BP: Shale gas, tight oil to reshape global markets by 2030

The North American shale gas and tight oil revolution will reshape global markets, changing economic expectations and rebalancing trade flows, BP PLC said in its BP Energy Outlook 2030.

“As the US becomes 99% self-sufficient by 2030, oil imports’ share of its trade and services deficit will approach zero,” said Mark Finley, general manager for global energy markets and US economics at BP America Inc.

North America will continue to dominate shale gas and tight oil production growth during that period because so much of its resource base is privately owned, and drilling contractors, service and supply companies, and other support industries are heavily concentrated there, he said during a Feb. 5 presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Activity matters, in addition to rig fleet size,” Finley said. “Our research indicates North America will remain the driving force in unconventional resource development.” US unconventional oil and gas production now equals Argentina’s total oil and gas output (but with significantly more wells), and North America is expected to still dominate production by 2030, even while other regions gradually adapt to develop their resources, he added.

BP’s latest energy outlook, which it released on Jan. 16 in London, said that worldwide, there are an estimated 240 billion bbl of technically recoverable tight oil resources and 200 trillion cu m (tcm) of shale gas. Asia’s resources total an estimated 50 billion bbl of tight oil and 57 tcm of shale gas, compared with North America’s 70 billion bbl of tight oil and 47 tcm of shale gas, it indicated.

While technology and policies will continue to influence the global energy mix, Finley said prices will be the biggest factor. Crude oil’s share of total markets has declined for 13 consecutive years, and average annual real oil prices in 2007-11 were 220% than their 1997-2001 average, he noted. BP expects oil to continue losing market share through 2030 as gas and renewable energy show gains, he said.

Transportation trends

“In transportation, oil has a virtual monopoly, with 94% of the global market,” Finley said. “We expect its share to be around 80% by 2030. Where it has competition, however, oil is losing its market share.”

BP expects transportation energy demand growth to fall to 1.2%/year through 2030 from 1.9% from 1990 through 2010, primarily from accelerating fuel economy gains. This will come not just from government standards, but also from consumers, Finley said. “Basically, they put the Hummer brand out of business as fuel prices have climbed,” he observed.

Gas is expected to make only modest transportation inroads through 2030 due to limited refueling infrastructure and uncertain price prospects which will discourage major investments, according to Finley.

“The key questions for renewables will be whether their growth can be sustained with greatly reduced, or no, government subsidies, and how soon economies of scale will make those subsidies unnecessary,” he said.

“Relative prices matter,” Finley maintained. “A higher oil price drives development of more alternatives. Check back in a couple of years.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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