Beyond Peak Oil


New York Times: The Breaking Point – Sunday August 21, 2005

“Even if the Saudis are willing to risk damaging their fields, or even if the risk is overstated, Husseini points out a practical problem. To produce and sustain 15 million barrels a day, Saudi Arabia will have to drill a lot more wells and build a lot more pipelines and processing facilities. Currently, the global oil industry suffers a deficit of qualified engineers to oversee such projects and the equipment and the raw materials — for example, rigs and steel — to build them. These things cannot be wished from thin air or developed quickly enough to meet the demand.

‘If we had two dozen Texas A&M’s producing a thousand new engineers a year and the industrial infrastructure in the kingdom, with the drilling rigs and power plants, we would have a better chance, but you cannot put that into place overnight,’ Husseini said. ‘Capacity is not just a function of reserves. It is a function of reserves plus know-how plus a commercial economic system that is designed to increase the resource exploitation. For example, in the U.S. you have infrastructure — there must be tens of thousands of miles of pipelines. If we, in Saudi Arabia, evolve to that level of commercial maturity, we could probably produce a heck of a lot more oil. But to get there is a very tedious, slow process.’ ”

So reading this today it occurred to me small energy has a similar problem to large energy, getting qualified trained people with access to materials. Except it is a lot easier and cheaper to train somebody to make biodiesel or site some hydro locations, foundry cast a couple hundred Pelton turbines and convert some alternators into generators than it is to train somebody how to drill through half a mile of rock and extract some crude. Somehow, considering I’m training people to build biodigesters on the same budget it would take an oil company to treat an equal number of Texas A&M students to lunch, I think I’ll have an easier time finding and training people than they will . . .