High-tech extraction methods are delaying the peak of world oil production

Remember the predictions that the world was at or near the peak of oil production? Sigh with us now, for industry is using high-tech methods to suck oil from wells once considered tapped out. Thanks to steam and carbon dioxide injections, as well as 3D modeling, Big Oil is breathing new life into old oil fields: Chevron, for instance, is now extracting 200,000 barrels a day from an Indonesian field that oozed a mere 65,000 barrels a day in the 1980s. Energy pros have revamped the estimate of recoverable oil in the world — including the trillion or so barrels already used — to 4.8 trillion barrels, from 3.3 trillion. “It’s not over until you abandon the last well, and even then it’s not over,” says a Chevron geophysicist. That’s good news for energy suckers, since plans to rely heavily on coal are stalled in lawsuits. “Until new technology makes coal-burning cleaner in three to five years,” says industry analyst Richard Price, “it’s gonna be real tough to get new [coal] plants built.”