MARION KING HUBBERT AND THE PEAK OIL CONTROVERSY
Marion King Hubbert was born October 5, 1903, in San Saba, central Texas. He spent his childhood on farms and ranches in Texas and attended Weatherford College, a small junior college nearby, from 1921 to 1923. From there he went to the University of Chicago, where he received his B.S. (1926), M.S. (1928), and Ph.D. (1937) in geology and physics. For two years he worked in the southwestern United States as an oil geologist. In 1931, although still working on his doctorate, he began teaching geology and geophysics at Columbia University, while spending his summers exploring for minerals with the Illinois and U.S. Geological Surveys. He would stay with Columbia for ten years.
Hubbert worked for Shell in Houston during 20 years, as a prominent geophysicist.
From 1949, he worked on the idea of peak of production of the petroleum and the gas. He finds a mathematical solution of the problem. In a 1956 paper, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels, Hubbert suggested that oil production in a particular region would approximate a bell curve, increasing exponentially during the early stages of production before eventually slowing, reaching a peak when approximately half of a field had been extracted, and then going into terminal production decline. In contrast all the optimistic approaches of time, he predicts the peak of the production of the petroleum and the gas of United States for 1970.
Hubbert got a lot of things tremendously wrong with predictions consistently low. Its detractors have never failed to point out that oil production and its reserves have always increased. His predictions were swept away by improved recovery techniques, the access to the huge deepwater reserves, the Alaskan and arctic oil discoveries and the shale oil revolution.
Robert Rapier, contributor at Forbes said:
“However, this should not be considered a repudiation of Hubbert’s work. As someone who is concerned about future oil supplies, I have found the ideas that Hubbert put forward useful in understanding qualitatively what’s going on. His work also spawned tremendous awareness about the issue of peak oil and resource depletion in general. “
Dr. Hubbert wrote more than 70 journal articles and several books on ground water, structural geology, and energy resources, and his achievements brought him many honors. Dr. Hubbert died on October 11, 1989.
(Source: Columbia University/Forbes)