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ECN publication
Resources and future availability of energy sources
Published by: Publication date:
ECN Policy Studies 1-6-2005
ECN report number: Document type:
ECN-C--05-020 ECN publication
Number of pages: Full text:
90 Download PDF  


This assessment is a quick scan and analysis of recent literature on the resources and availability of fossil, renewable, and fissile energy sources. The fossil energy sources are oil, gas, and coal; the renewables covered are wind, solar, and biomass; and the fissile energy sources are uranium and thorium. The results of the scan and analysis of literature data are described, and preliminary conclusions are drawn.

A peak in oil production may be deferred to, e.g., 2035, if the next conditions would be fulfilled:

· Global oil demand does not increase significantly.

· Resources of conventional oil (e.g. Middle East) prove to be relatively large.

· Unconventional oil resources turn out to be large and producible in sizeable quantities.

The oil price hinges on the balance between oil demand and supply. The oil market will tighten when ?Peak Oil? approaches. If this happens in the near future, the oil price could remain high. Gas production scenarios show that a peak may occur between 2020 and 2050. The peak may be deferred by a slowly increasing demand during the next decades, and by successful exploration and production of conventional gas. Unconventional gas resources are huge, but it is uncertain to which extent they would be producible.

Coal reserves are rather evenly spread around the globe, and a peak in coal production in the next 50 years is not envisioned. Also a peak in production of uranium and thorium is not envisioned in the first half of the 21st century. Current use will not lead to a quick depletion.

Renewable energy sources are by definition infinite, although their potential is bounded by geographical constraints. The global and regional availability has been estimated for wind energy, solar energy (PV), and biomass, together with a description of factors influencing this availability. Specific analyses show that in 2035, onshore wind, offshore wind, and PV could produce approximately 7, 18, and 6%, respectively, of total power generation in the EU-15. The use of biomass - energy crops, agricultural and forestry residues, and organic waste - in the EU-15 may possibly increase from 2.1 to 7 EJ/a in the period 2000-2050. Approximately one-third of this potential could be made available by energy crops. On the long term, countries with surplus biomass potential could develop into exporters of bioenergy (biofuels from biomass).

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