The How, Why, and How Much of Oil

The How, Why, and How Much of Oil


This is a barrel of crude oil. It holds about 42 U.S. gallons or about 159 liters. Each day, the world consumes 88 million of them. 19 million of which are used right here in the U.S. of A. For 150 years now, we’ve been living in a petroleum world. Most experts agree… …that over time, humans have consumed more than 1 trillion barrels of oil. How much recoverable oil is left in the ground is a subject of great debate among energy experts, but… …rough estimates suggest that the number is between two and four trillion barrels. But, in order for those two to four trillion barrels of oil to be of any use to us, we first need to find it and second, get it out of the ground. Neither of those things are easy, and they’re getting more difficult. Fossil fuels…whether you love them or you hate them, you use them. Like a whole ton of them, in fact. You’re using them right now to keep your lights on and to watch me on your computer. So, you might as well understand how we find it, how we get it, and how much we have left. Otherwise, you might just be left in the dark. Before we deal with the “how” part of petroleum science, we should probably first ask how much because how much oil we think or fear is left is influencing how and where we’re looking for it. This brings us to a little thing called “peak oil.” Peak oil is the point at which we have reached the maximum rate of global oil production. This idea was first formulated in 1956 by Shell Oil employee M. King Hubbert, who correctly predicted that oil production in the U.S. would reach its peak around 1970. He theorized that it takes about 40 years from the peak oil discovery in a given country to reach peak rate of prodution. In the US, discovery peaked in the early 1930s, but on a global scale, oil discovery peaked in the 1960s. Which is why since early 2000s people have been freaking out about the idea
that humanity may never produce as much oil as it does today obviously we’re dealing with a finite
resource here so there will come a day when it will run out but Hubbard theory
of peak oil has proven incorrect on a worldwide scale mostly because he didn’t
foresee the enormous changes and how we discover and extract oil today we’re
finding oil and places we never thought existed and in areas thought to have
dried up long ago and we’re extracting it using methods and technologies that
weren’t around when your parents were your age to understand the science of
the you gotta go back maybe like a couple hundred million
years oil and natural gas are formed by the breakdown of organic materials under
really high pressure and temperature in sedimentary rock most of the material came from the
remains of zoo plankton and algae that lived in the oceans between ten and six
hundred million years ago when they died their carbon-rich bodies sink to the
bottom of the ocean as they decayed in deeper and deeper layers of oxygen
starved sedimentary rock the heat and pressure eventually distilled the
biomass into either oil or gas and what we’re really after in these substances
are their key ingredients called hydrocarbons like the name tells you
these compounds like methane ethane propane and so on contain only hydrogen
and carbon and when they’re burned in the presence of oxygen they give off
lots of heat over time the liquid version of this hydrocarbon mixture
petroleum migrates up into porous layers of rock usually limestone sandstone this
is where most oil and gas becomes trapped thanks to impermeable layers of rock
like granite or marble above it when we talk about conventional met of extracting oil we of course mean
drilling and for formation to be worth drilling it needs to have at least a
couple of qualities one is enough permeability that is the
ability for a fluid to pass through it to allow the oil to flow easily into a
well it also has to have enough open spaces in the rock to hold fluid which
is called its porosity now the reality is most of the big easy deposits with
these traits that we know about the low-hanging fruit of the petroleum world
have been discovered and exploited finding new ones requires better
equipment and more money and yes more energy on whether it’s improved a lot in
recent years as the use of instruments called gray visitors to measure tiny
changes in the Earth’s gravitational field sedimentary rocks usually get
denser and therefore have stronger gravity the farther down you go but folds her faults in the rocks can
create big pockets of lower density that could be where oil is hanging out with
visitors can find those pockets which helps exploration crews near their
searches geologists also often use magnetometers to detect tiny changes in
the Earth’s magnetic field because it turns out the magnetic field to changes
when oils around where oil and gas are deposited rocks are less magnetic than
the surrounding Rock so through aerial surveys magnetometers can detect some of
these weak spots to give oil prospectors some promising leads the most common
method of finding oil however is through seismology by creating shock waves and
measuring how fast they travel through layers of rock geologists can gauge their density it’s
like the same concept as an ultrasound scan at your doctor’s officer and echo
sounder used by ships online seismic waves are generated using explosives or
specially designed vehicle known as a vibro size or thumper trucks the trucks
use what’s called a seismic vibrator that’s gonna let that phrase sink in for
