Skip to main content

Global fossil fuel and US gas production and forecasts

The Amazon forest is burning. If you look at the satellite map in Figure 1, you will see that Brazil's tropical forest is being methodically plundered and destroyed by people who mean business. That Brazilian  "friend" of our own destroyer of the world is doing his best to encourage the burning and empower his criminal supporters. But on the multiple aerial photos of the forest, I also see drought. Parts of the rain forest are dry and ready to be burned. Global climate change is likely a contributing factor. In summary, a brutal liquidation of the priceless rain forest by the criminal farmers and ranchers running amok + climate change and drying of the forest = a global-scale calamity.
From Mike Haywood's collection of course.

And so that you have a clearer concept of what is happening here, president Trump is directly and personally implicated in the big Amazon burn. By blocking the Midwestern farmers from selling soybeans to China and US ranchers from selling beef to China, he created a giant new market in Brazil for these two commodities. The Brazilian farmers and ranchers are trying to satisfy the increasing demand by starting 80,000 forest fires. My warm regards go to the 70% of US farmers, who helped elect Trump.

In summary, we are fulfilling our destiny as a species by finishing off what we are genetically wired to do. We have always burned through the environment in which we live. The difference today is that the entire planet is our environment, so - naturally - we will burn the planet. This way, the 1.3 billion Chinese will also eat Brazil and the western hemisphere, which will switch to giant droughts all the way to Arizona and Colorado.  I will likely have to sell my beloved property in Austin, Texas, and move northwest to the coast.

Figure 1. The orgy of burning the largest tropical forest left on the planet Earth.  This picture is similar to what I have seen on the infrared satellite images from Indonesia since 1997. (Thus my 2007 OECD dinner speech.) From the map, it is clear that by commanding their murderous private militias, the rich ranchers and speculators are burning the forest from the edges inward and from the river waterways out. China needs lots of soybeans now that American farmers can no longer export our soybeans. China also needs lots of beef for their fast food joints. The Brazilian criminals empowered by Bolsonaro oblige, just like the Colombian drug lords obliged by exporting 150-200 tons/year of cocaine to their needy American customers in Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, etc. At least, the old narcos did not routinely burn the jungle in Colombia. Image source: The New York Times, "What Satellite Imagery Tells Us About the Amazon Rain Forest Fires," 23 August, 2019.

If you think that criminal behavior of the rich and powerful is new to Brazil, please listen to this short podcast with a priest in Brazil, who may no longer be among the living. With hidden cameras, my friend, Father Tiago, and others took these damning photographs of the violence visited on the poor and helpless by the same murderous thugs who are burning the forest today. During the day they masquerade as, say, policemen, and at night they are paid enforcers and killers for the rich landowners. I do pray that Father Tiago is safe. While I am writing these words with tears in my eyes, millions of the noble Notre Dames of nature are being annihilated by the Brazilian death eaters, and billions of good people everywhere are going shopping. And so it goes...

But in distress I digressed. This post is closely related to the previous one that covers global primary energy and US oil production and forecasts. Here, I will only reiterate that the cost of my forecasts will be astronomical over the next 20 years, and I doubt that the global economy will be able to support spending 14 trillion dollars for new oil and 8 trillion dollars for new gas. To put these numbers into perspective, my forecast in Figures 2 and 3 predicts that roughly two trillion dollars will be spent on drilling and completing the US shale wells alone.  The US shales will deliver almost all of American oil and gas production in the future. If one were to scale up the US shale drilling program to the world, the overall cost of the new development projects would be two times higher than the $22 trillion over the next 20 years I have quoted from IEA, BP, OPEC et al. Forty four trillion dollars is 1/2 of the world GDP in 2018.

Figure 2. Rate of drilling of horizontal shale wells in the US. The black curve is the past drilling rate from DrillingInfo. My forecast is to continue at a smaller average rate of 700 well per month for the next 20 years. Data sources: DrillingInfo, EIA, Baker Hughes, last accessed March 10, 2019.

