There will never be peak oil: BP

THE oil industry needs to throw out rule book it uses to analyse the market if it is to survive the new world transformed by the US shale revolution, and find a new set of principles reflecting the ‘new economies of oil' – that oil that will probably never run out, BP's group chief economist Spencer Dale said yesterday.
There will never be peak oil: BP There will never be peak oil: BP There will never be peak oil: BP There will never be peak oil: BP There will never be peak oil: BP

Addressing the Society of Business Economists annual conference in London, Dale said concerns about carbon emissions and climate change had also changed the game when considering market dynamics.

He also had a warning for the bulls out there who believe the relative price of oil will likely increase over time because, oil is an exhaustible resource.

Oil, he said, was "not likely to be exhausted".

"As such, there shouldn't be a presumption that the relative price of oil will necessary increase over time," Dale said.

Having said that, the International Energy Agency also announced its monthly oil report yesterday saying it expected global demand growth to slow from its five-year high of 1.8 million barrels per day this year to 1.2MMbopd next year - closer towards its long-term trend as previous price support was "likely to wane".

The doomsday concept of "peak oil" pervaded the industry for decades after US oil production peaked in the 1970s and sank for decades after, exactly as the theory had predicted.

But then it started rising again in 2009 and hasn't stopped thanks to hydraulic fracturing that enables oilers to tap new shale oil fields across North America.

That has triggered the shale boom that has driven countries across the globe, including Australia, to go chasing something similar.

Amid all this, Dale said a key factor governing the future price of oil was whether the standardised, repeated, "manufacturing-like" processes characterising shale production, with the associated rapid gains in productivity, can be applied to other types of oil production.

The issue, he said, was that supply characteristics of shale oil were different to conventional oil: shale oil is more responsive to oil prices which should act to dampen price volatility.

Yet, it is also more dependent on the banking and financial system increasing the exposure of the oil market to financial shocks. These financial shocks have the potential to increase oil market volatility, Dale added.

"Oil is likely to flow increasing from west to east: with important implications for energy markets, financial markets, and geo-politics," he said.

"OPEC remains a central force in the oil market: but when analysing OPEC's ability to stabilise the market, it is important to consider the nature of the shock driving the change in oil prices and, in particular, whether it is a temporary or persistent factor."