a second to create a shock wave on the ground when using explosives geologist
big bore holes up to 25 meters deep and detonate a small charge in both cases
detector is called geo phones are used to measure the shockwaves oil hunters
can use this technology under water as well in that case scientists use
compressed air guns on a boat instead of giant vibrators to create the sound ways
the sound waves penetrate the layers of rock below the seabed and a reflected
back now all these methods are great at finding rock formations with enough
permeability and porosity to hold oil but with demand always rising and peak
oil fears we started going hard after the unconventional stuff experts call them tight oil and heavy oil heavy oil is oil
that’s as dense or denser than water usually oils a lot less dense than water
which is why it floats on top of water tight oil meanwhile is found in formation where
the rocks porosity and permeability are really really low there’s oil in there but it’s not
flowing like the easier places we used to drill here in the US tight oil is the reason crude oil
production grew by more than 1 million barrels a day in 2012 the largest increase in our country’s
history the two largest tidal formation is the eagle ford in South Texas and the
Bakken in North Dakota and Montana contain up to 700 billion barrels seven
hundred billion barrels of oil but only about one to two percent of that is
recoverable the oil in these places is so tightly trapped in sandstone that
conventional vertical wells proved worthless at extracting it but in the
last 10 or 15 years engineers have figured out a few ways to get at it one
way is horizontal drilling instead of just digging a well straight into a
deposit like a straw this method starts vertically and then
angles to approach from the side running the length of the reservoir in order to
maximize the wells exposure to the trapped oil engineers have also
discovered that if you create fissures in the rock by injecting a combination
of water sand and chemicals at extremely high pressure oil will see through the
cracks and can be extracted through the horizontal pipes this is Method number two and you know
it is fracking heavy oil is an entirely different beast the oil sands of Canada
in Venezuela have dramatically altered predictions about how much usable oil we
have left in the world Alberta’s oil sands may contain between
1.7 and 2.5 trillion barrels of oil of which maybe fifteen percent is
recoverable that still amounts to about 75% of the petroleum reserves in north
america also called tar sands or bituminous sands oil sands are a mixture
of sand water clay and bitumen a thick mixture of hydrocarbons found in crude
petroleum but human is so thick that it basically is a semi-solid with the
consistency of molasses scientists aren’t sure how these enormous deposits
came to be some think that they’re remnants of crude oil reservoirs that
were destroyed microbiologically leaving the human behind others think that
underground pressure for stood up from shale deposits were hydrocarbons soaked
in the sediments and sand on the surface either way since
between makes up between one and twenty percent of these oil sands conventional
extraction methods just don’t work it would be like trying to drink up the
world’s absolutely thickest milkshake through a crazy skinny straw so instead of oil companies just attack
it at the surface a lot like how some minerals are mind some of the largest
excavators and trucks you have everything in your life are used to
scrape away topsoil and dig out the underlying tar sands the mixture is then steamed to
extracting bitumen soil and pipe to refineries but only twenty percent of the tar sands
can be mined like this the rest is too deep in the ground to get that stuff oil companies often use a process called
steam assisted gravity drainage it involves drilling to horizontal wells
one near the bottom of the reservoir and the other a few metres above it steam is injected into the upper well to
loosen up the bitumen which then flows into the second well where it can be
drawn up now you probably notice that whether we’re talking about conventional
or unconventional oil finding it is usually pretty freakin complicated and
the harder it gets for us to find the oil the more were pushing the limits of
what machines can do and what engineers can dream up so it’s worth noting the
extra effort and energy that’s now required to extract the black gold from
the ground at some point probably in your lifetime the cost of extracting oil
will get so high that it will no longer be economically viable for either the
producer or the consumer to use it at least in the ways that we currently use
it which is pretty wasteful and so everyone knows that it’s time to start
exploring alternative energy sources that don’t require squeezing oil out of
sand thank you for watching this episode of scishow if you have any questions or
comments for us you can find us on Facebook or Twitter or force down in the
comments below and if you want to continue getting started with us here at
scishow you go to youtube.com / – oh and subscribe yeah

100 thoughts on “The How, Why, and How Much of Oil

  1. …. oil is very rarely trapped Ian reservoir by granite and never by marble… ever. eagleford and baaken reserves are not in sandstone. gravatomiters and magnetic survey methods are almost never used for exploration. Sometimes but rarely porosity can be determined from seismic but never permeability… Curse you YouTube, you made me into a geologic internet troll.

