32.6% of worlds primary energy use comes from oil, coal 22.2% and gas 21.1%. Oil is widely spread throughout the world, but isn’t worth accessing unless it there is enough of it, this is known as the proved reserve and can be used to work out the lifetime of a resource, using this formula: Proved reserves (t)/Rate of production (t/yr).
At present, the calculated lifetime of oil is 40 years. Calculating the lifetime is problematic because measuring the amount of oil reserves is difficult to estimate as large parts of the globe can’t be thoroughly investigated because they are inaccessible. Unlike other substances, oil doesn’t have a “Go to” unit but attempts have been made to use “toe” which stands for “tonnes of oil equivalent”, allowing it to be compared more easily to gas, coal etc. OPEC, which stands for Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, effectively, controls oil prices around the world as the 13 Eastern countries involved all have huge oil reserves, and can control 40% of oil. In 1973 and 1979, an oil crisis occurred, and prices went up, but as a result, non OPEC countries explored for more oil and this then resulted in the lowering of prices.
Technology has helped recover more oil than before and if introduced on older oil fields can increase the amount of oil recovered by 10-15%.
Reserves’ reporting is controlled by the stock exchange on a company basis, as companies tend to ‘big’ their reserves up, in order to gain more investors. A good example of this is Royal Dutch Shell, who bigged their figures up by 30% (800m toe) in 2004 and were forced to re-write their figures.
During the Gulf War, oil prices were pushed up because some countries in OPEC were forced to cease trading oil. This meant that western society had to use less oil and as a result, this pushed the oil peak further away by approximately 10 years (until 2010-ish).
The world consumes 27Gb of oil per year and this amount can only go up due to rising population and the increasing living standards of developing countries. What this means for countries like the UK is that there will be a rise in oil prices, which will force them to find either alternative sources of energy or pay much more for oil. An equivalent rise to the 1973 crisis could cause fuel prices up to £4.40 per litre. Another consequence of an oil shortage is migration, with poorer people wanting to migrate to richer countries who can afford to keep developing. Eco alternatives would also be developed more quickly as the need for them would increase significantly (Hybrids, full electric and hydrogen).
Natural gas is composed mainly of methane and is the least polluting of the fossil fuels. Russia and the USA supply the most natural gas and account for almost 40% of the world total. The Middle East holds the most reserves of natural gas, 41.3%, Europe & Eurasia hold 38.5% of reserves. Limited markets for Natural Gas in the Middle East mean the production cost is low as the most used fuel here is oil. Consumption of natural gas is lead by Europe and Eurasia at 39.4%, North America, 27.6% and Asia Pacific at 15.3%. In recent years, ‘Conventional’ natural gas has been faced by ‘Un-Convectional’ Natural Gas, the difference being that conventional gas is found a few thousand metres below the surface whereas un-conventional includes: Deep gas, tight gas, gas-containing shale, coal bed gas and geo-pressurised zones. Below: Graph showing Natural Gas production over the world.
Coal is the most environmentally un-friendly fossil fuel as it gives of the most greenhouse gases. The Asia Pacific region produces the most coal, with a share of 41.1%, then the USA, 18.7%, Australia, 6.7%, India, 5.1% and Russia with 4.7%. The USA has enough coal to last for 250 years,