Energy Industry Introduction
There is a broad, global focus today on energy as an economic, geopolitical and strategic resource. Some of the world’s leading nations, such as Canada and Brazil, are intent on fully developing their oil and gas production. Others, such as China, are focused on purchasing interests in foreign reserves and expertise. Advanced technologies, including 3D seismic, hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling, have opened up exceptional new levels of oil and gas discovery and production around the world. In fact, the application of new technologies is upsetting the former balance of power in the energy industry, making North American production much more important while lessening the influence of OPEC.
In addition, there is a greater focus than ever before on the impact of energy production and consumption on the environment. Certain nations, particularly the UK and those in the EU, have very ambitious goals to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. Worldwide, investment in the development and implementation of clean or renewable energy technologies, as well as energy conservation, will be a major priority of many governments and industries. However, this level of interest may be subject to fluctuations in the economy and the price of crude oil and natural gas. The emphasis will vary widely from nation to nation, ranging from cleaner ways to burn the world’s immense stores of coal; to the construction of advanced-technology nuclear generating plants that are exponentially safer than older models; to the use of advanced, more cost-effective renewable technologies based on solar, wind and wave power.
Nonetheless, with the exception of hydroelectric power, renewable energy sources remain vastly more expensive as an electricity resource than fossil fuel-based generation (primarily coal and natural gas). This means that they require significant government subsidies, loan guarantees or incentives in order to encourage investment. As governments in developed economies in Europe, along with the United States, continue to struggle with large deficits and debts, their willingness to back costly renewable energy projects may be dampened significantly. Japan, on the other hand, while facing its own economic challenges, will maintain a keen interest in alternative energy sources, since it has essentially no fossil fuel supplies of its own and it has changed strategies due to its nuclear disaster of March 2011.
The most important emerging nations are investing heavily in alternative energy sources, while continuing to use growing quantities of fossil fuels. China leads the world in investment in new nuclear plants, and it is installing vast numbers of wind turbines and solar facilities. (Meanwhile, it faces a serious environmental challenge due to the amount of coal it burns.) India is likewise planning multiple new nuclear plants. Brazil continues to be a leader in the low cost production and use of ethanol as a transportation fuel, while it is slowly developing some of the world’s most important new offshore oil and gas fields.
Despite immense demand for energy, supply will remain abundant for the foreseeable future. Better science, technology and engineering are being applied to exploration, production, conservation and distribution alike, with stunning success. Mature economies such as the United States and leading nations in Europe are benefitting greatly from the world’s rapidly growing supplies of natural gas (with the growth in supply coming largely from shale formations) as well as a steady supply of crude oil (with steady growth in shale oil fields, deep offshore wells and Canada’s tar sands). Conversely, total energy usage in these mature economies is on a path of decline or slow growth. For example, analysts at BP estimate that American consumption of primary energy sources (such as coal, natural gas and crude oil) declined by a bit more than 1% from 2000 to 2010. In China, however, the same measure increased by 134%, while the increase was 77% in India.
Emerging economies will continue to burn huge amounts of coal and other fossil fuels while total energy usage continues to soar. This is where the growth in consumption, and related emissions and pollution, is essentially unavoidable for the near future: in rapidly rising economies that are adopting modern industrialization, transportation (including millions of new automobiles yearly), business services and housing, with all of the energy consumption that such development demands.
Dramatic shifts in the global energy supply are occurring. Iraq, still suffering from significant political unrest but home to some of the world’s largest oil reserves, is expected to begin significant increases in production thanks to increased foreign investment. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that Iraq’s output will grow from 3 million barrels per day in 2012 to 6 million by 2020, and 8 million by 2035. This may be optimistic, depending on the level of violence and terrorism.
The IEA forecast in late 2012 that the United States will become almost self-sufficient in energy by 2035, on a net basis accounting for imports and exports. This is due largely to growing oil and gas output, but also to increasing efficiency and conservation as well as renewables. The IEA further forecast that the U.S. would be the world’s leading oil producer by 2017, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia. This trend is accelerated by the boom in oil shale fields such as the Eagle Ford in Texas and the Bakken in the North Dakota/Montana area.
