Marion Hubbert

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Marion Hubbert
M. King Hubbert headshot.png
Membership Honorary Membership

Marion King Hubbert (October 5, 1903 – October 11, 1989) was a geoscientist who worked at the Shell research lab in Houston, Texas. He made several important contributions to geology, geophysics, and petroleum geology, most notably the Hubbert curve and Hubbert peak theory (a basic component of Peak oil), with important political ramifications. He was often referred to as "M. King Hubbert" or "King Hubbert". Among many other accolates, Hubbert was an Honorary Member of SEG.

Dr. Hubbert also served as the Editor of ''Geophysics'' in the years 1947-1948 and 1948-1949.[1]

Biography[2]

Hubbert was born in San Saba, Texas. He attended the University of Chicago, where he received his B.S. in 1926, his M.S. in 1928, and his Ph.D in 1937, studying geology, mathematics, and physics. He worked as an assistant geologist for the Amerada Petroleum Company for two years while pursuing his Ph.D., additionally teaching geophysics at Columbia University. He also served as a senior analyst at the Board of Economic Warfare. He joined the Shell Oil Company in 1943, retiring from that firm in 1964. After he retired from Shell, he became a senior research geophysicist for the United States Geological Survey until his retirement in 1976. He also held positions as a professor of geology and geophysics at Stanford University from 1963 to 1968, and as a professor at UC Berkeley from 1973 to 1976.

Hubbert was also an avid technocrat. He co-founded Technocracy Incorporated with Howard Scott. Hubbert wrote a study course that was published without authorship called Technocracy Study Course, the precedent document of that group which advocates a non-market economics form of energy accounting, in contrast to the current Price System method. Hubbert was a member of the Board of Governors, and served as Secretary of education to that organisation.

Hubbert made several contributions to geophysics, including a mathematical demonstration that rock in the Earth's crust, because it is under immense pressure in large areas, should exhibit plasticity, similar to clay. This demonstration explained the observed results that the Earth' s crust deforms over time. He also studied the flow of underground fluids.

Hubbert is most well known for his studies on the capacities of oil fields and natural gas reserves. He predicted that, for any given geographical area, from an individual oil field to the planet as a whole, the rate of petroleum production of the reserve over time would resemble a bell curve. Based on his theory, he presented a paper to the 1956 meeting of the American Petroleum Institute in San Antonio, Texas, which predicted that overall petroleum production would peak in the United States between 1965, which he considered most likely, and 1970, which he considered an upper-bound case.[7] At first his prediction received much criticism, for the most part because many other predictions of oil capacity had been made over the preceding half century, but these had usually been based on the reserves-to-production ratio, had not taken into account future discoveries, and had proven false.[8] Hubbert became famous when this prediction proved correct in 1970.

Between October 17, 1973, and March 1974, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) ceased shipments of petroleum to the United States, because of the U.S. giving relief to Israel during the Israeli–Arab war, thus causing what has been called the 1973 energy crisis. In 1975, with the United States still suffering from high petroleum prices, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed their acceptance of Hubbert's calculations on oil and natural gas depletion, and acknowledged that their earlier, more optimistic estimates had been incorrect.[citation needed] This garnered great media attention for Hubbert.

In 1974, Hubbert projected that global oil production would peak in 1995 "if current trends continue". Various subsequent predictions have been made by others as trends have fluctuated in the intervening years. Hubbert's theory, and its implications for the world economy, remain the only factual proof about the case. Hubbert believed that solar power would be a practical renewable energy replacement for fossil fuels, and that nuclear energy in breeder reactors would be able to sustain us for centuries.[7] He also states that "provided world population can somehow be brought under control, we may at last have found an energy supply (uranium) adequate for our needs for at least the next few centuries of the 'foreseeable future.'"

Research

A bell-shaped production curve, as originally suggested by M. King Hubbert in 1956 Hubbert made several contributions to geophysics, including a mathematical demonstration that rock in the Earth's crust, because it is under immense pressure in large areas, should exhibit plasticity, similar to clay. This demonstration explained the observed results that the Earth' s crust deforms over time. He also studied the flow of underground fluids.

Hubbert is most well known for his studies on the capacities of oil fields and natural gas reserves. He predicted that, for any given geographical area, from an individual oil field to the planet as a whole, the rate of petroleum production of the reserve over time would resemble a bell curve. Based on his theory, he presented a paper to the 1956 meeting of the American Petroleum Institute in San Antonio, Texas, which predicted that overall petroleum production would peak in the United States between 1965, which he considered most likely, and 1970, which he considered an upper-bound case. At first his prediction received much criticism, for the most part because many other predictions of oil capacity had been made over the preceding half century, but these had usually been based on the reserves-to-production ratio, had not taken into account future discoveries, and had proven false. Hubbert became famous when this prediction proved correct in 1970.

Between October 17, 1973, and March 1974, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) ceased shipments of petroleum to the United States, because of the U.S. giving relief to Israel during the Israeli–Arab war, thus causing what has been called the 1973 energy crisis. In 1975, with the United States still suffering from high petroleum prices, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed their acceptance of Hubbert's calculations on oil and natural gas depletion, and acknowledged that their earlier, more optimistic estimates had been incorrect.[citation needed] This garnered great media attention for Hubbert.

In 1974, Hubbert projected that global oil production would peak in 1995 "if current trends continue".Various subsequent predictions have been made by others as trends have fluctuated in the intervening years. Hubbert's theory, and its implications for the world economy, remain the only factual proof about the case.

Hubbert believed that solar power would be a practical renewable energy replacement for fossil fuels, and that nuclear energy in breeder reactors would be able to sustain us for centuries. He also states that "provided world population can somehow be brought under control, we may at last have found an energy supply (uranium) adequate for our needs for at least the next few centuries of the 'foreseeable future.'"


Contributions

Hubbert's contributions to science have been summarized as follows:

  • Correct statement of Darcy's Law.
  • Mathematical demonstration that rock in the Earth's crust is plastic, and that the Earth's crust deforms over time.
  • Prediction of migration paths of hydrocarbons.
  • Demonstration that the Earth's endowment of crude oil is finite, that the rate of oil production reaches a maximum (i.e., peaks) when approximately half of the original resource remains, and thereafter goes into irreversible decline.[3][4]

References

  1. Clark, D. (2010), Out of the past. The Leading Edge," 75(5), 75A263-75A271.
  2. Clark, R. (1983).”King Hubbert.” The Leading Edge, 2(2), 16–24.
  3. M. King Hubbert, 86, Geologist; Research Changed Oil, October 17, 1989 The New York Times Production [1]
  4. Wikipedia article on M. King Hubbert [2]