– is the planet making more oil?


We know that oil is formed from prehistoric plants being converted to oil under pressure in the earth’s crust. Is this process still happening, but we’re not able to access new sources due to using current resources too quickly, or is there only a finite amount and we’re going to run out entirely one day?

In: 70

Yes and no.

There is some carbon material yet to develop into oil in the crust of the planet. There is a finite supply of it though and that of which we can reach easily.

We will eventually run out but we are still finding some new sources here and there.

We can artificially create oil in a lab but it’s yet to be cost effective and energy efficient for purposeful use.

Not really. The reason is that there was lots of stuff that died before there were microbes, such as fungi, to decompose things. Because things didn’t decompose for millions of years, it just kind of built up a layer of bio-mass that never rotted away.

All of that bio-mass eventually got covered up by dust, dirt and more dead things. Once it was deep enough under ground, heat and pressure changed it into “hydrocarbons” or a soup of chemicals that are the Building blocks of energy.

Since mushrooms and other microbes evolved to consume dead things, there just isn’t as much bio-mass being generated to create more oil. It also took an enormous amount of time to accumulate enough dead things for all of that to happen, so utnis very unlikely that it will haooen again the same way.

Oil is produced over the course of tens of millions of years. The process is still happening, but it is so slow compared to the duration of our lives that we can consider the total amount of oil on the planet to be constant.

This doesn’t mean we have discovered all the oil deposits though : finding oil requires complex analyses of the ground, sometimes underwater, and we haven’t done that everywhere.

We aren’t going to wake up one day and find that there’s no more oil. The process will be longer and has already begun. The more oil is extracted, the more difficult the next deposits are to find and to exploit : they are deeper, in more remote places, sometimes underwater, of lesser quality… In the XIXth century, people sometimes just dug in their garden and found oil. Today we need to dig several kilometers. Since there is less and less oil, and less and less exploitable oil, the production must reach a peak, and then decline. This is called “peak oil”.

Peak oil has been reached in 2006. However, we started extracting a new kind of oil : shale oil, more polluting and more difficult to extract, but still profitable now that conventional oil is becoming scarce. Shale oil has pushed back peak oil to around 2030. From around 2030, oil production will start to decrease (assuming the decrease of oil production is not organized before, to address climate change… but I have little hope)

Yes, plants make oils, some of this is turned into HVO and BioDiesel and used directly, bypassing the fossilisation phase. The problem is efficiency, a PV panel is typically 20% efficient, for 100W of sunlight you get 20W of usable energy. Photosynthesis is 5% efficient and only a small portion of that goes to making fats and oils and further energy is required to extract the oil, process it for use and transport it to the point of use. In addition biofuels compete for space with food production.

Synthetic alternatives are possible, blue crude, however compared to electricity transmission and battery or pumped hydroelectric storage it’s really inefficient so will only be necessary where electrification is not feasible.

Round trip efficiency is much lower for synthetic fuel ~21% for methanol or diesel, 30% for Hydrogen fuels than the ~80% figure for batteries.

So yes it is possible but uses 4x as much energy as battery storage so probably isn’t worth doing at scale compared to building batteries.

Yes the process the produces oil is still active, and will be as long as there is biological matter living and dying.

The reason why we will actually soon-ish consume all available oil is because our **rate of consumption** is much higher than the natural **rate of natural generation**. This is the definition of a renewable or non renewable raw material.

Plus the technical-economical issue of extracting hard to reach reservoirs.

Oil is not renewable at our current rate of consumption. **Almost anything** is non renewable at our rate of consumption. Carbon, nuclear fuel, water, forests, animals, lithium… We are ravenously devouring most resources, some of them have big enough “buffers” not to concern us, but we are driving animal species to extinction, steadily reducing clean water reservoirs, ravaging woodlands and so on.