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Energy outlooks to 2040

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

While at IP Week on 17th February there was much discussion of energy outlooks to 2040, their contents, differentials and the comparisons as well as the points that need to be considered surrounding how to utilise the predictions.

General points

It was voiced that the future energy mix for 2040 will look very similar to the current energy mix, with coal staying flat to 2040 as people are invariably going to choose natural gas over coal. However, it was said that within the mix there is likely to be a huge growth rate in renewables but, their share of the energy mix is not going to vary hugely as renewables are starting on a smaller base than fossil fuels.

The level of oil resources currently in play was also mentioned. It was agreed by all that abundant oil resources remain worldwide and there is not yet anything to fear with regards to depletion. The shale reserves in the US, oilsands of Canada and presalt basins of Brazil as well as further imminent discoveries have cemented this.

When it came to emissions, it was thought that CO2 emissions are likely to plateau when it comes to 2040 due to energy efficiency levels and global gas use, but there will be a CO2 growth period to 2025/2030 before this plateau is seen and the benefits reaped.

Agreed points

When looking across a variety of outlooks from ExxonMobil’s to the EIA’s and beyond, there are of course agreed upon predictions and assumptions:

  • Fossil fuels will continue to dominate the energy mix.
  • Energy demand will rise.
  • Energy demand has saturated in the developed countries.
  • Energy demand could start to saturate in some emerging economies by the late 2020s, but other economies are expected to emerge to take their place.

Points of uncertainty

Yet, despite outlooks finding points of agreement, the points of uncertainty cannot be overlooked. The following were voiced as differentials:

  • Coal use.
  • Impact of energy efficiency on demand.
  • Peak(ing) oil.
  • Role of natural gas in transport.
  • Role of biofuels.


When summing up discussions on energy outlooks to 2040 there were two points that could not, of course be ignored. The fossil fuel market is of course safe for the moment as there is not a physical constraint on supply. Yet, synfuels and biofuels cannot be ignored as they could stretch the longevity of the fossil fuel industry even further. Also, global energy outlooks and international climate aspirations are not all that compatible at the moment. Policy decisions will have to be made with the demands of the energy market in mind, not just what is deemed suitable. 

Written by Claira Lloyd.

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