Wednesday, May 20, 2009

World Oil Production Forecast - Update May 2009

The following is a periodic analysis of world oil production conducted by Ace at The Oil Drum. It is a comprehensive report of the state of crude oil, and other petroleum liquids, production. The upshot is:

  • World crude oil production has likely peaked based on production data as well as socio-geopolitical factors.
  • The possibility of higher future peaks is constrained by geology (production decline rates) and economics (investment in new oil discovery and drilling due to economic stresses).
I disagree with Ace on one point: I think decline rates are and will be higher than his estimates. Full disclosure: I'm talking out of my arse (somewhat informed gut instinct) while he is doing excellent, ongoing, comprehensive analysis.

My reasons for posting this long article here are two:
  1. I consider this the finest analysis Ace has done to date and
  2. I consider it vital for people to understand the depth and breadth of the challenges ahead.

Many thanks to Ace and The Oil Drum.

World Oil Production Forecast - Update May 2009

World oil production peaked in July 2008 at 74.82 million barrels/day (mbd) and now has fallen to about 71 mbd. It is expected that oil production will decline slowly to about December 2010 as OPEC production increases while non-OPEC production decreases. After 2010 the resulting annual production decline rate increases to 3.4% as OPEC production is unable to offset cumulative non-OPEC declines. The forecast from the IEA WEO 2008 is also shown for comparison.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) should make official statements about declining world oil production now to renew the focus on oil conservation and alternative renewable energy sources.

Fig 1 - World Oil Production to 2012 - click to enlarge (oil includes crude oil, lease condensate and oil sands)

World Oil Production

World crude oil, condensate and oil sands production peaked in 2008 at an average of 73.78 million barrels per day (mbd) which just exceeded the previous peak of 73.74 mbd in 2005, according to recent EIA production data. Production is expected to decline further as non OPEC oil production peaked in 2004 and is forecast to decline at a faster rate in 2009 and beyond due mainly to big declines from Russia, Norway, the UK and Mexico. Saudi Arabia's crude oil production peaked in 2005. By 2011, OPEC will not have the ability to offset cumulative non OPEC declines and world oil production is forecast to stay below its 2008 peak.

My estimate of 1.95 trillion barrels (TB) of total Ultimate Recoverable Reserves (URR) of oil is used to generate the forecast shown by the red line below. If Colin Campbell's estimate of 2.20 TB is used, which is 250 billion barrels (Gb) greater than my estimate due mainly to more optimistic assumptions about OPEC reserves, the peak production date remains at 2008. This shows that an additional 250 Gb of recoverable oil reserves does not change the peak oil date and instead increased production rates occur later as indicated by the green line below. Additional reserves and the related production from prospective areas such as the arctic, Iraq, and Brazil's Santos basin are highly unlikely to produce another peak but should decrease the production decline rate after 2012.

Fig 2 - World Oil Production to 2100 - click to enlarge

World Liquids Production

The definition of oil used by the International Energy Agency (IEA) also includes natural gas liquids (NGL), bio-fuels, processing gains and other liquids derived from natural gas and coal. OPEC NGLs were supposed to cause a significant net increase in world NGLs but this has not happened yet as NGL production is struggling to exceed 8 mbd. According to the EIA NGL data, 2007 production was 7.96 mbd, 2008 was 7.94 mbd and 2009 year to date was lower again at 7.80 mbd. Although bio-fuels production has been growing exponentially, world liquids production has probably passed peak in July 2008 at 87.9 mbd as shown below. In 2008, US ethanol production was 0.6 mbd, Brazilian ethanol production was 0.4 mbd, and bio-fuels production outside the US and Brazil was 0.5 mbd.

The average oil price should stay below $US 80/barrel for the remainder of the year as average demand is forecast to be only slightly greater than supply from July 2009 to December 2009. Furthermore, OPEC is unlikely to cut supply further which reduces the upward pressure on oil prices. Some recent evidence of increased demand is shown by US crude oil stocks dropping from a recent peak of 26.2 days at the end of April down to 25.5 days in early May. However, oil prices could exceed $100 in late 2010 as world liquids production drops further. High volatility of future oil prices is also expected due partly to delays in investment causing future oil capacity additions to decline sharply to 2012.