Figure 3. As a result of the drilling program in Figure 2, 270,000 horizontal wells will be drilled. Since 82,000 wells were already drilled by 2018, 190,000 new wells will be drilled. At $10 million per well on the average over the next 20 years, this translates into 1.9 trillion dollars just for the well drilling and completions, or 3 times the GDP of Saudi Arabia. Data sources: DrillingInfo, EIA, Baker Hughes, last accessed March 10, 2019.

US gas production

Before I show you the global forecast of gas production, let's look at dry natural gas production in the US, depicted in Figures 4-7. The story here is a little different than that of the US oil production. By 2040, we will produce almost 400 EJ more as natural gas than as oil. This difference will be huge, if  both of my optimistic US forecasts turn out to be true. Only time will tell, but I want to sound optimistic for a change.

Figure 4. History of natural gas production in the US. Notice that the most recent production increases are almost entirely due to shales. Also notice that the 2018 shale cycle is more of a spike in comparison to the "2016" cycle that in turn is much narrower than the two broad conventional cycles. The 2016 cycle started in earnest in 2004 and peaked in 2016, hence its name.  Hidden in this cycle is also offshore gas. No new wells and no new production are present in this plot. Data source: EIA, last accessed July 19, 2019.

Figure 5. Historical cumulative gas production in the US obtained from integration of the curves in Figure 4. The 2018 shales provide the highest production rate ever, but not much of a cumulative increment. Data source: EIA, last accessed July 19, 2019.

Figure 6. My forecast of natural gas production in the US until 2050. The three very large future gas cycles will deliver each as much gas as the 2016 cycle. They are shorter but broader than the 2016 cycle. This means that somewhat fewer new gas wells will be drilled, but the future wells will be substantially "better" than the current ones.  In summary, my US natural gas production forecast is quite generous. The ANWR gas is included, but matters little.  Data sources: Vaclav Smil, EIA and BP, last accessed July 19, 2019.

Figure 7. My forecast of cumulative gas production in the US. The large future cycles will produce 0.4 zettaJ more gas, equal to 400 EJ, or 4 years of primary energy demand in the US. Since 1 EJ = 0.9265 Tscf, my predicted EUR of natural gas in the US is 2000 Tscf. Data source: EIA, last accessed July 19, 2019.

Global gas production

The giant fundamental gas Gaussian is still increasing, see Figures 8 and 9.  With the large future increases of gas production around the world, many-fold the US production level, natural gas will continue to be the fuel of choice for another century or so.

Figure 8. Global gas production forecast. For the time being, I have added one giant Gaussian, many time the projected future Us gas production. Data sources: Vaclav Smil, EIA and BP, last accessed July 19, 2019.

Figure 9. Cumulative global gas production is projected to reach an astronomical 11 zettaJ by the year 2040, and 17 zettaJ by the year 2100. Data sources: Vaclav Smil, EIA and BP, last accessed July 19, 2019.

Global coal production

Coal is the oldest fossil fuel of choice. Because of the very long and complex history of coal production worldwide, I had to use five Gaussians to resolve it, see Figures 10 and 11.  This complexity reflects a multitude of mines around the world that produced anthracite, hard coals, and now are producing mostly soft coals. Coal is far from done as fuel of choice for electric power stations. In fact, new mines are being opened in Australia to feed the ever hungrier India.  China will continue to import more coal as her mines are depleted and become uneconomic.
Figure 10.  Global coal production forecast.  The past production of coal is most complex among the three fossil fuels, and was resolved with 5 Gaussians.  The future coal production is lumped into one giant Gaussian from the new mines in Australia, Botswana, Mongolia, etc. Data sources: Vaclav Smil, EIA and BP, last accessed July 19, 2019.

Figure 11. Cumulative global coal production forecast.  Just like global gas, cumulative coal will reach an astronomical 11 zettaJ by the year 2040 and 13 zettaJ by the year 2100. Data sources: Vaclav Smil, EIA and BP, last accessed July 19, 2019.


