One of the world’s largest oil companies – ExxonMobil – expects considerable renewable energy growth over the next 30 years, primarily for power generation and mostly from wind.
The oil and gas giant presented the results of its “2012 The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040,” to a group of energy professionals, members of academia and the media at the New York Energy Forum recently.
“You don’t get breakthroughs without doing research, but research doesn’t guarantee breakthroughs,” Tom Eizember, Planning Manager, Corporate Strategic Planning for Exxon told the audience, highlighting the risk associated with making large research investments. Though such investment may be risky, research will continue to unlock the technology advancements the US energy sector has come to both depend on for growth and to define its pioneering reputation.
Nevertheless, Exxon’s energy outlook expects existing technologies, demographics and economic growth to be the main engines that facilitate the considerable energy supply increase needed to meet anticipated energy demand growth over the coming decades.
Using population and economic growth as baselines for its analysis, Eizember highlighted the following points from Exxon’s outlook:
- 80% of the global population will be located in the developing world by 2040, while most GDP growth will come from the developed world, but energy use in developed economies will be flat or decline
- China’s energy use flattens post 2030 because the country has been focusing on constructing highly efficient, state-of-the art energy infrastructure
- Power generation leads energy consumption, specifically for industrial usage and residential/commercial electric requirements
- Industrial energy consumption will be led by chemical production and heavy manufacturing
- India’s population overtakes China’s around 2030, but India (and Africa) will have fewer households because they tend to be larger and accommodate extended families – the trend in China is toward many smaller urban dwellings
- Light duty vehicles (mostly cars) grow most in China and the non-OECD – the OECD experiences a slight light duty vehicle increase
- Around 2030, the number of diesel and gasoline powered vehicles begins to decline, while hybrids, electric vehicles and natural gas vehicles increase, led mostly by hybrids – Eizember pointed out that a gasoline tank with a 350-mile range costs about $10 to manufacture, while an LNG tank with a 200-mile range costs about $6,000
- Traditional vehicle fuel economy (i.e. internal combustible engines) is steadily increasing and could soon surpass 40 miles per gallon, which makes it increasingly difficult for alternative fuel vehicles to compete
- Transportation fuel use in the commercial sector – heavy duty trucking, aviation, marine and rail – skyrockets due to economic growth and the associated need to move goods around
- At a CO2 cost of $60 per ton, coal is not competitive with natural gas, nuclear or wind for power generation – this carbon price assumption puts gas at $0.07 per kilowatt hour to $0.10/kWh (Exxon factors a carbon price into its strategic planning)
- Wind will experience the largest amount of growth among renewable energy sources in the US, Europe and Asia Pacific
- The fastest growing power generation sources in the US will be natural gas, nuclear (brownfield) and wind, while in China coal will be the fastest growing power generation fuel
- Canada’s oil sand production is expected to increase from around 1 million barrels per day currently to 3 mmb/d by 2040