Increasing output of shale oil in North America will put pressure on OPEC to cut its own crude production, resulting in a global oil supply buffer on a scale not seen since oil prices were far lower more than 10 years ago, BP PLC said in its annual energy forecast Wednesday.
BP's forecasts illustrate the extent to which the North American boom, first in shale gas production and now in shale oil, has redrawn the global energy map. However, the company doesn't expect the shale revolution to spread by 2030 on any great scale to Asia or Europe, where conditions for investment in unconventional oil and gas fall short of those in North America, BP said.
In the U.S. alone, shale oil production is expected to grow around 5 million barrels a day by 2030, said BP's chief economist Christof Ruehl. This is likely to be offset by reductions in supply from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which has been pumping at historical highs in recent years to compensate for output losses in Libya due to the civil war there and more recently to compensate for Iranian sanctions, he added.
"This will generate spare capacity of around 6 million barrels a day, and there's a faultline if there is higher shale [production] then the consequences would be even stronger," he said.
OPEC spare oil production capacity last exceeded 6 million barrels a day in February 2002, when the price of U.S. crude benchmark West Texas Intermediate averaged just under $21 a barrel, according to data from the International Energy Agency.
But the shale revolution will remain largely a North American phenomenon, Mr. Ruehl said.
"No other country outside the U.S. and Canada has yet succeeded in combining these factors to support production growth. While we expect other regions will adapt over time to develop their resources, by 2030 we expect North America still to dominate production of these resources," said Mr. Ruehl.
The growth in shale oil and gas production is expected to remain concentrated in North America over the next two decades thanks to favorable investment conditions, technological advances, a competitive services industry and a nimble financial sector able to fund the large numbers of drilling rigs required, said Mr. Ruehl.
Growing production from unconventional sources of oil, including tight oil, oil sands and biofuels, is expected to provide all of the net growth in global oil supply to 2020, and over 70% of growth to 2030, the BP report said.
Increasing production from new tight oil resources will result in the U.S. overtaking Saudi Arabia to become the world's largest producer of liquids in 2013. By 2030, the U.S. will be 99% self-sufficient in net energy, compared to 70% in 2005. This comes as major emerging economies such as China and India will become increasingly reliant on energy imports.
Elsewhere, although there are huge shale deposits outside North America, development of unconventionals in Europe and Asia have moved much slower due to greater regulation, government ownership of mineral rights, environmental concerns and a lack of infrastructure to drill and transport gas and oil.
OPEC will be under the most pressure to 2015 when spare capacity is expected to reach the highest levels. The group will also feel the heat from slowing demand growth due to high prices and increasingly efficient transport technologies, the report said.
OPEC's market share is expected to rebound somewhat after 2020.
Global energy demand is forecast to increase at an average of 1.6% a year to 2030, driven mostly by non-OECD countries, with China and India accounting for more than half of the increase, BP said.