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Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba is a writer and journalist based in Mexico City. She has extensive experience writing and editing environmental features, travel pieces, local news in the…

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The World Still Needs Hundreds Of Billions Of Barrels Of Oil


Has peak oil demand already come and gone? That’s an exceptionally hard question to answer. There are some experts that say unequivocally, yes. They claim that peak oil is already upon us, thanks to the crushing blow that the Covid-19 pandemic dealt to global oil demand as well as the ever-escalating worldwide transition toward clean energy. But there are just as many who say that the world’s thirst for oil still has a long way to go before we hear its swan song.

Regardless of whether oil demand has peaked or plateaued during the pandemic, what is undeniably true is that the world is going to burn a whole lot more oil in the future before the global community is able to decarbonize entirely - a goal that is still a long, long way off, no matter who you ask. 

“The world is expected to burn hundreds of billions of barrels of oil in the coming decades,” Bloomberg Markets reported this week. “That gives plenty of incentive for giants like Total or Royal Dutch Shell Plc, plus the hundreds of smaller explorers that remain in business, to keep searching the world’s frontiers for the next place to sink their drill bits.” Indeed, French supermajor Total SE is expected to get approval for a new multibillion-dollar project over the coming weekend that would drill into as yet untapped oil fields in Uganda and Tanzania. Total’s East African venture will cost around $5.1 billion and involve drilling along the shoreline of Lake Albert in Uganda, as well as constructing a 1,443-kilometer (897-mile) heated pipeline to deliver the extracted waxy crude to Tanzania’s port of Tanga, from where it will be exported. 


This is an alarming bit of news for environmentalists and advocates of “keeping it in the ground.” Back in 2015, a peer-reviewed empirical study published in the journal Nature found that in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, at least 80 percent of the known fossil fuel reserves in the world would have to remain unextracted. (That figure includes over 90 percent of U.S. coal and a full 100 percent of arctic oil and gas reserves). 

Related Video: The Conditions Are Ripe for A Second Shale Boom

So far, that stance has remained relatively relegated to environmentalist spheres. To date, BP Plc is the one and only oil major that has explicitly acknowledged the end of the oil era, conceding that demand growth will no longer be the norm in the very near future. “The rest of the industry still expects at least another decade or so of demand growth before the global need for oil maxes out,” Bloomberg Markets reports. “And even BP’s less bullish outlook shows a world where a lot more petroleum will be used.” According to BP’s “business as usual” model, in which oil demand stays steady and there is little or no progress to reduce the industry’s carbon emissions, an additional 1.1 trillion barrels of oil will have been consumed in the next 30 years, by just 2050.

The good news is that some of the carbon produced by the combustion of all those fossil fuels in the coming decades can be offset or captured. With concerted combined efforts from the public and private sectors to scale up carbon capture initiatives, the oil industry’s contribution to the global carbon footprint can be lessened to some degree in the time between now and the long-term goal of 100 percent renewable energy. What happens in the world’s energy industry this decade is of utmost importance for the world’s overall ecological future. Accepting that oil won’t disappear overnight will be an important part of making sure that we navigate away from our current course toward the most severe effects of climate change.

By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com


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  • Mamdouh Salameh on April 14 2021 said:
    The world is projected to need a minimum of 1.1 trillion barrels of oil between now and 2050 based on an average global oil demand of 103 million barrels a day (mbd).

    And contrary to claims about impending peak oil demand, global oil demand will continue to grow in absolute terms because of rising world population and growing global economy. Global GDP is projected to double in 2037 to $175 trillion from $87.55 trillion in 2019 and triple to $262.65 trillion by 2050 according to World Bank projections with world population rising from 7.8 billion in 2020 to 9.9 billion in 2050. A wider introduction of electric vehicles (EVs) will very slightly decelerate growth in global oil demand but will never stop it growing.

    Even with all the mitigating measures the world could take, the notion of zero emissions in 2050 or even 2100 is an illusion. This is because the global economy will continue to be driven by oil and gas throughout the 21st century and probably far beyond.

    Furthermore, global energy transition couldn’t succeed without major contributions from both natural gas and nuclear energy. This negates zero emissions.

    Therefore, talking about zero emissions by 2050 at a time of growing global demand for oil and gas is a contradiction in terms.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • Alan Dr on April 16 2021 said:
    The important thing is to understand that when EV sales on average grow by 40%+ a year that it will still take more then two years to double. It will then also take a long time to reach that 1% of the car sales market. Even more significant then is the realization that once that 1% is reached there is only 7 times a doubling left to reach a 100%. Please realize where we are now.

    Investments are based on projections and assumptions so it is not strange there is difference in future outlooks. So something as basic as population growth projections vary in very significant ways depending on the institutions choices for parameters in their models. These have to be regular adjusted to the real numbers that evolve. At this point we have to adjust the idea that the population will continue to grow into the next century. In fact many new projections see the world population peak in the 2060’s and we are now at the point where we can talk about a population collapse on our planet. Many countries like Japan and China are projected to have only half its population left at the end of this century (that is 80 years). An older population will also drive less in their car.

    If we want to understand this then oil can be hit this coming decades by a double whammy of both EV development and population decline in key markets.

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