Petroleum demand has been on a steady incline for decades. Future predictions indicate it will continue to be the largest supplier of worldwide energy through 2050.
The world currently uses about 100 million barrels of oil per day—4.2 trillion gallons a day. And the world’s energy needs continue to climb as economies and populations expand, especially in the developing countries. Over 80% of the world’s population is expected to live in developing countries by 2030. The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that the increase in energy demand will require $20 trillion in investment over the next 20 years—approximately $2,600 for every person alive today. Over half the amount is for electricity generation and distribution. The challenge is to produce the clean, affordable and abundant energy resources needed to run our world.
According to the IEA's World Energy Outlook 2019, the largest source of consumption growth was in Asia Pacific and the US. Consumption is predicted to increase by nearly 50% by 2050.
A large part of the demand still comes from the industrial sector which includes refining, mining, manufacturing, agriculture and construction. Global industrial energy consumption is expected to reach 315 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) by 2050.
Transportation consumption is predicted to increase by 40% by 2050. The increase is driven by non-OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, including Argentina, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa. Energy consumption for both personal travel and freight movement grows in these countries much more rapidly than in many OECD countries.
There are many factors that will determine the demand and energy mix over the next 30 years. Sustainability programs and technology can change the landscape in the coming years.
Oil is not just a source of energy—it is also a remarkable raw material. Its rich mix of hydrocarbons can be processed to give useful substances known as petrochemicals.
Processing usually alters the hydrocarbons so completely that it is hard to recognize the oil origins of petrochemical products. An amazing range of materials and objects can be made from petrochemicals, from plastics to perfumes and bed sheets. We use many oil products as synthetic alternatives to natural materials, including synthetic rubbers instead of natural rubber, and detergents instead of soap. But oil also gives us entirely new, unique materials such as nylon.
Plastics play an incredibly important part in the modern world. They find their way into our homes in many different ways and forms, from boxes used to keep food fresh to TV remote controls. Plastics are essentially materials that can be heated and molded into almost any shape. They have this quality because they are made from incredibly long, chainlike molecules called polymers.
Some plastic polymers are entirely natural, such as horn and amber. But nearly all the polymers we use today are artificially made, and the majority of them are produced from oil and natural gas. Scientists are able to use the hydrocarbons in oil to create an increasing variety of polymers—not only for plastics, but also to make synthetic fibers and other materials.
Whether as a fuel or a raw material: oil is an integral part of your daily life. It’s likely to remain so for decades to come, even as the world embarks on a low carbon pathway to help reduce emissions. This poster shows 72 different uses for petroleum. Click to download the poster, available in other languages.