BP Predicts the Future of Energy: Here's What You Should Know

A new report from BP holds its predictions for the energy world over the next two decades. Here are the key takeaways.

Jan 17, 2014 at 9:03AM

Integrated giant BP (NYSE:BP) is out with an extensive insight into what the future holds for energy. In its Outlook to 2035, BP notes the massive potential presented by emerging-market growth. At the same time, the road ahead over the next two decades isn't without a number of potholes.

There are immense challenges presented by soaring global energy demand, which BP warns will require complex solutions. Here's what BP expects to see over the next 20 years, and why it believes it will be there to profit along the way.

Global energy demand set to skyrocket
BP expects global energy demand to rise 41% between now and 2035, driven primarily by rapid expansion in the emerging markets. In addition, BP cites advanced drilling technologies that have enabled renewed production capabilities in the United States.

Interestingly, under-developed nations will account for the vast majority of the increase. A full 95% of the increase in demand will be concentrated in the emerging markets, led by China and India. By contrast, energy use in North America, Europe, and the developed economies of Asia will experience slowing growth, and even decline toward the end of the forecast period.

These findings are echoed by other energy majors, which have their own accounts of what the future of energy likely holds. Fellow energy behemoth ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) recently produced a report titled Outlook for Energy in which it states global energy demand should rise 35% by 2040.

BP's report differs from ExxonMobil's in the sense that they each see the global energy mix unfolding in different ways. ExxonMobil believes oil will retain its spot as the primary source of fuel, with natural gas taking second place and other forms in the distance. BP, meanwhile, sees a more equitable split: oil, natural gas, and coal should each represent 27% of the total mix by 2035, with nuclear and renewables accounting for the rest.

Soaring demand means rising emissions
Importantly, BP acknowledges the looming threat of greater pollution that will result from such an increase in energy consumption. In all, the company project global carbon dioxide emissions will increase by 29% over the next 20 years. The emerging markets are the primary culprit, as emissions are expected to decline in the United States and Europe.

Fortunately, BP plans to get in front of this with a series of energy-saving initiatives, and other oil majors are following suit. In recent years, BP has redesigned its chemicals plants to cut down on waste, while simultaneously increasing production. In addition, BP has targeted efficiency opportunities in its refining business. For example, it's developing new technologies in China to produce oil from hydrocarbon sources other than oil.

Rival Chevron (NYSE:CVX) has incorporated renewables into its energy mix as well. Chevron now prides itself on being one of the world's leading geothermal producers, and currently supplies 890 megawatts of electricity capacity to Indonesia and the Philippines, which is enough to serve millions of customers.

For its part, ExxonMobil recently launched two separate energy-saving programs, called the Global Energy Management System and Production Operations Energy Management. The efforts have worked in ExxonMobil's favor thus far, since total energy usage from its core operations remained unchanged in 2012 from the year prior.

A long road ahead, paved with profits
Between now and 2035, the under-developed world is about to embark on a new era of energy consumption. While BP and ExxonMobil see differences in the makeup of the global energy mix over the coming decades, both companies intend on delivering solutions.

Soaring global populations combined with rising standards of living mean the largest emerging economies, China and India, are about to see millions of new entrants into the middle class. Surging global energy demand isn't without a steep cost, but again, BP plans to be a big part of the solution going forward.

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Bob Ciura owns shares of BP p.l.c. (ADR). The Motley Fool recommends Chevron. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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