Global energy demand will grow by 39% by 2030, driven almost entirely by the increased use of energy in all forms in China, India, the Middle East and other areas of the developing world, according the latest Energy Outlook, released on Jan. 18 by the London-based oil giant BP. In the developed world, efficiency and reduced demand will result in just a 4% increase in the use of electricity, oil and natural gas by 2030. While renewables and biofuels are expected to become a larger portion of the market, 8% by 2030, fossil fuels will be used to meet 81% of global energy demand, according to BP’s comprehensive analysis.
The same message was echoed at a United States Energy Association's “State of the Industry” event, held on Jan. 18 in Washington, D.C. Representatives of the coal and nuclear industries said growth is stagnant or very slow in the U.S., but they are positioning themselves to serve global demand.
“Coal is [the developing world’s] exit ramp from poverty,” said Harold Quinn Jr., president and CEO of the National Mining Association.
None of this is news to North American companies that engineer and build energy infrastructure. Many U.S. and Canadian firms have significantly beefed up their global presence in the past five years to meet the growing demand.
“Over the past three years or so, based on our analysis of the market, we have determined that the fastest rate of growth in energy consumption and energy infrastructure is in [developing] countries,” says Dean Oskvig, president and CEO of Black & Veatch’s global energy business. The growth, says Oskvig, is tied to a corresponding rise in gross domestic product and is highest in India, China and Vietnam. Energy infrastructure is also on the rise in Indonesia, Australia and the Middle East as those regions increase their exports of coal, natural gas and oil to meet the growing global demand for energy.
What is more surprising, however, is just how much work has shifted to global markets.
In the past few years, Irving, Texas-based Fluor Corp. says its backlog of work has shifted to about 20% domestic and 80% global from 60% domestic and 40% global. “The energy demand and the growth is absolutely outside the U.S. and Europe. It’s in Asia, South America and other developing areas, ” says Matt McSorley, Fluor’s vice president for energy and chemicals.
McSorley says that Fluor’s work likely won’t remain as dominated by global markets, but he expects the majority, perhaps 70%, will be outside the U.S.
Other North American companies reported a less dramatic shift to global work, but all reported a greater offshore focus in the past few years, caused not only by global demand but also by weaker U.S. and European economies. Oskvig says that about five years ago, only about 15% of the Overland Park, Kan.-based company’s work was outside the U.S. In 2011, about 50% of the company’s business was global.
BP’s annual energy outlook says that non-fossil fuels, such as renewables, will contribute to nearly half the energy growth, worldwide, after 2020. Edmonton, Alberta-based Stantec says it is seeing a dramatic surge in the development of wind and solar power in Brazil, India, China and Indonesia. Countries that have viable carbon trading markets are more likely to invest in renewable technologies, says George Kendrick, senior principal for energy and environment in the renewable sector for Stantec.
While typically thought of as expensive, renewable energy is a cost-effective option for remote areas in which it is difficult to deliver gas or oil or build transmission, Kendrick says. Renewables are also growing in China and other countries where the government heavily subsidizes renewable technologies, Kendrick says.
Conventional fossil fuels such as coal, however, will continue to play a large roll in developing countries because “that’s what they have,” Oskvig says.
“We do not believe the world will transition away from coal in the near to medium term,” says Alasdair Cathcart, president of the power business unit for San Francisco-based Bechtel. “We remain optimistic about the long-term prospects for nuclear power due to its ability to provide clean, base-load power.”
The Baton Rouge, La.-based Shaw Group is exploring ways to help transfer its knowledge of coal plant construction abroad. Largely, though, the company is focused on expanding its nuclear presence in China, the Middle East and other developing regions.
“There is no question that China will be one of the world’s leading powers in nuclear power,” says Jeff Merrifield, senior vice president of Shaw’s power group. “We want to work hand-in-hand to build that nuclear fleet and maintain that nuclear fleet.”
“The rest of the world is moving forward” with new nuclear reactors, agreed Marv Fertel, CEO and president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, during the USEA’s annual energy outlook. The U.S. nuclear industry is working with the federal government to develop a plan to become more effective at selling reactors—including small modular nuclear reactors—overseas, Fertel said.
Countries such as Germany and Japan that reduced their use of nuclear power after the accident at the Fukushima’s Daiichi nuclear plant in March are increasing their use of renewables and natural gas to compensate. McSorley says billions of dollars worth of liquefied-natural-gas infrastructure is being developed in Australia, where energy-related development is “booming and will be for quite a while.” That LNG is headed toward Japan and other Asian countries.
U.S. companies are increasing their workforce in their global offices to handle the increasing offshore work. As developing countries are becoming more well informed about infrastructure development, they are requiring a higher percentage of local workers to fill even top management jobs, many companies said.
“It’s important that you make sure you are steadily transferring leadership to local people,” Oskvig says.
Bob Dudley, group chief executive of BP, summarized the opportunities and challenges for all involved in the global energy market, saying, “This report is by turns challenging, fascinating and stimulating for anyone in the energy business. It helps us to be both realistic and optimistic. It shows there are things we can’t change—like the underlying drivers of energy demand— and things we can change, [such as] the way we satisfy that demand. The main message is that we need to have an open, competitive energy sector because this encourages innovation and thereby maximizes the efficiency we will need in order to enjoy energy that is affordable, secure and sustainable into the future.”