David McNew, Getty Images
Industryweek 13165 030817 Oil California Davidmcnew

Oil Leaders Call on Companies to Increase Investment in New Supplies

March 8, 2017
Big oil firms cut back on exploration and development when oil prices plummeted, but energy agencies warn investment is needed to avoid a shortfall in world energy supplies.

“Our message to the oil industry here in Houston is invest, invest, invest,” Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, told attendees at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit oil and gas conference. He was far from the only one.

On Monday, Birol’s agency released a report, Oil 2017, which warned that the global oil supply could struggle to keep up with demand after 2020. The reason: a slump in investment in 2015 and 2016 caused by the collapse of world oil prices.

While production and investment have picked up recently, IEA said “early indications of global spending for 2017 are not encouraging.”

Oil demand will rise over the next five years, IEA forecasts, passing the 100 million barrels per day threshold in 2019 and climbing to 104 million barrels per day by 2022. Developing economies will account for all of the growth, IEA predicts, with Asia consuming seven out of every 10 extra barrels of oil produced.

Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, secretary general of OPEC, referred the CERAWeek attendees to a recent outlook report by the oil producers’ organization which predicted that $10 trillion in investments will be needed in the oil industry from 2016 to 2040.

Barkindo said it was incumbent on the industry to “gear up to meet the losses of the past 2-3 years and catch up.”

While Birol noted that there were record sales of electric cars last years, forecast increases in EV sales would not be enough to stem the need for additional oil in the future. Currently, about 1% of cars sold globally are electric. Even if every other car sold over the next 20 years was electric, Birol said, “we would still see global oil demand increasing.”

More Energy for More People

In an earlier CERAWeek session, Robert Dudley, group chief executive for BP, referred to the company’s latest energy outlook which found that the global population will rise by 1.5 billion people, while 2 billion will be lifted from poverty by economic growth.

This population growth will fuel a need for 30% more energy, BP found. The growth in energy demand will be slower than in the past because of increased energy efficiency measures. Still, as Dudley told CERAWeek attendees, that is equivalent to another United States or China in terms of additional energy demand.

Dudley said BP recognizes that the world is in a long-range “transition to a low-carbon” economy.  He noted that BP is one of 10 companies making up the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, which last November created a $1 billion investment fund to “accelerate the development of innovative technologies that, once commercialized, have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a significant scale.”

BP’s outlook predicts that the energy mix will lower its carbon level over the next 20 years as renewables, nuclear and hydroelectric power make up half of the growth in global energy supplies. Even so, BP researchers say oil, gas and coal will account for more than 75% of energy supplies in 2035.

Despite these changes, carbon emissions will grow 13% by 2035. BP found that carbon emissions would have to fall to meet the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, which has as its goal keeping the global temperature rise to 2°C on pre-industrial times.

In its outlook, BP noted, “The slowdown in carbon emissions growth reflects the accelerating decline in energy intensity and the pace of change in the fuel mix, with coal consumption slowing sharply - particularly in China - and gas and renewables, nuclear and hydroelectric power together supplying almost 80% of the increase in energy.

Dudley said rather than make a “big bet” on a particular technology to reduce carbon emissions, BP has a team looking at a broad spectrum of academic research, start-ups and joint ventures so it can understand the trends and make investments. He said BP recently invested in Fulcrum, a company that makes biojet fuel, and has partnered with Clean Energy to expand the use of renewable natural gas.

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!