Exponential growth, energetic Hubbert cycles and the advancement of technology

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24 Scopus citations


In the recovery of geologic fossil fuel deposits, the overall production rate first goes up and then it must come down. Tens of thousands of oil and gas fields in the world produce hydrocarbons at rates that have long-time tails, making them highly asymmetric functions of time. Yet the sums of annual production volumes from these fields follow symmetric Gaussian distributions in time, also known as "Hubbert cycles." This paper provides mathematical arguments for the existence of energetic Hubbert cycles and their practical equivalence to the logistic growth curves. It is shown that the rates of oil production in the world and in the United States doubled 10 times, each increasing by a factor of ca. 1000, before reaching their respective peaks. The famous peak of US oil production occurred in 1970, and global oil production probably peaked in 2005-2006, with little fanfare. The rate of natural gas production in the US has also increased by a factor of 1000 and is at its second peak as of writing this paper in April 2008. The multi-Hubbert cycle analysis of oil and gas production in America highlights the existence of new populations of reservoirs, rather small in the case of oil production, but very large in the case of gas production. It turns out that improved technology and new science have allowed the oil producers in America to increase ultimate recovery by 2 years of total energy consumption in the United States. The American gas producers, mostly small independents, are on a path of achieving an increase of ultimate gas production larger than 10 years of total energy consumption in the United States. Thus, the discounted cumulative value of good science and engineering in the American oil and gas industry is worth well over 1 trillion USD in 2008, and it will continue to grow exponentially in the near future, given the declining oil and gas production rates and the high prices of both commodities. Producing the undiscovered technically producible petroleum from the ANWR 1002 Area, as well as the known gas caps in Prudhoe Bay and Point Thompson, all in Alaska, will have a small impact on the enrgie supply of the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-159
Number of pages29
JournalArchives of Mining Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008


  • Alaska deposits
  • Crude oil
  • Economy
  • Natural gas
  • Natural resources
  • Ultimate recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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