Fig 3 - World Supply, Demand and Price to 2012 - click to enlarge

Sources of Future Liquids Production

There are many sources of future liquids production but it is highly unlikely that production from these sources will cause liquids production to increase above its July 2008 peak because the cumulative declines from existing crude oil production sources are too great. Key sources of future production are future discoveries. The chart below, from Colin Campbell's newsletter, shows that annual discoveries have been decreasing since the mid 1960s. It also shows that production has exceeded discoveries since 1984 which is clearly unsustainable. Campbell also forecasts future discoveries to be 110 billion barrels (Gb) which is also the number assumed for the forecasts in Fig 2 above.

Fig 4 - World Oil Discoveries and Production, excluding Extra Heavy, Deepwater and Polar Oil - click to enlarge

Jean Laherrere also produced a discovery and production chart below from his 2008 presentation. Future discoveries, represented by the area under the dashed green line, are about 120 Gb being slightly higher than Campbell's estimate. Laherrere's discovery curve includes deepwater discoveries and also indicates that production peaked in 2008. Many of these future discoveries are likely to be either deepwater or in arctic regions. These discoveries may be significant but the time between discovery and first oil can easily be ten years which will probably not change the peak production year of 2008 but should lessen the future production decline rate.

Fig 5 - World Oil Discoveries and Production, excluding Extra Heavy Oil - click to enlarge

The arctic region is prospective for both oil and gas but quantities need to be estimated. Jean Laherrere estimated that the ultimate recoverable oil reserves are about 40 Gb while Colin Campbell estimates 52 Gb. There was a panel presentation at the 2009 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC.09) which discussed arctic energy challenges. One of the speakers was from Wood Mackenzie who confirmed that the arctic was prospective but mainly for gas not for oil. A report by Wood Mackenzie and Fugro Robertson estimated that the arctic will produce only about 3 percent of the world's oil and that arctic oil production, at best, would peak at 3 mbd several decades from now. Future production from the arctic region should help decrease future oil production decline rates but will probably not change the peak oil production year from 2008.

Fig 6 - World Arctic Cumulative Discovery Oil and Gas - click to enlarge

Other regions considered prospective are the US outer continental shelf (OCS) and Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). (Please note that the oil production potential of ANWR has also been included in the discussion above of the arctic). At this OTC.09 panel presentation on energy challenges, there was much discussion about allowing further drilling on the OCS and the ANWR. The American Petroleum Institute (API) was represented by its CEO at the panel and the API recently released this ICF report detailing potential reserves and future production from currently restricted areas in the OCS and the ANWR. This report concluded that an additional 1.1 (middle case) to 2.0 mbd (alternative case) of oil production, the majority from ANWR, might be possible by 2030 if drilling was allowed in these restricted areas. This additional production would benefit the US but would not change the peak oil date of 2008.

Fig 7 - US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) - click to enlarge

Canada often states that its oil reserves are almost 180 Gb. However, it is critical that 173 Gb of these reserves relate to oil sands which are not easy to produce. The chart below is from a recent presentation by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and indicates the potential of Canada's total oil production to reach over 4 mbd by 2020. The forecast indicated by the red line in Figure 2 assumes that Canada oil sands production will reach a maximum of 2 mbd. Oil sands production was 1.2 mbd in 2007 and the International Energy Agency (IEA) is forecasting 2009 oil sands production to be slightly greater at 1.34 mbd. David Hughes, a Canadian geologist estimates that oil sands production will stay below 2.5 mbd due to constraints on natural gas, water and diluents. Oil sands production may reach 2.5 mbd but will not change the peak oil year.

Fig 8 - Canada Oil Sands Production Forecast to 2020 - click to enlarge

A promising area of future liquids production is the Santos basin, offshore Brazil. There are technical challenges, explained during a Petrobras OTC.09 presentation, with the pre-salt discoveries such as very high pressures and temperatures but Petrobras is optimistic about the Santos basin, stating that this basin may almost double Petrobras' oil reserves. This implies that the Santos basin could hold as much as 15 billion barrels of recoverable oil. However, it is always important to focus on the potential future production rates in addition to the size of the reserves.

