Since the 1950s, oil has been the dominant source of energy in the world. The cheap supply of oil has been the engine for economic growth in the western world. Since future oil demand is expected to increase, the question to what extent future production will be available is important.
The belief in a soon peak production of oil is fueled by increasing oil prices. However, the reliability of the oil price as a single parameter can be questioned, as earlier times of high prices have occurred without having anything to do with a lack of oil. Instead, giant oil fields, the largest oil fields in the world, can be used as a parameter.
A giant oil field contains at least 500 million barrels of recoverable oil. Only 507, or 1 % of the total number of fields, are giants. Their contribution is striking: over 60 % of the 2005 production and about 65 % of the global ultimate recoverable reserve (URR).
However, giant fields are something of the past since a majority of the largest giant fields are over 50 years old and the discovery trend of less giant fields with smaller volumes is clear. A large number of the largest giant fields are found in the countries surrounding the Persian Gulf.
The domination of giant fields in global oil production confirms a concept where they govern future production. A model, based on past annual production and URR, has been developed to forecast future production from giant fields. The results, in combination with forecasts on new field developments, heavy oil and oil sand, are used to predict future oil production.
In all scenarios, peak oil occurs at about the same time as the giant fields peak. The worst-case scenario sees a peak in 2008 and the best-case scenario, following a 1.4 % demand growth, peaks in 2018.