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Hubbert linearization: a "new method to estimate petroleum reserves and its applications to U.S.

Updated: Oct 22, 2018

Charles A. S. Hall

Professor Emeritus

SUNY - Environmental Science and Forestry

Syracuse, NY



Hydraulic fracturing for shale (tight) oil in the United States, commonly known as “fracking,” has postponed (or extended) the global peak of oil, and, for some, discredited the concept of “peak oil”.  The multi-trillion dollar question for the global economy is for how long will this “revolution” in unconventional oil (and gas) last?  Official government and industry predictions are for many decades of continued high production, but tend to use procedures that assume that most areas of a play will continue to have relatively high levels of exploitable oil.   Other analysts suggest much less.   Both use procedures that are not or are barely explicit or repeatable.   In the hope of deriving a more scientifically explicit, and hopefully more accurate, estimate of the EUR (Estimated Ultimate Recovery) for the main “tight” plays of the United States, we use the Hubbert Linearization (HL) method.   The Hubbert linearization is a means of predicting the long term behavior of an oil or gas play from the data of production from the play.  The approach was derived in an obscure conference proceedings (Hubbert 1982) that to our knowledge has not been published in the reviewed literature.  The important properties of theHubbert Linearization is that it makes one’s analysis explicit and uses essentially the only "hard" information that one has about a petroleum play,  which is production over time, data that is usually of reasonably good quality because it is used for taxation purposes.    The method has predicted to within 10-30 percent the EUR (Estimated Ultimate Recovery) of many completely depleted plays in the past, even from data before peak production, and even when the mechanisms are not fully understood.   Applying this method to U.S. shale gas and light tight oil plays predicts far lower EUR than is estimated from other approaches.  If we accept the HL as a good means of making predictions of future EUR for shale oil and gas plays, the United States will soon be facing serious oil and gas shortages.

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