Meanwhile, very exciting technologies continue to bolster nearly all facets of the energy sector, from green technologies applied to electricity conservation, to tremendous advances in oil and gas exploration technologies, to highly evolved safer nuclear technologies. At the same time, many renewable energy technologies, such as thin-film solar, concentrated solar and wave power (to name but a few), are also making significant advances thanks to substantial improvements in engineering and design. Nanotechnology, an exciting materials science, is about to find broad applications in energy production and consumption with tremendous results.
Global Energy Numbers:
Oil: According to the latest data available from analysts at energy giant BP, the world produced 86.5 million barrels of oil daily in 2012, up 2.2% from 2011 and up an impressive 14.9% from 2002. This includes unconventional petroleum output from such sources as oil sands, as well as natural gas liquids. However, it does not include alternative sources such as oil from biomass and coal derivatives.
OPEC's production represented only 43.2% of the global total.
Oil consumption in 2012 averaged 89.7 million barrels per day, up 0.9% from 2011. In the U.S., consumption of oil fell by 2.3% to 18.5 million barrels daily, accounting for 19.8% of global consumption, down from 23.9% in the peak year of 2007. China accounted for 11.7% of global consumption, while India accounted for 4.2%.
Proven reserves worldwide totaled 1.669 trillion barrels at the end of 2012, up from 1.654 trillion the previous year.
Natural Gas: According to BP, global production of natural gas was 3,364 billion cubic meters in 2012, up 1.9% from the previous year. This increase in production is due largely to shale gas.
Global natural gas consumption was 3,314.4 billion cubic meters in 2012, up 2.2% over the previous year. (The U.S. consumed 21.9% of that total. Europe and Eurasia consumed 32.6%.)
Proven reserves totaled 187.3 trillion cubic meters, enough to last several decades at today’s consumption rates. Massive discoveries of natural gas in shale formations in the U.S. and elsewhere are rapidly altering the gas industry. Likewise, vast investments in LNG infrastructure are enabling international shipment of gas from production areas such as Qatar and offshore Australia to major markets in China, Europe and elsewhere. Contracts for delivery of LNG from U.S. gas fields to be shipped to Europe have recently been signed.
Coal: Analysts at BP estimate that global production of coal was 3,845 million tons of oil equivalents in 2012, up 2.0% over the previous year. Consumption was 3,730 million tons of oil equivalents, up 2.5% over 2011.
The largest emerging nations are hooked on coal. China accounted for 50.2% of the world’s consumption in 2012, up from 42.6% in 2008. India accounted for only 8.0% of global consumption, but its usage was up 9.9% over the previous year. The U.S., where much of electric generation is fired by coal, used only 11.7% of world consumption in 2012, down substantially from 14.8% in 2010. Europe and Eurasia used 13.9% of total world consumption.
As of 2012, global coal reserves were massive at 860,938 million tons, or enough to last about 250 years at today’s consumption rates. The U.S. holds 27.6% of those reserves; Europe and Eurasia 35.4%; China 13.3%; and Australia 8.9%.
America’s Energy Numbers:
Natural gas production in the U.S. increased by 4.7%, to 681.4 billion cubic meters in 2012, a 20.4% share of the world’s total. (U.S. proven reserves of natural gas soared by 80.8% from 1991 to 2011, as both shale gas and deepwater offshore discoveries have been very significant.)
The Department of Energy estimates oil production was 6,492 thousand barrels per day in 2012. (Production was up significantly from 5,476 thousand barrels per day in 2010, and 4,950 thousand barrels per day at the recent low in 2008. These numbers do not include natural gas liquids.) This soaring domestic production has led to dramatic cuts in America's oil imports.
Investments in offshore production, enhanced recovery in older fields and newly drilled shale oil wells have paid off handsomely. Nonetheless, total production is down dramatically from the 1970 peak of 9,630 million barrels of oil. (Part of the problem is that production in the massive North Slope of Alaska peaked in 1988.) However, as the nation’s natural gas industry has been growing very quickly, and new production has ensued thanks largely to wells in shale, the total production picture of both oil and gas has improved dramatically, especially when natural gas liquids, or oil that is stripped from natural gas during processing, are included. (These gas liquids amounted to 2,399 thousand barrels per day of oil equivalent during 2012, and have been rising very rapidly.)