  2. 0:40 wrong, I live in Norway; yay for hydroelectric plants. Also, this supposed, somewhat offensive prediction of yours, warrants a dislike; not because, I generally dislike the show,; actually quite the opposite, but simply because the statement is wrong, and you uttered it with a holier than thou attitude.

  3. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Plasma engine/ batteries . They could be built. It'd run of refuse like plasma incinerators in Japan. I am sure this is viable/logical/ecological/doable. I could draw a blueprint but beyond that an engineer would have to do the specs/ beta testing. Either way, I hope that somehow I am given credit for this idea that no one seems to be taking seriously.

  4. People have no idea how much we rely on fossil fuels. They seem to think that electric cars are powered by air. Well, 5% Maybe. And fossil fuels are more from the dawn of the earth then people know. Look at Pluto, I'm pretty sure there wasn't any dinosaurs there. Well, we will get there I hope. But not as quick as we all hope. We need to work hard at it and support our sciences.

  5. Curious if Hank still feels this is all the case now; super caps, batteries, oil prices, fracking, and the move away from oil by many countries has me wondering if these predictions still hold true

  6. This video should be followed by a video of how sonar and air explosions under water kill fish, how it drowns out the fish and whale communications.

  7. Wait… Are you saying that there will be a day when i can no longer cruise around in my gas hungry Mazda RX-8???

    I wish i die before then 🙁

  8. My little city has solar farm, wind farm, and hydro power!! Hope not all the power I used watching this was dependent on coal and oil 🙂

  9. I love how so many people forget that over 90% of plastics – including the PCBs* in our electronics – are made of oil. Heck, we've got beds and clothes made of oil. Things to cook with and store food in. Plastic parts in most toys and all transportation means of ours use oil. It's not just for fuel.

    (*PCB stands for Printed Circuit Board).

  10. ''You're using them right now to keep your lights on and watch me on your computer.'' No sorry. Mine is all Hydro powered.

  11. how about recycling plastics into oil. a japanese man made a machine that burns the plastics (like food wrappers) inside a cylinder, and has a pipe take the gas out into another cylinder of water. In that water cylinder forms pure oil that if refined can turn into gasoline that even a car to use.

  12. Can't we just genetically engineer plants to produce hydrocarbon? Or do it synthetically using solar energy? I mean we'll still need it for some application and also for plastics.

  13. I wonder how long this planet will last before we HAVE to find another, just for fuel and resources. Oh, I think we will need lots of fuel and resources to do that. More likely human's days are numbered. At least as we know it.

  14. It would be kinda nice to pick and choose from renewable or non-renewable for a home you own… if the lights stay on

  15. I thought i was gonna learn how a combustion engine works and why i have to get my engine oil changed every 3,000 miles 🙁

  16. Hydrogen and carbon, two of the most common elements in the universe. We can suck them right out of the air and fix them into hydrocarbons with renewable energy. Boom, zero carbon petroleum. Basically using it as a chemical battery for renewable power stations to produce and send out to consumers.

    We could do the same thing with water, crack it into hydrogen and oxygen, with solar wind or nuclear power, then send it out as a chemical battery to be burned at the point of consumption. The benefits of this type of chemical battery is that the combustion unlike hydrocarbons is that the byproducts are fully nontoxic water vapor, rather than sooty stinky toxic gas you get from burning hydrocarbons.

  17. All that carbon is potential biomaterial, life that would get lost in the magma if we wouldn't be there to get it out and use it

  18. Yes, it's sometimes called tarsands because sometimes people like to get it right. It's tar in sand, not oil in sand. There is a big difference.

  19. Here in Ohio, I have my own natural gas well, and oil that many of us here lease to oil companies. I guess it’s next to winning the lottery, I haven’t had to work to pay a bill in decades.

  20. Interesting hypothesis: if oil is indeed derived from organic material through natural processes, then it is theoretically possible that these processes could be mimicked by humans. If such could be done efficiently, (perhaps by similar means to growing diamonds) then we may be able to turn this limit resource into an unlimited resource.

