There are no two commodities on our planet more integral to the continued stability of modern society than oil and gas. Produced across the world, the two fuels are hugely important, though as the gradual transition from non-renewable to renewable forms of energy takes place, students of the oil and gas industry will be wondering what the future holds for the two hydrocarbons.
The energy outlook
While different sources predict different outcomes, the consensus is that despite renewable forms of energy moving to the fore, traditional non-renewable resources will still play an important role in the future global energy mix. Bloomberg New Energy Finance projections estimate that by 2040, fossil fuels will still account for 44% of generation (down from 67% in 2014), and Exxon analysts believe that fossil fuel production will rise by around 50% by the same year to keep up with demand.
While low-carbon forms of electricity will grow to represent over a quarter of the world’s energy mix by 2040, and the use of coal and oil will drop precipitously – particularly coal – natural gas will come to the fore as the fuel used to transition the world to a future powered by renewables. This naturally affords students of the industry a bright future career.
Efficiency will be key
According to Exxon, world electricity generation will grow by 90% by 2040, fuelled by an emerging and maturing middle class in India and China respectively, but fuel production will only rise by 50% during the same period. This is due to the projected increases in energy efficiency that will occur during the future, though even this respective drop in production holds hope for those working in the industry.
This is because as efficiency drives become central to every energy market and country, the need to constantly improve the infrastructure, extraction, and production processes in the oil and gas industry will require a great deal of investment.
To many, the main uses of oil and gas are for creating electricity and powering vehicles, and as such the transition to electric vehicles and renewable energies can appear rather daunting. The fact is though, that oil and gas are used for a huge number of processes, and to produce a vast variety of products, all of which are separate from their use as energy generators.
Petrochemicals derived from oil and gas are hugely important. Detergents, plastics, synthetic fibres and rubbers, paint, fertilisers, pesticides, food additives, cosmetics, medicine, lubricants, waxes, tar – chances are there are dozens of products in your vicinity that were made possible thanks to oil and gas.
While replacement products derived from plant-based sources are likely to become increasingly prominent, oil and gas and the consumer culture go hand-in-hand, and will continue to do so into the future.
A plentiful supply, captured
The growing global consensus on climate change regards greenhouse gas emissions as urgently requiring a finite future, and non-renewable sources of energy are the same – finite. For the continuation of our modern society though, we require energy, and when the lynchpins of said endurance are limited, the situation appears instantly rather precarious. Thankfully though, there are large reserves of the two fuels remaining to be extracted.
According to EDF Energy, proven gas reserves amount to 60 years-worth of production, while according to BP, around 50 years of oil remain. However, as new reserves are found, new extraction processes developed, and efficiencies made, these estimates are sure to increase.
Through the use of carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technology, the issue of carbon emissions will be tackled, but this does rely upon investment into CCS and a wide enough roll-out when applicable processes have been developed.
Far from being in its dying throes, the oil and gas industry does have a future, although that future does depend on a huge number of factors. If you want to be involved in the oil and gas industry, click here to find out about studying in this interesting, ever-changing field.