Historically, America’s use of petroleum led to an increase in annual net petroleum imports from 3,161 thousand barrels per day in 1970 to a peak of 12,549 thousand barrels daily in 2005. Since then, the number has been dropping steadily. In fact, the drop was 1,106 thousand barrels daily from 2011 (8,518) to 2012 (7,412). New American oil production, both onshore and offshore, has been a driver of this dramatic decline in imports. Meanwhile, the source of those imports has changed as well. Thanks to booming output in areas outside of the Persian Gulf, including Canada, Brazil and the West Coast of Africa, America’s reliance on OPEC and Middle Eastern nations for oil has plummeted. American now receives less than one-half of its oil imports from OPEC members (when measured in dollars), down from 73.1% in 1980. America’s imports from Persian Gulf nations such as Saudi Arabia are now significantly less important than they were 30 years ago.
Only 144 refineries operated in America as of 2012, down by more than 50% from 1980. However, these remaining refineries have invested heavily in additional capacity to the extent that their total refining output has grown, despite the fall in the total number of refineries. America’s substantial new oil and gas production, combined with the expansion of existing refiners, made the U.S. a net exporter of refined petroleum products in 2011, the first time since 1949.
Total American consumption of energy of all types was 95,100,166 billion BTUs in 2012, having grown about 50% since 1970. Consumption in 2012 was down 2.2% from the previous year. More importantly: in terms of BTUs consumed per year per capita, American energy use is in a steady long-term decline. That is, while the number of automobiles and aircraft per capita has grown dramatically; along with vast growth in the percentage of homes and buildings that are air conditioned; combined with tremendous increases in the number of appliances, computers and entertainment devices per person; efficiency has grown to the extent that the energy consumption of an average American declined from a peak in 2000 of 351 million BTUs yearly, to only 304 million in 2012.
By another measure, energy use per unit of economic output has fallen dramatically. On an inflation-adjusted basis, energy consumption per dollar of GDP (gross domestic product) dropped from 17.99 thousand BTUs in 1970 to only 7.28 thousand BTUs in 2009.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, electric generation in America as of 2012 used the following ratio of fuels: coal 37.4%; nuclear 19.0%; natural gas 30.6%; hydroelectric 6.8%; and non-hydro renewables such wind and solar, at 5.4%.
U.S. consumers have shown a true sea change in their preferences and priorities as a result of higher energy prices, and the era of the gas-guzzling trucks or SUVs as a standard is over. Meanwhile, consumers and businesses alike are increasingly willing to invest more in the initial cost of green buildings, high-efficiency appliances and equipment and energy-saving transportation equipment, with the promise of lower energy costs for daily operation.
Thanks to the development of advanced technologies for producing gas from America’s immense shale formations, available gas reserves are growing at a rapid rate with no end in sight. This trend is revolutionizing the electricity and petrochemicals industry, while keeping natural gas prices at very modest levels. Technologies used in shale gas fields, including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, are now being used in large measure in shale oil fields.
Oil Prices and Total Reserves:
Ever since William Hart dug America’s first successful gas well in Fredonia, New York in 1821, and “Colonel” Edwin Drake drilled the first true U.S. oil well in the state of Pennsylvania in 1859, the ability of oil and natural gas to power electric generation plants, transportation, homes and industry has created both immense economic advances and significant controversy. Many times it has been assumed that the world would quickly run out of oil. In 1939, the U.S. Department of the Interior warned that America’s oil reserves totaled only enough to fuel the nation for about 13 years. Similar misjudgments were announced on a regular basis in the mid to late 1900s by the federal government and by a continuing stream of respected reports and books by various authors. In fact, rather than becoming scarcer over time, energy, including oil and gas, became much more plentiful. Energy prices can fluctuate wildly. Nonetheless, over much of history the trend has often been lower prices on an inflation-adjusted basis, when a combination of advancing technologies, determined entrepreneurs and alternative sources exponentially expanded the total amount of energy and reserves available for consumption. The breakthrough in shale gas in recent years is a perfect example.
An estimate of crude oil resources on a global basis, published by Cambridge Energy Research Associates in 2006, was 4.82 trillion barrels—enough to take care of the world’s needs for more than 100 years. This number included oil shale and other sources that are relatively difficult to tap. Technologies will continue to be enhanced, enabling the recovery of significant portions of these resources, as long as the market price of energy is high enough to justify necessary investments in technology, exploration, development, production and distribution.
