2017,World Energy Outlook 2017 – Analysis
Once US tight oil plateaus in the late 2020s and non-OPEC production as a whole falls back, the market becomes increasingly reliant on the Middle East to balance the market. There is a continued large-scale need for investment to develop a total of 670 billion barrels of new resources to 2040, mostly to make up for declines at existing fields rather than to meet the increase in demand.
Even greater upside for US tight oil and a more rapid switch to electric cars would keep oil prices lower for longer. We explore this possibility in a Low Oil Price Case, in which a doubling of the estimate for tight oil resources, to more than 200 billion barrels, boosts US supply and more widespread application of digital technologies helps to keep a lid on upstream costs around the globe.
Extra policy and infrastructure support pushes a much more rapid expansion in the global electric car fleet, which approaches 900 million cars by 2040. Along with a favourable assumption about the ability of the main oil-producing regions to weather the storm of lower hydrocarbon revenues, this is enough to keep prices within a $50-70/barrel range to 2040. However, it is not sufficient to trigger a major turnaround in global oil use.
Even with a rapid transformation of the passenger car fleet, reaching a peak in global demand would require stronger policy action in other sectors. Otherwise, in a lower oil price world, consumers have few economic incentives to make the switch away from oil or to use it more efficiently.
Meanwhile, with projected demand growth appearing robust, at least for the near term, a third straight year in 2017 of low investment in new conventional projects remains a worrying indicator for the future market balance, creating a substantial risk of a shortfall of new supply in the 2020s.