When will the Oil Age burn out?

When will the Oil Age burn out?
3 min read
16 November, 2016
Economists disagree on the exact date the world will reach 'Peak Oil' - when global oil consumption will be at its maximum - but what is a conservative estimate?
An economist from Shell believes that consumption will peak in around five years time [AFP]
The International Energy Agency has forecast that global oil consumption will peak in 2040.

The report, World Energy Outlook 2016, released on Wednesday, echoes many of OPEC's views on oil consumption and finds that policies restricting CO2 output will have the largest impact on oil usage.

OPEC also forecast last week that "Peak Oil" - the term reserved for the year when oil consumption is at its highest - would occur around 2040.

Analysts believe that the election of Donald Trump to become the next leader of the US could impact on this trend.

"I would say that Trump probably plays a part in Peak Oil," Tom Pugh, a commodities economist at Capital Economics told The New Arab.

"If Trump rolls back on efficiency standards and oil prices stay low - and the two things need to be combined - you can see a continued growth in consumption in the United States which would at least postpone peak oil demand."

Other economists disagree with this view, with some pointing out OPEC's inability to predict oil prices in the past.

"OPEC's secretariat and individual members have done a poor job calling the bottom and rebalancing for the current low price cycle," said Morgan Stanley in their weekly Commodity Manual report.

In its report, the IEA predicts a 30 pecent rise in global energy demand to 2040, resulting in an increase in fuel consumption.

"The difficulty of finding alternatives to oil in road freight, aviation and petrochemicals means that, up to 2040 the growth in these three sectors alone is greater than the growth in global oil demand," the IEA said.

The IEA - an autonomous economic  organisation connected with the OECD - also believes that this will be consistently met through fossil fuels, despite a major investment in renewable energy.

"An increasing slice of the roughly $1.8 trillion of investment each year in the energy sector has been attracted to clean energy, at a time when investment in upstream oil and gas has fallen sharply," the IEA said in their report.

"OPEC’s Secretariat and individual members have done a poor job calling the bottom and rebalancing for the current low price cycle."
Morgan Stanley


BP's latest Energy Outlook report agrees with this view and forecasts Peak Oil at around 2035.

"The increase in consumption of liquid fuels is largely driven by the increase in the global vehicle fleet, which more than doubles from around 1.2 billion today to 2.4 billion by 2035," BP said in its report.

Pugh also agrees with this view and points towards the importance of a growing logistics and transport market globally.

"You will see oil consumption in OECD countries probably peaking before you do in developing nations," said Pugh.

"This is partly because, even as cars become more fuel efficient in those countries, the increase in the number of vehicles will also offset that fuel efficiency."

Shell's CFO Simon Henry disagrees with this view and provides more a bullish projection for Peak Oil.

"That peak may be somewhere between five and 15 years hence, and it will be driven by efficiency and substitution, more than offsetting the new demand for transport," said Henry.