  21. Very nicely presented. Appreciate the lack of bias. Just the facts. The media at large should be held to this standard. I think we (as a species) should be looking into alternatives, of course. But "our" folly is pretending that we, a) Don't have a severe overpopulation problem, and, b) Can just ignore that problem, and it will somehow "go away", or "work itself out". The "Greenest" thing in the world is the humble condom. We should use them more often before- ahem- drilling. 😉 If our population is 10%, we only use 8.8 million barrels per day. Actually I think somewhere in the range of 0.1% – 1% of current population would be great.

  22. More than an energy problem, many things in everyday life a made of oil. When we run out how will we create them?

  23. Oil extraction is already not economically viable in (that most persistent of public hallucinations) a fair market. Fossil fuel has survived as long as it has through a mixture of subsidies, tax breaks, and just plain old market manipulation… While a fascinating subject technically, watching this was roughly as uncomfrotible as watching a Saw movie. Only instead of fictional characters being tortured to death in ever more ingenious ways, it's the future of the current biosphere including humanity.

  24. Just asking: my power comes from wind energy and geothermal. Don't you have that in the US? Please use at least the influence you guys have with your channel to also show alternatives…

  25. Good video, I recently subscribed, I love and binge watch this channel, my career entails, Geomagnetics and Directional drilling, it would be an cool topic to cover in a video 🙂

  26. This is old, but whatever, the thing to keep in mind when discussing unconventional hydrocardon reserves is cost. Peak oil won't happen because we run out of oil, it'll happen because fossil fuels will become more and more expensive relative to alternatives, to the point where it isn't economical to extract them for most industrial purposes (I imagine the chemical industry will be using oil and gas long after it's been fazed out for energy production). The big question, for me at least, is when the cheapest reserves in places like Saudi Arabia and Russia will run out, but given these countries aren't terribly transparent, who the hell knows?

  27. We knew about the electric car for hundred years and Ford in more modern days demolished a fleet of electric cars to monopolize gas driven along with other companies using a "crisis or recession " to control finances and manipulate the masses with fear and power water is illegal in some states to use rain catchers . Monsantos with crops and other food. The power and electricity (shutting down destroying inventions and inventors ) even the money and federal reserves when it's not owned by the government but families purposely crashing the stocks and land real estate elections (only the ignorant and clueless would be proud of America) the list goes on

  28. I actually hope we run out or soon . We have lied cheated wars happened killings over this controlled commodity

  29. First, thanks for NOT mentioning that religious mantra of manmade global warming
    But you should take a dive on the section of biofuels of nrel.gov
    They have astonishing things

  30. MNI WICONI! WATER IS LIFE! LEAVE THE OIL IN THE GROUND, STOP DESTROYING LAND, AIR, AND WATER, ESPECIALLY IN INDIGENOUS LANDS!

  31. About 50 years out of date, oil, and natural gas, are not fossil fuels. That was from a joint USSR and US exploration in the 60's. No organic matter was harmed in this production.

  32. There is missing information here, especially consequences.
    Like the consequences of Seismology, especially in water, results in the suffering and deaths of countless animals, including and especially whales and over a massive area.
    Similarly you could have gotten into the consequences of fracking and the risk of nasty chemicals getting into out water supply.

  33. Yeah.. sounds like a fairy tale, we've never seen this oil making process happen, and how is it that oil can be turned into basically any chemical compound you can think of in a lab, including food flavoring…ever wonder how that is?
    Must be all those compound rich plankton seeping through rocks.. uh huh..

  34. Apparently everyone but you KNOWS that the cost of fracking has been declining to the point where it will soon be no different than that of conventional drilling.

  35. I still remember a time when they said oil sands were worthless, because of all the processing needed to extract it!! I'm not even that old, just 40!!!!!

  36. OIL WILL SOON BE OBSOLETE
    AND BE THE WORSE SOURCE
    OF FUEL THAT POLLUTE THE AIR
    AND CAUSE GLOBAL WARMING
    ENDANGERING LIFE ON EARTH
    CAN CAUSE THE EARTH'S CORE TO
    BECOME UNSTABLE LIKE A
    NUCLEAR REACTOR AND
    ERRUPT AND EXPLODE

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