Fossil Fuel Endowments in North, Central and South America

Several scientific studies, including a 2000 United States Geological Survey study, estimate that there exist large volumes of hydrocarbons in the world that “can be recovered given sufficient research and development and appropriate public policies” (Aguilera et al. 2009).  Two scientists from the Society of Petroleum Engineers used data from this USGS survey to create a model specifically designed to estimate regional fossil fuel endowments.  This method was used to estimate the oil endowments of North, Central and South America, as well as the natural gas and natural gas liquids that exist in these regions.  The scientists concluded that North, Central and South America have large petroleum endowments that will last for several decades, and these fossil fuel reserves have the capacity to “contribute significantly” to the energy needs of these regions. — Caitrin O’Brien 
Aguilera, R.F. and Aguilera, R., 2009. Oil, Natural Gas and NGL Endowment in North, Central and South America. Society of Petroleum Engineers 2009 Technical Conference, 1–8.

 Roberto Aguilera and Roberto F. Aguilera of the Society of Petroleum Engineers combined data from a 2000 US Geological Survey estimation of world petroleum supplies and a variable shape distribution model to estimate the endowments of natural gas, oil, and natural gas liquids (NGL) throughout North, Central and South America.  The USGS survey estimated average global oil endowments by assessing conventional petroleum reserves for 409 of the world’s 937 different petroleum provinces.  Unconventional oil was not assessed.  The survey also estimated the world’s natural gas endowment, but again did not include unconventional sources of natural gas.  In 2006, Aguilera developed a variable shape distribution (VSD) model, which has been used to forecast conventional oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquid endowments in the petroleum provinces evaluated by the USGS.  The authors used this model to determine oil, natural gas and natural gas liquid endowments for North, Central and South America.
Aguilera and Aguilera used the VSD model to estimate Central and South American oil endowments of 367 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe), which is significantly higher than the USGS estimate of 219 billion boe.  The natural gas endowment for these regions was nearly the same, with the USGS estimating 759 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas in Central and South America, and the VSD model generating an estimate of 756 tcf.  The VSD model estimated that natural gas liquid endowments in Central and South America are approximately 22,674 million boe, which is very similar to the USGS estimate of 22,698 million boe.  For North America, the USGS and the VSD models generated the same estimate of 434 billion boe of oil and natural gas liquids.  The natural gas for this region was estimated at 1,787 tcf for the USGS model, which compares well to the 1,772 tcf calculated by the VSD model.  The composite conventional oil endowment in North, Central and South America was found to be 882 billion stock tank barrels of oil, and the cumulative conventional natural gas endowment was estimated to be 3,440 tcf.  Overall, the authors determined that the VSD model accurately estimates the amount of hydrocarbons available in different regions, and determined that large endowments of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids exist in North, Central and South America.  If scientists and policymakers actively pursue research and development of petroleum reserves, these endowments have the capacity to last for decades.

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