The Tupi field was discovered in November 2007 in the Santos basin and an extended well test (EWT) started in early May at a rate of 15 thousand barrels per day (kbd), to be increased to 30 kbd by the end of 2009. The Tupi EWT will run for about 16 months to better understand the flow characteristics of the pre-salt reservoir. If this EWT performs well, then a pilot test of 100 kbd should start in late 2010. If the pilot test is satisfactory then plans for full scale commercial production would be implemented. However Petrobras CFO expects a long ramp up period with Tupi peaking at over 200 kbd at the earliest in 2017. A Wood MacKenzie analyst predicted that Tupi could peak at around 1 mbd in 2022 which appears significant but Petrobras will need this increased production from the Santos basin to maintain total production at 2 mbd. The reason is that declines from existing offshore fields are about 10% or 0.2 mbd per year as confirmed by the Petrobras CFO. Future production from the Santos basin will benefit Brazil but will probably have only a negligible impact on the world production past 2012 (see Fig 2 above).

Fig 9 - Tupi Field and Santos Basin - click to enlarge

Iraq is perhaps the most promising country in the world for future potential oil production. However, it has not been an attractive country for investment not just because of terrorism but also the lack of petroleum legislation which includes national revenue sharing from the oil fields of the semi-autononous region of Kurdistan. The chart below shows that Iraq's production might reach 8 mbd by 2020 if sufficient investment was available, peace prevailed and satisfactory petroleum legislation was passed. The ultimate recoverable reserves of oil of 130 Gb is based upon Laherrere's 2003 analysis. Colin Campbell had originally forecast 4.5 mbd being reached by 2014 but now has revised that lower to 2.65 mbd in his June 2008 newsletter. In mid May 2009, the former Iraq oil minister said that Iraq's output could reach 4 mbd by 2014 and 7 mbd by 2019 if satisfactory petroleum legislation is passed in 2010. My forecast, shown by the red line in Fig 2, assumes that Iraq will produce 2.7 mbd in 2012. If the former Iraq oil minister's predictions become true then future production may be closer to the green line in Fig 2 rather than the red line. The peak oil year of 2008 would be unchanged.

Fig 10 - Iraq Crude Oil and Lease Condensate Production to 2050 - click to enlarge

The application of advanced technology on existing discoveries is often thought to have potential for increasing production rates and recovery factors. The first production wells developed were vertical then horizontal wells became common practice. Next maximum reservoir contact wells were used for some reservoirs. Finally extreme reservoir contact wells, graphically illustrated below, are being researched by Saudi Aramco in an effort to boost recovery efficiencies. Generally, more horizontal laterals in a production well allows faster extraction of the oil but at the expense of higher production decline rates later. This recent Uppsala University report on decline rates of giant oil fields stated the following:

The important conclusion is that higher decline rates must be applied to giant fields that enter decline in the future. Prolonged plateau levels and increased depletion made possible by new and improved technology result in a generally higher decline rates. Detailed case studies of giant oilfields suggest that technology can extend the plateau phase, but at the expense of more pronounced declines in later years.

In conclusion, this analysis shows that the average decline rate of the giant oil fields have been increasing with time, reflecting the fact that more and more fields enter the decline phase and fewer and fewer new giant fields are being found. The increase is in part due to new technologies that have been able to temporarily maintain production at the expense of subsequent more rapid decline. Growing average decline rates have also been noted by IEA (2008). The difference between using a constant decline in existing production and an increasing decline rate is significant and could mean as much of a difference of 7 Mb/d by 2030.

There are other technologies such as injection to increase pressure in the reservoir. Natural gas, water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide injection can all help to maintain reservoir pressure and production rates. In 2008, Saudi Aramco injected a massive 13.7 mbd of water to maintain reservoir pressure so that 8.9 mbd oil could be produced. Fracing or fracturing the reservoir formation is another technology which can help increase production rates. The fracing can be done by forcing fluid into the formation causing fractures which are held open by special frac sand. Acid can also be used for fracing as the acid can dissolve some of the rock and increase permeability.

New technologies can extract the oil faster but can the recovery factor be increased? Schlumberger has stated that the average recovery factor for all reservoirs is about 35%. This BP study stated that the average global recovery factor is about 30-35% based on 9,000 fields from the IHS Energy database. Conversely, Saudi Aramco stated in its 2008 Annual Review that they are targeting recovery factors of 70 percent partly through the use of reservoir nano-bots known as Resbots. These Resbots would be deployed with the fluids injected into a reservoir to record pressure, temperature and fluid type which could be retrieved later in an effort to increase recovery rates. The OTC.09 Panel Presentation on Technology discussed the importance of technology and one of the presenters believed that technology will allow companies to recover over 3 trillion barrels of oil. It appears that recovery factors can be increased by using new technology but the magnitude of the increase is not clear yet. However, it is unlikely that the improved recovery factors will cause oil production to exceed its 2008 peak.

