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UK will face peak oil crisis within five years, report warns logo

Declining availability of oil will hit the UK earlier than generally expected, with potentially devastating implications for the UK economy, report warns

  • Wednesday October 29 2008 12.49 GMT

The risk to the UK from falling oil production in coming years is greater than the threat posed by terrorism, according to an industry taskforce report published today.

The report, from the Peak Oil group, warns that the problem of declining availability of oil will hit the UK earlier than generally expected – possibly within the next five years and as early as 2011.

Oil supply could then rapidly decline, or even collapse, the report warns, with potentially devastating implications for the UK economy.

The report was issued today by the recently established UK industry taskforce on peak oil and energy security, a group of eight companies including transport firms Virgin, Stagecoach and FirstGroup, engineers Arup, architects Foster and Partners, and energy giant Scottish and Southern.

Entitled The Oil Crunch, the report argues that the risk of an early peak in oil production poses a bigger threat to UK society than tightening gas supplies, terrorism or the short-term impacts of climate change.

The “peak oil” debate has raged for many years. Some governments and oil companies believe that crude oil production will meet rising demand for decades to come. But an increasingly vocal group – including many experts from within the oil industry – claim that a production peak is imminent.

The new report marks the first time a group of businesses has weighed into this debate. At its core are two newly commissioned assessments of future oil production: one from Chris Skrebowski, consulting editor of Petroleum Review, and one from Shell.

Skrebowski predicts that global oil production will peak in the period 2011-2013 and then decline steadily, with non-conventional sources such as tar sands failing to fill the gap in time to avoid a serious energy crunch. He also warns that supplies could collapse if a handful of huge, long-established oil fields go into terminal decline simultaneously.

Shell, by contrast, foresees oil production rising until 2015, and then remaining on a plateau until the 2020s, with unconventional sources balancing out a decline in regular crude extraction.

Having examined the evidence, the taskforce considers that Skrebowski’s peak-and-fall scenario is the “highly probable” outcome, with the collapse scenario also possible.

This view contrasts starkly with the position of the British government. A statement from the new Department of Energy and Climate Change reiterates the government’s established view on this issue.

“The government’s assessment is that global proven reserves are larger than the cumulative production needed to meet rising demand until at least 2030,” the statement says. “This is consistent with the assessment made by the International Energy Agency in its 2007 World Energy Outlook that lead to the conclusion that global oil resources are adequate for the foreseeable future.”


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