الذروة النفطية…..بين النظرية و الواقع

 

يعد النفط اليوم من أهم مصادر توليد الطاقة في العالم، بالطبع بعد اليورانيوم، وقد تم وضع الكثير من المواد تحت التجربة لتكون بديلآ للنفط و لكن لم تتك بالنجاح إلى يومنا هذا.و السبب الرئيس لذلك هو فقدانها الكثافة التي يتمتع بها النفط، فضلا عن أنها لا تحقق معدلات العائد التي يحققها الإستثمار في إستكشاف وإنتاج النفط،. وهناك أيضآ أبحاث علمية تشير إلى أن العالم مقدم على كارثة إذا لم يتوصل لمصدر بديل له، حيث لا يمكن للإقتصاد العالمي أن ينمو حاليآ بدون وجود كميات كافية من الطاقة تتماشى مع إحتياجات هذا النمو. وتتزايد النقاشات اليوم أكثر من أي وقت مضى بأن العالم بدأ بالفعل بالإقتراب من مرحلة الذروة النفطية.

الذروة النفطية هي مصطلح اخترعه عالم الجيولوجيا الأمريكي الشهير كينج هوبرت في خمسينات القرن الماضي. والذي استطاع ان يتنبأ بالذروة النفطية في بعض المناطق من الولايات المتحدة و التي ستكون في السبعينات. و بالفعل حصل بالضبط ما تنبآ به هذا العالم. فعندما تبلغ عملية استخراج النفط لمستوياتها القصوى، تأخذ في التراجع و تنتهي تدريجيآ. فالنفط يعتبر مورد ناضب أو كما يقال غير متجدد.

فهذه النظرية تؤكد أن الإنتاج العالمي من النفط وصل الي ذروته اليوم وأنه آخذ في الإنخفاض لامحالة بعد أن أستهلك العالم نحو 50 في المائة من احتياطياته النفطية. فهذا يؤكد أن النفط قد يشارف على الإنتهاء إذا لم يتم وضع خطط واضحة و صارمة في ترشيد استهلاكه و كذلك  الحث على إستخدام هذا المخزون الإحتياطي بالطرق المثلى. ولكن هذه النظرية لا تجد قبولاً لدى العديد و الذين يشيرون دائما إلى أن مخزون الأرض من النفط كبير جداً ويحتاج فقط إلى استثمارات للتنقيب.

تعتبر المملكة العربية السعودية من أعلى دول العالم تصديرآ للنفط, و الوحيدة القادرة عبر مخزونها الإحتياطي في ضبط و موازنة سوق النفط العالمي. و قدر هذا المخزون ب265.4 مليار برميل أي ما يكفي عند مستوى الانتاج الحالي لأكثر من 72 عاماً. و حسب التقارير الصادرة عن أرامكو فإن هناك حوالي تريليون برميل سيكتشف في المستقبل و الذي سيلبي إحتياجات العالم رغم الإستهلاك الحالي لمدة قرن واحد.

فاليوم تركزالدولة حاليآ جهودها في تنقيب وإستخراج الغاز الطبيعي, حيث أنها لا تستورد الغاز الطبيعي و لكن تعتمد على الإنتاج المحلي له. و بجانب ذلك تقوم المملكة حاليآ بتكثيف استثماراتها الضخمة في مجال الطاقة الشمسية و النووية أيضآ.

ولكن هل يعتمد على الغاز الطبيعي و الطاقة المتجددة كبديلآ عن النفط في تلبية الإحتياجات المحلية للسعودية و التي هي في تزايد ملحوظ كل يوم؟ حيث أن معدل الإستهلاك المحلي في السعودية بلغ في عام 2011 أعلى مستوياته مقارنة بالدول الصناعية, و سجل إستهلاك الكهرباء في المنازل السكنية و المباني النصيب الأكبر منه.

فهل بالفعل أن ذروة النفط قد حان أوانها؟ و إذا ليس اليوم, فمتى؟ و كيف ستكون ملامحها خصوصآ على الدول المعتمدة كليآ على النفط؟ هل ستكون عواقبها متفاوتة سواء على الدول المتقدمة و الغير متقدمة؟  حيث أن الطلب العالمي عليه سيرتفع إلى ذروة تبلغ 110 ملايين برميل يوميا في وقت ما بعد 2020 على أقصى تقدير. أعتقد أن الوقت قد حان لكي يبدأ العالم بالتخطيط لما بعد عصر النفط.

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Peak Oil: Perspectives for Saudi Arabia

PeakOil-SaudiArabiaThe term ‘peak oil’ is ominous to the Middle East, as most of the countries in the region are heavily dependent on oil and natural gas for industrial, economic and social development. Petroleum is considered one of the world’s most important sources of energy generation, after uranium, of course. Many other substances have been tested in order to be used as alternatives to petroleum, but none have hitherto been successful. Scientific research illustrates how the world is facing catastrophe if it doesn’t find an alternative to oil, as it is currently impossible for the global economy to grow without sufficient amounts of energy which are adapted to the demands of this growth. There is more discussion now than ever before about how the world is definitely starting to approach a stage of peak oil.

What is Peak Oil

Peak oil is a termed coined by the renowned American geologist King Hubbert in the fifties. He managed to predict an oil peak in several regions in America which would occur in the seventies; and exactly what this scientist predicted did in fact happen. For when oil extraction reaches extreme levels it begins to decline and gradually ends. Oil is considered a finite resource, or one which isn’t renewed as it is used up.

