Interesting article in today’s New York Times about the industry’s latest techniques to get more oil out of the ground and how this might mean that the peak oil pundits are wrong, as more and more oil is being recovered from existing fields.

“Within the last decade, technology advances have made it possible to unlock more oil from old fields, and, at the same time, higher oil prices have made it economical for companies to go after reserves that are harder to reach,” reported the Times. “With plenty of oil still left in familiar locations, forecasts that the world’s reserves are drying out have given way to predictions that more oil can be found than ever before”.

Examples given are the Kern River oil fielding California, that was revived when Chevron engineers started injecting high-pressured steam to pump out more oil. Production has increased from 10,000 barrels a day to 85,000 barrels. In Indonesia, Chevron has applied the same technology to the giant Duri oil field, boosting production from 65,000 barrels to 200,000 barrels a day.

And in Texas, Exxon Mobil expects to double the amount of oil it extracts from its Means field, which dates back to the 1930s. Exxon, like Chevron, will use three-dimensional imaging of the underground field and the injection of a gas — in this case, carbon dioxide — to flush out the oil.

In 2000, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that ultimately recoverable resources of conventional oil totaled about 3.3 trillion barrels, of which a third had been produced. More recently, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, estimated that the total base of recoverable oil was 4.8 trillion barrels.

Basically the industry is now turning its attention to the two out of three barrels that was normally left behind. “Ironically, most of the oil we will discover is from oil we’ve already found,” said Lawrence Goldstein, an energy analyst at the Energy Policy Research Foundation, an industry-funded group. “What has been missing is the technology and the threshold price that will lead to a revolution in lifting that oil.”