Global climate change continues to accelerate. The environmental carnage inflicted by the human hordes, 7.7 billion strong, on the planet's major ecosystems is staggering. Very likely, humanity may be beyond the point of no return to biological and financial self-destruction. The ever-cautious scientists, bullied by the influential global fools, have consistently underpredicted the impacts of climate change on the future fate of humanity. (We don't really care about all other species, do we?) 

In this series of nine** posts, I have investigated whether humanity will sober up and transit to the less power-intensive lifestyles everywhere. To do so, will require a strong global control of birthrates in India, most of Africa, and many other places. Our survival also depends on depowering the richer countries and a wise transition to renewables everywhere. There is scant evidence that any of these globally-coordinated actions can happen, given the political reality in so many countries. If you still don't understand what I am implying here, let me clarify: Humanity is on a straight short path to committing global suicide by massive social unrest, financial collapse, war and ensuing starvation.

I have presented a restrained, but rather optimistic version of a possible future of global and US production of fossil fuels. Still, given the constraints I imposed on my vision of the future fossil fuel production, global carbon dioxide emissions will be cut by half by the year 2040.  It remains to be seen if  the robust continuing fossil fuel production will pay for the grand transition to renewables.  Based on Part III of the seven-part Green New Deal essay, I have grave doubts. Figure 12 depicts a possible transition of modern humanity to living happily ever after.

**Ten posts, if I count my Requiem for the Beautiful Earth that started it all.

Figure 12.  A historical, 800-year perspective of our fossil fuel civilization with my forecast of future fossil fuel production. Unless we change our current primary power supply mix to something else fast and decrease in numbers even faster, future looks bleak for human race. 

P.S. (8/28/2019)  Encouraged by their Brazilian colleagues, the similar African militias, this time driven mostly by the greedy Chinese companies, continue to burn the African tropical forests. As horrific as it is, I used the similar satellite images that showed the same equatorial Africa carnage to illustrate my alarm in the 2007 OECD paper, see Figure 18 there and compare it with Figure 13 here. That other figure shows in higher magnification the same Angola-Democratic Republic of Congo area 12 years earlier. In 2007, the leading death eaters were the European and American multinational companies burning forest for oil palm plantations that would produce the clean, environmentally friendly biodiesel for the European and American lobotomized green fools. Nothing has changed!

Figure 13. A NASA satellite map on Tuesday 08/27/2019 showed Central Africa as a thick fiery splotch, but experts cautioned that each dot represents a distinct fire in a large geographic region. Also see the Amazon forest lighting up, and the never ceasing fires on North Sumatra, West Java, Kalimantan, and West Sulawesi. North Madagascar is also on fire. Thus, the largest biodiversity islands on the planet are being exterminated by the deadly human scum (in the words of Father Tiago himself). When will they be stopped?! Source: the New York Times, citing NASA.

P.S.P.S. (8/28/2019) I stand corrected. Something has changed. In 2007, Siberia was not on fire. The whole world was not on fire.

P.S.P.S.P.S. (9/20/2019)  When I constrain my prediction of the future gas production in Figure 8 with the currently booked gas reserves, I have to decrease the height of the fundamental gas Gaussian.  The outcome is shown in Figures 14 and 15.

Figure 14. The height of the fundamental global Gaussian decreased from 165 EJ/year in Figure 8 to 150 EJ/year. Its growth rate increased, making this Gaussian a little narrower.  After this shrinkage, the fundamental Gaussian delivers a little more gas than the currently booked gas reserves.   

Figure 15. The fundamental Gaussian (green) is now constrained to deliver cumulative gas that is close to the currently booked reserves (black dotted line)

P.S.^3 (12/12/2019) The senseless meat grinder called the US gas shales is running out of cash to continue the insanely fast rate of drilling the uneconomic horizontal wells that are spaced too closely. The US O&G industry has brought the Red Queen syndrome to its logical extreme: Even if we borrow money faster than we can run, we are still losing ground.  There are other, much better solutions, but they fly in the face of the central dogma of the industry: "One today is worth to me more than one tomorrow, followed by one each day for the rest of my life."  Otherwise, this dogma is known as the time value of money. The infinitely greedy Wall Street firms and big banks played the key role in the imposition of this dogma on the industry.  My industry friends played along, because what would they do otherwise?  Admit that greed was not their second nature? Lose their companies in no time?