Fig 11 - Extreme Reservoir Contact Well - click to enlarge

Mexico's Cantarell field is an excellent example of the use of advanced technology to stimulate the production rate, followed later by a steep decline rate. This field once produced over two million barrels per day (mbd) in 2004 and now production is less than one mbd with an annual production decline rate of over 30%. The chart below, from Matt Simmons' OTC.09 peak oil presentation, shows the steep production decline continuing into 2009. In early 2000, Pemex started using the technology of nitrogen gas injection to keep up pressure to increase production rates which was successful. However, production began to decline after 2004 and Pemex drilled horizontal wells in 2006 in an effort to extract more oil. These horizontal wells probably helped to slow the production decline rate. These technologies of nitrogen injection and horizontal wells have helped to keep production rates high. As the impact of these technologies weakens, the annual production decline rate has increased to over 30%. The expanding gas cap in the Cantarell dome continues to intersect more production wells which decreases the production rate leading to an expectation that Cantarell could become uneconomic as early as 2014.

Fig 12 - Mexico Cantarell Field Production Rate - click to enlarge


The future sources of liquids production discussed above will help decrease the future rate of decline but it is highly unlikely that the 2008 peak will be exceeded because there are not enough countries with increasing oil production able to offset those countries with decreasing oil production. IEA oil supply warnings have been made in late 2008 when chief economist Birol said that the world needs the equivalent of four new Saudi Arabias just to maintain existing production to 2030. In April 2009, IEA's executive director Tanaka said that the world may face a crude oil shortage by 2013. As world oil production declines, consumption must also decline. Consequently, action must be taken now to reduce oil consumption and switch to alternative renewable energy sources. These sources include electricity generation from wind turbines, photovoltaic panels and geothermal sources. Other sources might be ocean energy which includes tidal energy, wave energy, thermal energy and ocean algae biofuels. Ocean thermal energy conversion was the subject of an OTC.09 panel discussion.

The IEA has recently published some recommendations to improve energy efficiency which apply not just to individuals but also to industry. For example, in the transport sector, the IEA is encouraging the use of fuel efficient tires and introducing mandatory fuel efficiency standards for light duty vehicles. In addition, this IEA document, called Energy Efficiency Policy, also encourages energy efficiency by providing links to almost 30 documents containing energy efficiency policies. One of these documents called Saving Oil in a Hurry suggests many conservation actions including increased use of public transit, car-pooling, telecommuting and speed limit restrictions. For further information, the IEA has its own energy efficiency web page. This recent Oil Drum story proposes many oil conservation ideas for individuals such as moving to a walkable neighbourhood and trading in your car for one with better mileage.

There is no simple solution to the problem of declining world oil production. A simultaneous multipronged approach will emerge which not only addresses oil conservation but also the development of alternative renewable energy sources. As oil production declines, a possible solution is to secure long term oil supply contracts ahead of the next oil price shock. China has been securing long term oil supplies from Russia, Venezuela and Iran. As oil remains critical for economic activity there is a high probability that some countries will act more aggressively in securing oil supplies, even to the extent of oil resource wars. In mid May 2009, Russia raised the prospect of war to enforce its claims on Arctic oil and gas riches.

Additional Information Sources

World Oil Production Peaked in 2008, March 17, 2009

Saudi Arabia's Crude Oil Production Peaked in 2005, March 3, 2009

Non OPEC-12 Oil Production Peaked in 2004, February 23, 2009

USA Gulf of Mexico Oil Production Forecast Update, February 9, 2009

Disclosure: The author, Tony Eriksen, has investments in the oil and gas sector. The American Petroleum Institute (API) sponsored the author's attendance to the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC.09) in Houston, Texas on May 4-7, 2009 of which the presentations reaffirmed the author's views on declining world oil production.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Climate Chaos: Adaptation

The issue of what to do about Anthropogenically-forced Climate Change (ACC. a.k.a. Global Warming) is a big one. It's important to know from what perxpective to start. The following post was made to this thread on The Oil Drum: Europe.