There have long been periods of major fluctuations in price for oil, coal and natural gas. Energy consumers of all types, from residential consumers to transportation firms to industrial plants, have seen oil and gas prices swing wildly, and they have often suffered the economic effects of greatly increased energy costs. Strong global demand for energy combined with political strife in many oil exporting nations could easily lead to a long-term period of relatively high market prices for crude oil. The price of Arabian light crude oil rose from about $1.85 per barrel in 1972 to about $40 in 1981 during an “energy crisis,” the peak price for many years to come. Adjusted for inflation, that $40 barrel of oil would have been $100 or so in 2012 dollars.
More recently, during 1986 and again in 1998, the price of a barrel of oil plummeted to about $10 in a short period of time. However, prices generally rose from 2003 through early 2008. In the fall of 2005, the post-Hurricane Katrina price of a barrel of light U.S. crude oil peaked just shy of $70 as the extent of the damage to Gulf Coast production became apparent. The price of natural gas more than doubled from June through October 2005, rising from about $6 to nearly $16 per million BTUs for spot market prices, compared to only about $3.50 during much of 2012-2013.
In mid-2006, the price of light U.S. crude peaked at about $80. By late 2007, it had neared $100. By mid-2008 it was over $145, but plummeted quickly into the $60s when the global financial crisis of 2008-09 slowed economies worldwide. Another significant factor in the price of a barrel of oil is the value of the U.S. dollar relative to other currencies. During recent years, the dollar has been in a lengthy slide in value, causing the price of oil (which is priced in U.S. dollars on world markets) to rise when reported in dollar terms. Of course, the value of the dollar is not the sole factor regulating the price of a barrel of oil, but it is a very important contributing factor.
Recent higher prices for oil and gas put a new emphasis on production from alternative (or “unconventional”) sources such as tar sands in Canada. These fields are significantly more expensive to produce than conventional fields. Meanwhile, offshore exploration and production will continue to be emphasized in many parts of the world, with sophisticated rigs drilling ever deeper to tap massive reservoirs, using technologies that enable the rigs to go to depths undreamed of 20 years ago. Vast new investments in very deep offshore wells in the Gulf of Mexico brought significant new production to the American market. Outside the U.S., the industry is investing quickly and heavily in deep wells offshore of Africa, Brazil and elsewhere.
Consumers and business organizations alike are attempting to insulate themselves from high energy costs. Many are reacting with new conservation efforts. For example, Toyota’s hybrid-powered automobiles have been a huge success. Greatly enhanced building materials and appliances that provide much greater energy efficiency are becoming standard in developed nations. Meanwhile, the growing industrial base and middle class in many parts of the globe, particularly India and China, are putting new strains on energy supplies while energy emissions are creating new environmental concerns.
A significant portion of oil consumption is used as fuel for transportation, including cars, aircraft and trucks. There is no end in sight to the need for power and fuel in developed and emerging economies such as the U.S., the European Union, Japan, India and China. Although the world has made an immense investment in electric supply infrastructure, as much as one-third of the world’s population either has no access to, or cannot afford, a steady supply of electricity.
In 1892, Thomas Alva Edison established the Pearl Street Station in New York City—the world’s first central electric power station. By the 1920s, electricity was in common use in American buildings and homes. Fuels for electric generation vary widely around the globe, but coal and natural gas are common sources. In Europe, a large portion of electricity is generated by nuclear plants, especially in France, and massive investments are being made in European solar and wind generation. A looming question is whether America and major nations in Europe will resume significant construction of nuclear generation plants. The fact that several nuclear plants were destroyed by a tsunami at Fukushima, Japan in early 2011 makes significant new development of nuclear sites even more controversial. Meanwhile, advanced generation nuclear technologies have the potential to provide much greater operating efficiencies with vastly increased safety over the plants constructed in earlier years, and the nations of China, India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are likely to move ahead with massive nuclear plant construction plans that are already in place. China may construct as many as 90 new nuclear plants over the long term.View More
Video Introduction to Energy & Utilities, Oil & Gas Industry