peak oil


peak oil
/pik ˈɔɪl/ (say peek 'oyl)

noun
that point when the world's demand for oil outstrips dwindling supplies from depleted oil reserves.
When oil is pumped, it is initially under pressure and not difficult to extract. But once the oil pressure drops, water has to be pumped in to maintain the pressure. Peak oil describes the point at which the reserve is at its half way point. Hence, peak oil can be defined in terms of a particular oil field, or in terms of a particular country, or in terms of the planet. An oil source nearing the end of its potential may be only producing 10 per cent of oil to 90 per cent of water. The US reached peak oil in 1971. Britain's North Sea reserve reached peak oil in 1999. Australia's peak oil was reached in 2000. It is almost impossible to say when the planet will hit peak oil levels, since data on the exact reserves from the Middle East which provides a quarter of the planet's oil needs are contentious.
Oil reserves will not run out soon. Nevertheless, the oil reserves that have been extracted over the last 150 years are those that have been the easiest to extract. When the rate of crude oil production cannot be increased, the world will have reached peak oil. In fact, around 2005 the supplies of crude oil stopped increasing significantly and production of unconventional oils like shale oil became economically viable. In 2013 production of shale oil in the US was surging. From an environmental viewpoint the extraction of such oils is more carbon-intensive, worsening an already intractable climate situation.

Australian English dictionary. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • peak oil — UK / US noun [uncountable] the time when the production of oil in the world is at its highest level …   English dictionary


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