What is Hubbert's curve

King Hubbert: The Peak of Petroleum Production


I wanted my new series of articles on petroleum to begin with an introduction to King Hubbert and his research, for every topic on the future of petroleum, its price, its production, and on the metals revolves around issues that King Hubbert brilliantly developed gives a half century. King Hubbert is best known for the "Hubbert Curve" and his work on the height of oil production, I will limit myself to these two topics in these lines, but later I will bring up other considerations by King Hubbert. The first part comprises a brief biography of Mr. Hubbert and a brief presentation of Hubert's curve in the second and the third part has for subject the production highlights in the United States and in the world. In the present case I have also minimized the explanations by worrying about clarity, my idea here is more to introduce King Hubbert and his work, that to explain his research later I will do it by subjects

I. King Hubbert's research on the oil production peak (the means in general).
1) short biography of King Hubbert. *
King Hubbert was born in San Saba, Texas on October 5, 1903, and received his doctorate in science from the University of Chicago in 1937, where he studied geology, physics and mathematics in parallel. He is Senior Analyst in Washington from 1942-1943, where he conducts his first studies of natural resources.
King Hubbert worked for Shell in Houston for 20 years, where he was a geophysicist, then director of exploration and production and finally, chief consultant in geology. He leaves Shell in 1963.
He is also a research geophysicist at US geological survey and professor of geology and geophysics at Stanforde University. He left Stanforde University in 1968 and returned to the college world in 1973 at Berkeley, California. He retired in 1976 while remaining active within the US geological survey. He died on October 15, 1989 at the age of 86.

2) the "Hubbert's curve“.
The "Hubbert's curve“Allows to have a theoretical curve of oil production. The curve of exploration in the same form as that of production, but the peak of the curve of exploration arrives much earlier than that of production, so starting from the peak of oil exploration in the United States in 1948 - 1949 it was possible to reach the peak of the production of petroleum predict in the latter in 1970. According to this, starting from the height of world exploration in the 1970s, it anticipates the future oil production high point. The wars and crises in the field of energy make this curve more chaotic in practice, but that does not change the trend. Once the past peak of production has passed, the basic tendency will be a decline in long-term production, wars and crises will only cause production to decline, or to increase production in the short term and in the long term will not change anything.

II. The US peak of production.**
1). The production highlights:
From 1949 King Hubbert works on the idea of ​​peak production of petroleum and gas (but also of metals, coal and uranium). He found a mathematical solution to the problem in 1956. The idea is that natural resources are in limited quantity and that with their production they will sooner or later pass through a production peak, and then gradually decline. King Hubbert's job is to calculate the date of these production peaks. Contrary to all optimistic concepts of the time, he predicts in 1956 the peak of oil and gas production in the United States in 1970. The US administration will not take their work into account, and the accuracy of its calculations will not be recognized until 1973 at the height of oil and gas production in the United States.
2) the peak of the production of petroleum in the United States has occurred:
Here is King Hubbert's graph of the future of oil and gas production in the United States in 1956:

Here is the production of petroleum and the United States from 1900 to 2005:

III. Peak of worldwide oil production according to King Hubbert.
1). The peak of production of global petroleum production:
King Hubbert's work on the oil spike was not confined to the United States; he also indicated the future production peak for world oil production.
Here is King Hubbert's graph of the future production peak of world oil production in 1956:

It can be seen that the peak of production is in the zone around 2000 ...
Here, where global oil production is today:

2) where are we?
Every day on television, in the newspapers on the radio, the justifications for the price of oil brought up are cyclical (war, geopolitical tension ...) and never are structural (oil production is at its maximum while demand is increasing). The short-term economic crises have an impact on production and the price of oil because there is a big structural problem: near the peak of oil production, it is difficult to know which moment "T" the peak will take place or has had, but it does appear that we are not far from it.
The signals are numerous to confirm to us that King Hubbert also has reasons for the peak of oil production in the world (competition for funds from some countries, rise in prices, arduous increase in production, difficulties in renewing funds for the oil companies, tensions with the producing countries, the OPEC, which no longer defends the rise in prices but the decline, lie on the reserves of companies and countries ...).
King Hubbert is the pioneer of research on peak production in general, and about oil in particular, he has given answers that he has been able to defend with courage for years, despite the fact that he is against the current of all the concepts that existed at the time. However, his success in estimating the peak of oil production in the United States in 1970, his calculations for the peak of world oil production in 2000 are not yet accepted by the economic and political community, for the question has not been around since long to know if the peak of production will happen, but when it will.
King Hubbert qualified by some pessimists, but what to call those who ignore the problem?

Dr Thomas Chaize


*: Marion King Hubbert. "Biographical sketch, Handbook of Texas Online, 1990.

Tribute to M. King Hubbert. "National Academy of Sciences, Letter to Members 19 (April 1990).

**: hubbertpeak