This theory confirms that global oil production has reached its peak today and has started declining inexorably now that 50% of the world’s oil reserves have been consumed. This proves that oil could be on the brink of depletion if clear and serious plans are not put in place to guide consumption and therefore encourage using provisional reserves in the best way. However, this theory is not accepted by many or by those who continue to focus on how large the earth’s oil reserves are, and how they only need investment so that they can be drilled.

Peak Oil Scenario for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is considered one of the largest global oil exporters and the only one able to regulate and stabilise the global oil market, thanks to its reserve stocks. These reserves are calculated to be at 265.4 billion barrels, or what is enough to last, at the current level of production, for more than 72 years. According to ARAMCO reports, there are around a trillion barrels that will be discovered in the future and will satisfy global demands, despite current consumption, for one whole century.

 Saudi Arabia is currently focussing its efforts on drilling and extracting natural gas, as it doesn’t import it but depends on domestic production. Alongside this, the Saudi Kingdom is currently making huge investments in nuclear energy and solar power.

But can natural gas and renewable energy be relied upon as alternatives to oil in order to satisfy Saudi Arabia’s domestic needs, which are rapidly growing each day? According to a recent report by America’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), Saudi Arabia is the largest oil-consuming nation in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia consumed 2.9 million barrels per day of oil in 2013, almost double the consumption in 2000, because of strong industrial growth and subsidised prices. One important contributor to Saudi oil demand is the direct crude oil burn for power generation. There is not just enough fuel oil and natural gas to meet the demand and hence the resorting to crude oil.

Has peak oil really arrived? If not today, then when? And how will it look, especially for countries totally dependent on oil? Will its consequences be different for both developed and under-developed nations?  Given that global demand for oil will only grow to exceed 100 million barrels a day after 2020, according to the most extreme estimates, I believe that the time may have come for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to start planning for what follows the oil era.

Despite looming threat of peak oil, power generation capacity in KSA is expected to rise from current level of 58GW to 120GW by 2032, however Saudi Arabia cannot afford to burn rising crude oil volumes for power generation. In spite of the fifth largest natural gas reserves in the world, it does not produce sufficient gas for power generation and for its vast petrochemical industry. The only solution at this point of time is transition to low-carbon economy whereby Saudi Arabia make use of its massive solar energy potential, implement effective measures for improving energy efficiency in the industrial sector and remove huge energy subsidies for industrial and domestic users.

 

Note: The article has been translated from Arabic by Katie Holland who graduated from Durham University in 2015 with a degree in Arabic and French, having also studied Persian. Currently working in London, she hopes to develop a career that uses her knowledge of Arabic and the Middle East, alongside pursuing her various interests in the arts. 

Energy Answers for the Middle East

The economy of Middle East is practically synonymous with crude oil for the average Western observer, but what most people aren’t aware of is the Middle East hasn’t been doing so well out of its crude oil reserves in recent years. So much so, that it may be the first time in history that we can justifiably declare an imminent state of Peak Oil in these regions.

It is an understandably bold statement, and one that will come as a surprise to many… especially those who have been blindsided by the more general, global statistics. Besides a slight dip over the course of 2013, it appears that crude oil production around the world is in on an upward trend, and peak oil doesn’t seem to be on this side of the horizon.

But there’s a reason why production looks so healthy, and it isn’t anything to do with the Middle East region. If we exclude North America from the statistics, we’re left with a much bleaker picture.It is clear that it is only the U.S. and Canada who are bolstering production figures for the rest of the world. Everywhere else is seeing a sharp decline – and likely prolonged – decline.

Worse, even North America seems to be suffering once you dig into the details; their own upswing rests solely upon shale reserves, a sub-set of oil production that is becoming increasingly hard to recover in way that is economically viable. This is why less than 30% of shale operations take place outside of America and Canada, since they have almost exclusive access to the specialized rigs required to obtain shale oil.

Flow Reversal

Last month, BP were given the all-clear to commence drilling for shale gas in Oman (which set them back a startling $16 billion dollars for the contract). Other than this, however, most of the fossil fuel action now seems to be flowing out of America rather than towards it, and it’s highly likely that the U.S. and Canada will begin to export its excess oil to regions that, historically, used to produce it themselves. The shale boom has already crippled the European refineries, and West African suppliers are suffering a similar fate.

Given that the Middle East region is also in the firing line, what can be done to mitigate this, or at least lessen the dependency on crude oil?

United Arab Emirates is arguably just as famous for its oil as it is as pioneers of green technology. Cities such as Abu Dhabi (and Masdar City in particular) are well known for their greenery, advanced architecture, eco initiatives and focus on carbon-neutral municipal planning.

Great advances have been made already in these ‘green cities of the future’, and further innovations would be welcome. Improved water recycling or an increase in roof gardens are all areas which could drive things ever forward.

Dubai Wasn’t Built in a Day

As well as focusing on how to reduce waste and better use the resources we do have, it should also be remembered that many countries in the Middle East weren’t exclusively built on oil.

For instance, it’s a common misconception that Dubai’s great wealth came from the black gold; while the towering metropolis of today is markedly different from the settlement that has stood their since antiquity, it has blossomed for thousands of years as a prime location for trade. While oil has undeniably played its part, less than 7% of the emirate’s revenues actually come from oil and gas.

Dubai is a good example in that it has recognized the need for diversification in recent years. It remains a global hub for trade – accounting for 16% of its revenue – and has recently established itself as a huge market for real estate, construction and tourism. A good move on Dubai’s part, really, since its oil is expected to run out in the near future.

Ultimately, the answer seems to fall somewhere between Abu Dhabi’s focus on alternative energies and Dubai’s focus on different revenue streams. What is clear, however, is that focusing solely on chasing down the last barrel of oil is not a foolish move economically, but one which is will short-change our environment in the process.