Alice is running ever faster with the Queen just to stand still.


  1. Perhaps American soybean farmers can provide a mirror image of the Brazilian experience by planting their useless fields with trees.

    On an even more positive note, Trump is quite capable of destroying the global market economy and precipitating a worldwide depression, which would dramatically reduce the production of fossil fuels. This may be the only positive impact of his legacy.

    1. Paul Krugman had it right today, when he described the 71% of Iowa farmers who still support Trump:

      "This apparent contradiction — Trump is inflicting the greatest harm on the people who supported him most — isn’t an accident. Farmers’ past support for Trump was predictable: The demography and culture of (white) rural America make it fertile ground for politicians promising to restore traditional society, and especially traditional racial hierarchy. But farmers’ financial distress should also have been predictable: While rural America may dislike and distrust cosmopolitan elites, the U.S. farm economy is hugely dependent on global markets, and it has inevitably been a major victim of the Trumpian trade war."

      Emotional choices we make stay with us for a long time, all consequences of our earlier rush decisions be damned. I say this, because I simply cannot believe that 71% of the white farmers are racists and white supremacists, who also like listening to a raving lunatic. It's too much...

    Answer, we CAN'T.
    Those so called "renewables" are dependent upon OIL just to exist! They need both energy dense OIL & fossil RESOURCES to be mined, processed, formed, assembled, transported & erected.

    We seem to be in a rush to destroy not only our ONLY source of A ENERGY DENSE RESOURCE but our ecosystem as well.
    We also seem to be determined to turn this once lovely planet into a human feed lot! Let's see how many humans we can feed with oil & how many we can pile on top of one another crammed into small, cramped, spaces, who needs the rest of the biosphere?
    WE DO!
    It's what keeps us alive but "mother nature" is now working to *nock off this human cancer through heat waves, floods, disease, crop failures & resource depletion.
    Our RULERS are hard at work again BANNING ABORTION, SEX EDUCATION & BIRTH CONTROL to force WOMEN into being breeding machines against their will! "They" need more CONSUMERS to expand their obscene PROFITS!

    I'm in morning for all the other living things we will take down with us. "My" swallows haven't been able to breed for YEARS, not enough INSECTS to feed them & their young. Humans have killed off too many insects with their dam GROWTH, developments, POISONS & herbicides!

    *( I don't do useless, confusing SILENT LETTERS! )

    1. Yes, dear Sheila, you are not mincing words. All your points are valid and important. I suspect that you are of the age of my children or younger. Therefore, what will happen in the next decade or so is of vital importance to the rest of your young life. Since I not only have three children, but also a grandchild, we are rowing in parallel boats. Your role is to teach and inform everyone who cares to listen. You should also vote every time, if your country allows women to vote. Good luck!

  3. I wish I were as young as you think I am, on the other hand, seeing what seems to be our future, perhaps being 79 isn't so bad. I was born as the fossil resource age was just starting to dominating our lives after WW2, I have watched the changes to our lifestyle & our environment. Paul Ehrlich's book " The population bomb" was my first wake up warning, many others followed.
    By choice, I had no children so I have no child to teach about how to cope with what's coming, if coping is even possible.
    The vast majority of people don't want to hear bad news, they much prefer the fiction of a high energy, high consumption civilization that can run on "clean, green renewables" forever into the future ignoring their dependence upon fossil resources especially oil.
    To watch our RULERS, certainly not "leaders," pushing us constantly in the wrong direction is both frustrating & anger inducing.
    If our instincts had been closer that of love making Bonobos instead of agressive Chimpanzees, we might not be in the mess we are now.
    We have been dominated by agressive MALE ANIMALS for generations, they are like chimps, constantly fighting to be THE dominant male of their group & to steal more territory & wealth from weaker males. Females in such groups are just property, sex objects & slave labor.
    Reading history has shown this to be the most common social arrangement in humans as well.

