Global oil demand to grow into 2040s: BP outlook

LONDON (Reuters) - Global oil demand will keep growing into the 2040s due to higher consumption of plastic goods even as the electric vehicle fleet expands rapidly and technology revolutionizes transport, BP said in its annual Energy Outlook on Wednesday.

Pump Jacks are seen at sunrise near Bakersfield, California October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The forecast of sustained demand growth for the fossil fuel comes as other oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell brace for demand to plateau by the early 2030s while countries gradually shift to less-polluting energy.

In its industry benchmark report, BP forecasts a significant slowing of carbon emissions, which remain well in excess of goals set by governments to fight global warming.

The British oil and gas company also said current recoverable global oil supplies of around 2.6 trillion barrels are sufficient to meet demand out to 2050 twice over.

The abundance of oil could set the stage for a long-term struggle between low-cost producers such as U.S. shale companies, OPEC members in the Middle East as well as Russia and more expensive offshore production in areas such as Brazil, the North Sea and Asia, BP Chief Economist Spencer Dale said.

“Low-cost producers will use their competitive advantage to increase their share relative to higher-cost producers,” Dale told reporters.

He would not provide a forecast for oil prices.

According to BP forecasts, oil demand growth over the period is set to slow from around 1 million barrels per day to 400,000 bpd by 2035, when consumption will reach around 110 million bpd. Demand is not expected to peak before the 2040s, Dale said.

Oil demand from cars will rise from around 19 million bpd in 2015 to 23 million bpd in 2035, BP said. That will come amid rapid growth in the car fleet and despite improvements in engine efficiencies and an expected 100-fold expansion in the number of electric vehicles to 100 million over the period.

Under this scenario, electric vehicles would constitute 5 to 6 percent of the global car fleet.

BP increased its forecast for the rise in electric vehicles by 2035 from the 70 million predicted last year due to lower battery costs and higher efficiency standards, Dale said.

Technological shifts such as car sharing and self-driving vehicles that increase car usage but reduce the number of cars needed are likely to play a critical role in limiting oil demand.

“If you get a combination of a very rapid increase in electric vehicles with a very rapid increase in these new technologies the numbers involved could get bigger and more significant,” Dale said.

But while oil demand for transportation slows, the rapid growth of developing economies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East means consumption of plastics and fabrics manufactured using oil-based feedstock, will sustain demand growth.

“Key growth isn’t to power transportation ... rather oil as an input into other products, particularly into petrochemicals and fabrics,” Dale said.

BP revised down its forecast for total energy demand into 2035 by almost 1 percent relative to last year, primarily due to a revision of China’s coal demand due to slower growth prospects.

BP forecasts growth in carbon emissions to slow significantly over the next 20 years from 2.1 percent per year to 0.6 percent, the slowest rate since 1965. Emissions are projected to rise 13 percent by 2035.

Renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power are expected to quadruple, with non-fossil fuels providing half of the increase in energy consumption. Gas, seen as a less polluting fossil fuel in the transition to cleaner energy, will grow faster than oil and coal at an annual rate of 1.6 percent.

Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by Dale Hudson