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IER: Fossil fuels stay dominant to 2040

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its International Energy Outlook 2016 indicating that fossil fuels will supply over 75% of the world’s fuel consumption through to 2040. Petroleum and other liquid fuels will garner a 30% share in 2040, natural gas at 26%, and coal at 22%. Natural gas is expected to surpass coal in 2030 as the world’s second most consumed fuel source. Even with the incorporation of EPA’s so-called ‘Clean Power Plan’, coal is projected to continue to have a 22% share of the global fuel market in 2040. Both renewable energy and nuclear energy increase their shares as some countries continue to implement policies to decrease carbon dioxide emissions.

Despite those policies, carbon dioxide emissions will increase from 32 billion t in 2012 to 43 billion t in 2040, a 34% increase. The EIA’s projections are based on current laws, regulations, and announced policies, where such indicators have historically been reliable guides.


Global energy consumption is expected to increase almost 50%, between 2010 and 2040, from 549 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2010 to 815 quadrillion Btu in 2040. Developing Asia accounts for more than half of the increase as its population and economies expand. The non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries consume 65% of total world energy consumption in 2040, up from 57% in 2012. The industrial sector accounts for the largest share of delivered energy consumption, consuming over half of the world’s delivered energy in 2040.


Petroleum and other liquid fuels remain the largest source of energy through the forecast period, but their share drops from 33% of the world’s consumption in 2012 to 30% in 2040. Most of the growth in liquid fuels consumption is in the transportation and industrial sectors. Although advances in nonliquids-based transportation technologies are expected, they are not enough to offset the increasing demand for transportation services worldwide.

Growth in oil production comes mainly from the Middle East, Brazil, Russia, Canada, Kazakhstan and the US. The EIA assumes that countries in the OPEC will invest in incremental production capacity to maintain a 39 – 43% share of total world liquids production through 2040, consistent with their share over the past 15 years.

Natural gas

Natural gas is the fastest growing fossil fuel in the EIA’s International Outlook, growing at 1.9%/y due to abundant natural gas resources. Sources of tight gas, shale gas, and coal bed methane contribute to its increasing production throughout the forecast period. Natural gas surpasses coal to become the world’s second largest energy source after liquid fuels by 2030. LNG is expected to play an increasing role in world natural gas trade. Projected LNG capacity additions, based on those currently under construction in Australia, Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the US, are expected to increase total worldwide LNG capacity by 30% between 2015 and 2019.


The EIA projects that coal will be the world’s slowest growing energy source, increasing by 0.6%/y through 2040. The top three coal-consuming countries, China, the US, and India, will together account for more than 70% of global coal consumption. China currently accounts for almost half of the world’s coal consumption, but the EIA expects China’s coal consumption to stabilise and decline in the later years of the projection due to a slowing economy and the implementation of policies to address air pollution and climate change. India, however, is expected to increase its coal use throughout the forecast period. While coal is expected to be the world’s largest source of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions through 2040, EIA expects its share of global carbon dioxide emissions to drop from 43% in 2012 to 38% in 2040.

Renewable fuels

In contrast to coal, renewable fuels are expected to be the world’s fastest-growing energy source, increasing by 2.6%/y through 2040.


Despite the ‘keep it in the ground’ folks who want to ‘break free’ from fossil energy entirely in global energy consumption, fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) are expected to supply 78% of the energy used in 2040, according to the EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2016.

Clearly, the world currently relies on fossil fuels to heat our homes and businesses, to transport us from home to work and our supplies from production facilities to retailers, and to help manufacture the products that we consume and produce the foods that we eat. According to EIA, this dependence will clearly continue in the future despite substantial growth in both renewable energy and nuclear power.

Adapted from press release by Francesca Brindle

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