Peak oil draws near

Published online 25 March 2010

Mohammed Yahia

An alarming new study from Kuwait predicts that world crude oil production might peak in 2014, which is much earlier than previous models suggested.

The study, published in the journal Energy and Fuels in February 2010, used a modified, multicyclic version of the Hubbert model, which was developed in the 1950s to predict accurately when oil production in the United States would peak. The researchers present two models: one to forecast the world oil production and one to predict the production from the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Peak oil production is the point at which the oil supply reaches its maximum and then starts declining. Previous models predicted that world oil production would peak in 2020. The much earlier date put forth by the modified model adds to the pressure to find alternative sources of energy soon.

According to the paper, several countries, including the United Kingdom, China and Canada, have already reached their peak production levels. The United Kingdom has seen a steady decrease in production since 2000. Kazakhstan has the potential to become an important market player due to its high reserves; its production is expected to peak in 2020.

The OPEC members, which hold 78% of the world crude oil reserves, will see overall production peak later, in 2026. Iran and Indonesia reached their production peak in the 1970s, whereas most of the other OPEC countries will do so between 2017 and 2036. The last OPEC member to reach its peak production is expected to be Iraq, due to its huge reserves and the unstable political climate, which can affect steady production.

Ibrahim Nashawi, who is a professor at the College of Engineering and Petroleum of Kuwait University, and is the lead author of the research, argues that the world oil reserves are being depleted at a rate of 2.1% annually.

The Hubbert model is well known for its simplicity, and works successfully in some countries with stable production; however, it is not accurate for many countries that have fluctuations in production cycles due to factors such as technological development, government regulations and political issues. The researchers therefore used a modified version, the multicyclic Hubbert model, which is able to account for these factors, thereby providing a more realistic forecast.

George Jankauskas, who is a completion engineer at RWE Dea, argues that the world might have already reached peak production. "Iraq is probably the only country that still has not peaked. But the models have changed. I think we already peaked about 5 years ago."


  1. Nashawi, I. et al. Forecasting World Crude Oil Production Using Multicyclic Hubbert Model. Energy Fuels 24, 1788-1800 (2010)