    This drive to be THE domenent male of their group has led to endless wars & suffering & it's lesser domenent male animals that do their dirty work so they can share in some of the domenent males bootie.

    We are agressive APES & that aggression & greed is destroying not only our ecosystem but our species as well.

    I try to do what little I can to preserve at least some wildlife. My little plot of land has native plants as well as some compatable aliens, I use no pesticides or herbicides, I compost all my organic matter but my body wastes end up in a septic tank & drain field. I feed our native birds & shoot a few Cowbirds that are not native to our area & our paracites on endangered local birds. I eat very little meat but going vegan is not compatable with a healthy life, we need some animal products in our diets to feed our big HUNGRY brain.

    As for "voting", in the US, our "election" system is a RIGGED FRAUD! I gave up voting for the dems after Clinton gave us the shaft with NAFTA, WTO & GATT, I haven't voted for a repug since Nixon, in 2016 I would have voted for Sen SanderS if the DNC hadn't shut him out, stolen his votes & given Hillery all those "super" delegates, this time, I'm not wasting my time "voting" in FAKE, RIGGED "ELECTIONS"!
    There have been just too dam many "irregularities", fraud, disenfranchisement, fake ballots, RACISM etc to make "voting" a valid way to change the direction of this government, we have NO VOICE in this government!

    Our endless warmongering, racism, lack of health care, growing homelessness & poverty, disappearing jobs, that "open borders" nonsense, free health care for ILLEGALS, endless lying propaganda of the corporate media including NPR & PBS, should be more than enough to get Trump reselected.
    No progressive will ever be allowed to "win" in our fake "elections" & neither will any IMPOTENT "third" party that is always SHUT OUT of the "debates" has a snowballs chance of transversing hell, to win in our FAKE , RIGGED, "elections".
    Teach your children well, let them enjoy this way of life while it lasts but try to prepare them for what seems to be coming, I hope that someplace, some humans will survive who are still self sufficient & who don't need fossil resources to survive, they are still out there.

  4. Well, dear Sheila, I stand corrected about your age, and the pleasure is mine.

    To put current events in perspective, today we have the 80th anniversary of the eruption of WWII in my home town of Gliwice, then Gliwitz. In the ensuing six years, four members of my wife's and my families were murdered in mass executions (three by the Germans and one by the Russians); three almost died after three years of slave labor in the Reich (they were rounded up together); and one spent almost 6 years in German concentration camps, losing more than 1/2 of his body weight.

    Today, then, we need to learn how to cope with current onslaught of nationalism and neo-Nazism, and figure out how to teach others, especially the young ones, better habits in life, and no more than 0-1.8 children.

  5. Tad, thanks for another great, if depressing, post. What are the prospects for the Arctic, insofar as oil deposits are concerned? Now that the first blue ocean event at the North Pole can't be too far away, drilling will become easier and easier after that - if we make it that far. I remember reading some years ago that the geology of the region was all wrong for oil, but not for natural gas. Have you any newer information you could share about that?


  6. I'm not sure why I should trust a peak oiler's view that shale gas will plummet soon. After all, the peakers talked shale gas down for the last several years. Many comments about EIA being too optimistic. And then gas has grown faster than EIA expected (so much faster than the peakers thought). And this is with LOWER prices than EIA expected OR than the peakers expected.

  7. If rig counts are a clue, than a steeply falling rig count should perk up your ears. If fewer rigs are drilling, & if CAPEX is falling, then it should be no surprise when extraction rates decline "soon". Shale oil must decline, it's a fossil resource so it's limited & not renewable, once it's gone, it's gone forever.
    Gas is not "growing" faster, their just EXTRACTING it faster which means it will be exhausted sooner.
    Then what?
    We have nothing that can replace or substitute for these fossil resources & we have 7.6 billion humans who depend upon that resource to keep increasing in availability & that's impossible.

    1. Of course, rig count will have an impact. Math is math, physics is physics. However Haynesville rigs are currently about 3.5 times as productive as they were in 2010. Appalachian rigs are almost 18 times as productive as in 2010.