Chris -

the focus on Adaption (to Climate Destabilization) appears to have been growing, both as a vested interests' propaganda tool (to distract effort from and diminish commitments to Mitigation), and also as the result of an honest lack of appreciation of the iterative threat we face.

The latter point seems worth addressing - since there are evident lacunae [gaps] in the discussion.

First, there is the issue that we can only adapt to peripheral changes - e.g. just a couple of metres of sea level rise will swamp the farmland of much of Bangladesh, leading to mega-famine &/or migration, but little if any Adaption.

Second, we can only adapt to changes that we know are coming - e.g. how many more years of intense prolongued summer rains must Britain face before we adapt by giving up growing crops that need the summer sun to ripen ? (Such as Spuds, Oats, Hay, Apples). Again, the outcome of the learning period would likely be mega-famine &/or migration.

Third, given our skill-poverty, food-reserve scarcity and bodily frailty, we can only adapt to changes at an endurable rate that then stop changing at some endurable level - e.g. the increasingly unstable climate we are now seeing reflects recorded GW 30 to 40 years ago; without rapid stringent constraint of further GHG emissions (i.e. massive global Mitigation) there would be little prospect of climate destabilization ceasing to intensify, let alone stabilize at an endurable level, so there would be no credible prospect of humanity successfully adapting to its impacts.

In view of the above, I hope we may agree that for policies of Adaption to be more of a help than an illusory distraction, they must be founded on the absolute priority of achieving rapid stringent global Mitigation ?

A further point that seems zombie-like in its undead status (despite repeated decapitations), is your focus on the excessive fossil reserve figures you remark above generating unreliable projections of pollution output and thus of consequent degrees of warming.

Perhaps it needs saying bluntly - we have pushed airborne GHG levels not only to the point of evident impact on planetary temperature and climate destabilization, but also well past the point of awakening potentially vast postive feedback loops, as well as of starting the accelerating decay of the natural marine carbon sinks.

You know the list of the major loops - albido, permafrost, wildfire, clathates, etc, but it may be worth metioning (again) the earliest such active loop, that was first observed in the early '60s (with CO2 at around 320ppmv) when elevated airborne CO2 caused particular microbes to boom in peat bogs causing the latter to decay on a 6% p.a. rising trend ever since. If this continues, then just this single, minor, loop will emit CO2 equal to our entire 2004 global output by about 2060.

So, to put an elm stake firmly through the heart of this "deficient reserves" fallacy, the actual fossil fuel reserves are now a far greater threat to climate via their impact on accelerating the feedback loops, than were the exaggerated old reserve numbers in their direct emissions potential.

Maybe it is time we of TOD start working on the necessary integrated diplomatic response to PO & CD, rather than leading with one or other ?



Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Perfect Storm World Simulation: Peak Oil, Climate Change, Economic Collapse

Enough economics for awhile. All two of you, besides myself, that read this blog already know what I think on that. Other facets of The Perfect Storm need some attention. I'd like to look at the big picture with an eye toward solutions.

The problem is simple: Anthropogenically-forced Climate Change (ACC), Peak Oil (PO), economic collapse, etc., are in the early stages of potentially remaking our world in ways we really would like to avoid, but there is almost nothing being done about any of it in any real sense when you consider the massive changes that are needed to deal with all these problems. If you think a bit on how long it takes to change the way a few billion people live, it's clear we have nearly run out of time to find solutions and implement them.

Robert Hirsch, et al., determined in a study done in 2005 that mitigating PO with minimal effects would require starting twenty years before the peak. Starting ten years before would lead to serious issues, but could be done. Waiting until peak would result in serious problems. Peak appears to have come in 2008.


Then there's ACC. A recent poll of climate scientists shows they are far more worried about ACC than is generally understood. But for James Hansen, they tend to be pretty quiet and conservative in their pronouncements on climate. This is (intellectually) understandable. They are scientists and are expected to state what they can prove, not what they know to be true. But aren't we past the point of this little luxury? Are not the dire consequences of no action or too little action being taken - a world 2 to 6C warmer - too great to risk? Well, finally some are speaking out... anonymously. (Way to put your necks out there, Profs!)

