1 More Reason OPEC Needs to Worry

Photo credit: Flickr/Eli Christman

Global energy giant BP (NYSE: BP  ) recently released the fourth edition of its BP Energy Outlook 2035 which provides its view of the most likely developments in the global energy markets. That outlook is rather grim for OPEC. Not only does it project U.S. oil imports will plunge by 75%, but it sees overall energy demand growth slowing down.

Top customer becomes self-sufficient
For years America has been filling OPEC's bank account as we've imported its oil. That was before American wildcatters like Continental Resources (NYSE: CLR  ) CEO Harold Hamm and EOG Resources' (NYSE: EOG  ) Mark Papa pushed their companies to the limit in order to figure out a way to get oil from tight rock formations. Now these companies are leading the way in pumping millions of barrels of oil out of North Dakota's Bakken Shale and Texas' Eagle Ford Shale.

Increasing production from these tight oil resources leads BP to believe that the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer of liquids this year. Further, it sees American oil imports plunging by nearly 75% between 2012 and 2035.

Both EOG Resources and Continental Resources have the assets in place to deliver this growth. EOG Resources, for example, sees more than 10 years of high rate-of-return production growth as it takes money out of OPEC's pocket and puts it in the pockets of its own investors. Continental Resources sees similar growth as it's planning to triple its production and its reserves from 2012 levels by 2017. Neither company sees America's energy boom ending any time soon.

The bigger worry
That said, American energy self-sufficiency isn't even OPEC's biggest worry at the moment. Instead, the biggest issue facing OPEC is that the rate of energy demand growth is expected to slow down. BP is forecasting global energy consumption growth of 41% from 2012 to 2035. However, that's slower than the 55% growth over the last 23 year period and well off the 30% growth we've seen in the past decade alone. Further, BP sees annual growth moderating from 2% annualized growth between 2012 and 2020 to just 1.2% annual growth thereafter.

This has some analysts projecting that OPEC's spare production capacity will balloon in the coming years. According to the International Energy Agency, the group's spare production capacity was at 3.37 million barrels per day as of this past November. That could balloon to more than six million barrels per day by 2018 according to BP's Chief Economist.

Final thoughts
Not only is one of OPEC's top customers on pace to become energy self-sufficient, but the rate of growth of its new emerging customers is projected to slow in the coming years. That's not the picture it wanted to see painted of its future. It is, however, great news for America as we'll be keeping more of our money. It's also positive news for its environment because slowing demand for fossil fuels will also slow global carbon emissions growth. While much work needs to be done, there's a lot to like in BP's most updated energy outlook.

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Matt DiLallo

Matthew is a Senior Energy and Materials Specialist with The Motley Fool. He graduated from the Liberty University with a degree in Biblical Studies and a Masters of Business Administration. You can follow him on Twitter for the latest news and analysis of the energy and materials industries:

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