As the world population grows from six billion to eight billion people by 2030 and economic growth increases in developing countries, the world's energy use will rise 60% from levels seen in 2000, or 1.6% per year from 205 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) to 335 million boe/d, even taking into account gains in energy efficiency, according to ExxonMobil's Annual Energy Outlook released last week.

Leading the pack will be natural gas and coal, each growing at 1.8% a year through 2030 because of the accelerating strong demand for power generating fuel. World natural gas use is projected to increase from about 290 Bcf/d today to nearly 440 Bcf/d by 2030. As natural gas becomes harder to find and develop and its price increases, coal will take more of the power generation demand, the ExxonMobil outlook predicts. Also, nuclear power should be starting to grow in about 2020.

While developed countries will continue to maintain high levels of total energy consumption, undeveloped Asia Pacific countries, leading in population and economic growth, will forge ahead with an energy growth at a rate of 3.2% per year to lead the world by 2030 with 113 million boe/d of energy use,the report said.

Also growing fast will be Latin American at 2.2% to 18 million boe/d, Africa at 2% to 19 million boe/d, the Middle East at 1.9% to 19 million boe/d and the Russia/Caspian area at 1.3% to 27 million boe/d. Already developed Asian countries will grow energy use at a rate of 0.9% to 23 million boe/d, Europe at 0.8% to 47 million boe/d and North America at 0.6% to 68 million boe/d, ExxonMobil predicted.

While North American natural gas use is only expected to increase at the rate of 0.5% a year and the Asia Pacific region should see growth of 3.6% a year, the two areas will be nearly equal in natural gas use by 2030, each with around 90 Bcf/d. European gas use is likely to increase at a rate of 1.5% per year to nearly 80 Bcf/d in the same time frame.

LNG imports will become increasingly important to all three areas over the time period. In North America, LNG is expected to make up 25% of supply by 2030, despite the additional supplies being delivered through an Alaska pipeline.

And even with the development of alternative fuels in 2030, oil, coal and natural gas still will provide about 80% of the world's energy, the ExxonMobil report said.

Queried about prices, Jaime Spellings, general manager of corporate planning for Exxon Mobil, said they would not project energy prices, but in the future "I don't see fundamentals supporting the prices that you're seeing today." As for natural gas, as the LNG market grows and with an increase in spot cargoes "regional prices should converge over time." The trend is for natural gas to become more like oil with around the world trading of LNG dampening interregional volatility.

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