World will not meet 2C warming target, climate change experts agree

Guardian poll reveals almost nine out of 10 climate experts do not
believe current political efforts will keep warming below 2C

The poll of those who follow global warming most closely exposes a widening gulf between political rhetoric and scientific opinions on climate change.

While policymakers and campaigners focus on the 2C target, 86% of the experts told the survey they did not think it would be achieved.

...60% of respondents argued that, in theory, it was still technically and
economically possible to meet warming of 2C

... But 39% said the 2C target was impossible.

...84 of the 182 specialists (46%) who answered the question said it would reach 3-4C by the end of the century; 47 (26%) suggested a rise of 2-3C, while a handful said 6C or more. While 24 experts predicted a catastrophic rise of 4-5C, just 18 thought it would stay at 2C or under.

Geewillickers... You gotta see some quotes from here:

Climate change experts reveal their hopes and fears

  • By 2100 I seriously fear there will be civilization collapse and chaos.
  • We should also be mindful that temperature sensitivity of the planet... has been grossly underestimated... We are in extremely dangerous territory.
  • Nothing short of a major restructuring of the energy generation system will see us limiting climate change to a 2C rise.

Now, don't you feel all warm and fuzzy? No? It gets worse.

To meet climate goal, cut fossil fuels use: study

The paper, published by the British journal Nature, implies only a revolution in energy use can achieve the aim of limiting warming to less than two degrees Celsius (3.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

To achieve the objective -- embraced by the European Union (EU) and many scientists -- means that only 1,000 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) can be emitted between 2000 and 2050, it said.

By comparison, the world has emitted a third of that amount in just nine years.

"If we continue burning fossil fuels as we do, we will have exhausted the carbon budget in merely 20 years, and global warming will go well beyond two degrees," said the study's lead author, Malte Meinshausen of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Berlin.

So, how much carbon have you cut out of your life today? None? Well! We're moving right along, aren't we! Look around you. Other than cuts caused by the recession, do you see people really changing how they use energy?

Paradoxically, PO will both helping us reduce our use of Fossil Fuels and make it harder to do so. To wit:

  1. Crude oil production likely peaked in 2008.
  2. On one hand, the use of oil will fall over the next few decades. On the other, if renewable forms of energy can't replace crude oil, then tar sands and coal will. Both are much greater emitters of CO2 than crude oil is.
  3. Having run out of hands, now use your feet to factor in the economic hit of declining oil production. (In both recessions in the '70's, the percentage drop in crude oil production and the drop in GDP were about the same, e.g.)
  4. As the "recession" begins to abate, the economic hit from PO will most likely stop it in its tracks.
  5. Investments for renewable energies will almost certainly be reduced by the economic crash.

To make matters ever-so-much better, what do Americans think about climate change? Not much.

Only 34% blame humans for global warming

Just one-out-of-three voters (34%) now believe global warming is caused by human activity, the lowest finding yet in Rasmussen Reports national surveying. However, a plurality (48%) of the Political Class believes humans are to blame.

Forty-eight percent (48%) of all likely voters attribute climate change to long-term planetary trends, while seven percent (7%) blame some other reason. Eleven percent (11%) aren’t sure.

These numbers reflect a reversal from a year ago when 47% blamed human activity while 34% said long-term planetary trends.

If you're feeling like kicking the dog or drinking your way through every bar between you and the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, hold on a second. I have a plan. Really.

Below is an e-mail (modified for this post) I sent not long ago to someone I thought, based on previous work, might be interested in modeling global solutions to The Perfect Storm. Sadly, no response. Maybe someone will stumble across it here and find a kernel of a good idea in it.

Dear X,
My wife and I have had an idea in our minds for quite some time for a massively interactive virtual reality world/MMPRPG/global climate model/global energy model/global economic model: The Perfect Storm World Simulation: Peak Oil, Climate Change, Economic Collapse.

The idea started from a simple question we, as teachers, asked ourselves: How could we do outreach on the issues of Climate Change, Peak Oil and the Economic Crash - what I call a Perfect Storm? (E.g. my blog is We needed something that would integrate everything we faced, but do it at the personal level and governmental level. We needed a synthesis of both to help get change going since government moves too slowly and grassroots movements alone are not going to manage the massive changes needed - though I think grassroots movements like Transition Towns, the Post-Carbon Institute and the Relocalization movement will be the primary players in the end since the changes start and end with what we do, what we buy, how we live day-to-day.

