|MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology|
This is a difficult question to answer because the rate of oil production depends on the history of climate, oceanography, and life. In addition it depends on the history of sedimentation and tectonics. There are times when organic productivity is very high and the disolved oxygen content of the oceans drops and a lot of microorganisms reach the bottom without decaying and the raw materials for a lot of oil accumulate in the geologic record. Sometimes these conditions are golobal (Cretaceous period), sometimes they are local (Miocene epoch in California). Most oil is relatively young (last 500 million years or so), mostly because older rocks are much more likely tohave been exposed to metamorphic temperatures, which break oil down into graphite, CO2, and water. If we assume oil production was constant, which we know is a flawed assumption, then we can calculate the AVERAGE rate of production. But first some units... 100 liters is about 6/10 of a barrel of oil - barrels (abreviated bl) are named for the 42 gallon barrels oil used to be shipped in and they are the standard measure of oil volume. The generally accepted number for the grand total amount of recoverable oil is 1750 billion (1750,000,000,000) barrels. This includes all the oil that has already been used. There is a lot more oil in the ground that is not recoverable, but no one ever bothers to count this because it will never be economically valuable. Rounding off and simplifying a lot, this means that roughly 3,000 barrels of oil have been produced each year. Rounding off again, that's roughly 8 barrels a day or one every three hours. To make 6/10 of a barrel, or 100 liters would take about 2 hours. By the way, the United States alone consumes 17,000,000 barrels of oil each day. That means that it takes us only 3/1000 (or .003) SECONDS to burn that 100 liters of oil! You can find these numbers and lots more interesting information about world oil supply and use at http://www.hubbertpeak.com/ The name of this site refers to "Hubbert's Peak" a book by Kenneth Defeyes, geology professor at Princeton University, available at http://pup.princeton.edu/titles/7121.html. David Smith (who took economic geology from Dr.Deffeyes 20 some years ago) Discovery Center of Science and Technology, Bethlehem, PA
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