      See the EIA DPR report: (click on side for details by region or even for the spreadsheets with details back to 2007.)

      So clearly, we have gotten BETTER at exploiting the resource over time. Eventually geology will win. But to date, technology has evolved faster than "running out of sweet spot has". Note also that production increased last year with relatively very few rigs (compared to 10 years ago).

      Another important point is price. We have been growing production with much lower prices than shale gas critics said was needed. (This also explains some rigs rolling off now--we are at $2.63/mmbt now and since May have been below 2.6ish (as low as 2.2 at times). So these are rigs rolling off from price, not lack of resource. If the issue were lack of resource, we would expect to see low productivity per rig and high gas prices. But we don't.

      Of course, eventually the gas will be used up. But to date, critics completely failed to anticipate the rapid rise (usually FASTER than EIA predicted), and at much lower prices than they thought possible.

  8. This superfood has the longest shelf life ever (it will outlast you)

    First off, I want to make this clear: no, it's not Pemmican.

    After some extra digging I managed to find more secrets that were almost lost to history. I'm more than happy to share them with you.

    In The Lost Ways 2 you'll not only find out what this superfood is, you'll also discover all the survival skills necessary for any crisis, including a lot method of preserving meat for over a year without refrigeration and how to make the lost samurai super food. And much, much more.

    ==> Click here to see everything you'll find in The Lost Ways 2.


Post a Comment

I would like to learn what you are thinking about my posts and encourage you to share

Popular posts from this blog

Green New Deal III - How to transit from fossil energy to renewables?

In Part I, I showed how most people have little understanding of the complex issues of global power transition from fossil fuels to renewables, and may jump to false and dangerous conclusions colored green by ignorance.  In Part II, I demonstrated that if humans continue to outdo rabbits in procreation, no energy transition strategy will ever succeed and the entire planet will become a miserable, Mordor-like dump with most nature extinct.

Here I will sketch the gargantuan scale of nonrenewable resources necessary to make the "Green New Deal" plausible.  Some of these resources are already depleted or miners cannot produce them fast enough to keep you happy.  Thus, you will not be pleased with what you read, but I am not alone. And by the depleted resources I mean not only the rich ores, easy oil and natural gas, but also the tropical and boreal forests, tundra, the Midwestern soil disappearing fast into the Gulf of Mexico in exchange for the "renewable" (not!) corn…

A brief story of the human future

Here at KAUST, we had three good rains in the last ten days. I just finished my 18 km bike ride and inhaled the vibrant shades of green of all leaves and the efervescent colors of flowers. The mangroves along the coast are growing vigorously, and today they were a bouquet of seledines reflected by the crystal clear water. It is peace where I live. Things could not be better.

Why then am I so worried? First this legal disclaimer: I am no Tralfamadorian.  I do not have the ability to experience reality in four dimensions; cannot access past, present, and future; and am unable to perceive any instant of time at will. Tralfamadorians are able to see the entire timeline of the universe, they know the exact time and place of the universe's annihilation caused by an unfortunate Tralfamadorian experiment, but are powerless to prevent the inevitable. Because they believe that when a living being dies, she continues to live in other times and places, their well-known response to death is, &…

All is well on our planet Earth, isn't it?

Please don't act with surprise when I say this: The global climate change is real; global warming is accelerating, especially in the northern hemisphere; and the positive feedbacks that will further exacerbate human condition are kicking in with vengeance.  I am stating the scientifically obvious, but I have not made it clear yet just how bad this climate change will be for us humans. For millennia, we have relied on the "free" environmental services that are going away.  These life-giving services are clean air to breathe, fertile soil, mild temperatures, healthy forests and savannas, healthy rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, sufficient rain, full aquifers, clean drinking water, and ample snowpacks.  When you are in China, in the Middle East, or in Central Valley in California, most or all of these services are either damaged or gone.

Let's fast forward to a recent article under this promising title: Climate report understates threat. This article was written by Dr.…