The answer was an on-line game. Rather, a live modeling project that would both inform people (nearly half of all Americans still have significant doubts about Climate Change and far less know about Peak Oil) about the issues and help find a collaborative solution.From there we brainstormed and by the time we were done had an idea that was so massively beyond our skill sets we knew we were hopelessly over matched. We envisioned something with the following components or characteristics:

- It would be huge, along the lines of MMPRPGs, but necessarily bigger than any before it. This needs to be international in scope since any solutions must also be, and must offer realistic simulations.

- It would include participation of individuals from all levels of society, i.e., gov't. officials and orgs, non-profits, NGO's and, most importantly, the public.

- It would preferably have an interface like virtual reality game.

- It would have real climate models attached, or at least data from models as part of the data so people can see climate effects of their own actions as they happen in the game.

- It would would include energy decline reality.

- It would include other resource constraints (water, fisheries, farming, etc.)

- It would include real-world economic data.

- It would allow for new models of governance, economic systems and societal structures to be tried and tested, such as Steady State economic models (1, 2, 3), barter economies, etc.

- Perhaps multiple runs/games going simultaneously, much like Global Climate Models. Maybe individuals could start up their own runs and people could jump in if they liked the parameters set by the originator?

- Perhaps dummy nodes/agents coded to model the averages for given regions/cities/countries to get the numbers up as high as possible.


I started research on what was already out there. The RPG idea was clear enough. Such things as The Sims, SecondLife, World Without Oil, etc., already exist.

My research found possible components for other elements. Purdue University has SEAS. It has been used for gov't simulations before. The software team codes a scenario and real people are agents in the game. There are other nodes (agents) that are run as part of the model and represent people. It's been used for some disaster planning, etc. The goal, of course, is to have millions of real people actually acting in the simulations. They may already have that, but my impression is that only gov't officials and first responders actually participate. It might be a good foundation for the basic structure - or not. I *believe* they have a virtual presentation like an MMPRPG.

A second is the T21 program out of the Millennium Institute.

T21-North America User Interface Released!
Arlington, VA, October 18, 2007

The T21-North America (T21-NA) model user interface was released today. The user interface allows the model to be open, modified and simulated on any Windows-based computer.

The T21-NA model project is a collaboration with Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas-USA and State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry to examine energy issues in the context of an integrated framework that incorporates the relations of the energy sector to the broader economic, social, and environmental framework. The project is part of ASPO-USA’s Global Energy Modeling project.

Their software is a package run by programmers, so far as I can tell. That is, it is not an MMPRPG-, SEAS- or Alternate Reality-style package that real people are involved in; it's based on a few people inputting what they think is important rather than real people acting as they, hopefully, would in reality. I think.

A third choice might be the World3 program used by for Limits to Growth. Delores Garcia is developing/has developed an updated version of this program:

Abstract: An updated systems model of global climate, resources, and energy extending the original World3 (“Limits to Growth”) model by inclusion of climate change and it's interaction with resources and energy. Outcomes are derived for total energy resources, human population, nutrition, consumption, economic activity and other parameters. Long-term outcomes are derived for a 1900 C.E. to 2100 C.E. time sequence, with human population decline.

The weakness here is, of course, that it is not a live simulation, but a model dependent solely on inputs from the programmer. It does, however, represent a good bit of the breadth we need as it includes energy, food production, climate, etc., as noted above, and may be the closest of the three to what we are thinking of.

It may well be that something this complex and wide-ranging needs to be built from scratch. Having worked in the documentation department of a main frame software company, I can appreciate the difficulties encountered trying to integrate software not designed to work together.

As for implementation, I'd be hoping to have this made available world-wide for free so there are no restrictions. Ideally, we'd capture the imagination of some important people and be able to make a big deal of the launch and subsequent modeling with an eye toward 1. raising awareness of how serious the times are and 2. actually modelling a solution or two that might be viable, or at least move us towards some solutions.

This approach also, and perhaps most importantly, takes the policy, research and data input out from behind the closed doors and gilt halls of TPTB and gets them into the hands of the public at large.

Time is short. People need to wake up to the serious problems we face and we need a workable solution yesterday. I believe The Perfect Storm World Simulation: Peak Oil, Climate Change, Economic Collapse can both raise awareness and model possible solution scenarios.