounds; one source is hydrocarbon fuels, but we are trying to minimize their use. The only other source is from the electrolysis of water, where, by the law of conservation of energy, it takes as much, if not more electrical energy to decompose water by electrolysis as one could then obtain from reaction of the resulting hydrogen with oxygen, either by burning it or in a fuel cell.

"If we ever start using significant quantities of hydrogen as a fuel, this will require vast amounts of electricity, and most electricity is generated by methods that are not usually 'green.'"

- Gerald Buck, WB9AJQ
Racine, Wisconsin (QST September 2009, p. 24)




Coal Hard Facts
Source: Advertising for Jeff Goodell's book, Big Coal (2006)









  1. Climate Change
  2. Culture Change
  3. Cycling
  4. Energy
  5. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (U.S. Department of Energy)
  6. Fuel Economy
  7. FTW - From The Wilderness
  8. Nuclear Power - a bad way to boil water!
  9. Oil Drum - Discussions about energy and our future
  1. Peak Choice - Cooperation or Collapse
  2. Peak Oil
  3. Population
  4. Solar energy
  5. Sustainability
  6. Transportation
  7. Voluntary Simplicity
  8. War and Terrorism
  9. Wind energy




Back Back to Roger J. Wendell's Home Page...

Web Counter Logo


Abbey | About | Blog | Contacting Me | Copyright | Disclaimer | Donate | Guest Book | Home | Links | Site Index | Solutions | Terms, Conditions and Fair Use | What's Changed or New?
Copyright © 1955 -