Main content | back to top
The energy challenge
The global population has more than doubled since 1950 and is expected to increase by 40% by 2050. To support economic growth the world will need vast amounts of extra energy. The challenge is to meet the rising demand in economically, environmentally and socially responsible ways, including dealing with greenhouse gas emissions.
The world faces three hard truths in meeting the energy challenge.
Firstly, demand for energy is growing rapidly, as countries including China and India enter the most energy-intensive phase of economic development.
Secondly, supplies of easily accessible oil and natural gas are unlikely to keep up with demand after 2015. The world will have to use energy more efficiently and increase its use of other sources of energy. This means more renewables like solar, wind and biofuels, more nuclear energy, more coal, and more oil and natural gas from difficult-to-reach locations or unconventional sources like oil sands.
Thirdly, as a result CO2 emissions from energy – responsible for more than half of man-made GHG emissions – are set to rise, even as concerns about climate change grow.
Possible energy futures
Photo by Alejandro Balasbas
To help think about the future of energy, we have developed two possible Energy Scenarios.
In the first scenario, “Scramble”, government policies are too little, too late. There is no effective framework for managing GHGs. As a result, CO2 and other GHG emissions rise steadily until around 2040. By 2050, GHG emissions are heading towards concentration levels in the atmosphere far above the levels that scientists indicate are safe.
In the second scenario, “Blueprints”, local and national governments introduce new standards, taxes and other policies to change behaviour, and improve the energy efficiency of buildings, vehicles and transport fuels. International emissions trading systems put a price on GHG emissions that accelerates innovation. Vehicle fuel efficiency jumps significantly and electric cars are more widespread after 2030. CO2 capture and storage occurs at industrial sites.
By 2020 CO2 emissions stop rising and then start to fall gradually. By 2050 GHG levels in Blueprints are on track to stabilise at levels in the atmosphere far lower than in “Scramble”. But even with these changes – and reductions in emissions of other GHGs like methane from agriculture – atmospheric concentrations of GHGs in a “Blueprints” world still stabilise at levels higher than the those scientists are currently calling for.
Meeting the energy challenge
To meet the energy challenge we are, for example, using advanced technologies to unlock oil and gas in more remote or hostile environments, and new techniques to extend the lives of existing fields. We are increasing production from unconventional sources, including oil sands. And we are part of wind projects.
We help to make the most of cleaner-burning natural gas through our liquefied natural gas and gas-to-liquids products. Already one of the world’s largest suppliers of biofuels, we are working to on advanced biofuels from sources such as straw and algae and to make our biofuels as sustainable as possible.
We are involved in a number of carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration projects around the world to research, develop and test the technologies and processes to capture CO2 and store it safely underground.