Within 20 years natural gas will emerge as the second-largest energy source after oil, ExxonMobil Corp. reported Thursday in the latest edition of "Outlook for Energy: A View to 2030."

Gas supplies are plentiful, particularly in the United States, and unconventional gas is expected to meet more than one-half of global gas demand by 2030, the Irving, TX-based supermajor stated. ExxonMobil, the largest gas producer in the United States, is a leaseholder in nearly every gas basin in North America.

Oil, natural gas and coal will continue to meet most of the world's needs over the next 20 years "because no other energy sources can match their availability, versatility, affordability and scale," said ExxonMobil's analysis. Gas will be the fastest-growing because of its "abundance, versatility and economic advantages as an efficient, clean-burning fuel for power generation."

"Our energy outlook clearly points to a growing demand for energy globally which reflects improving living standards for millions of people around the world," said CEO Rex W. Tillerson. "The forecasts also show a shift toward natural gas as businesses and governments look for reliable, affordable and cleaner ways to meet energy needs. Newly unlocked supplies of shale gas and other unconventional energy sources will be vital in meeting this demand."

ExxonMobil develops an annual energy analysis to guide global investment decisions. BP plc, which also develops an annual report, also speculated in its recently released "Energy Outlook 2030" that gas would be the fastest growing fossil fuel in the world over the next 20 years (see Daily GPI, Jan. 11).

To complete the report, ExxonMobil said researchers analyzed close to 100 countries, 15 demand sectors and 20 fuel types "underpinned by economic and population projections and expectations of significant energy efficiency improvements and technology advancements."

Increased gas use and other "less-carbon intensive energy supplies," coupled with more energy efficiency by nations around the world, is expected to mitigate the environmental impacts of increased energy demand, the authors stated. Because of the use of more gas, global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions growth is forecast to be lower than the projected average rate of growth in energy demand.

ExxonMobil's analysis also found that:

Higher electricity demand, as well as the choice of fuels used to generate the electricity, will have a major impact on the global energy landscape over the next 20 years, according to the report. Global electricity demand is estimated to jump by more than 80% through 2030 from 2005 levels. In underdeveloped countries that are not members of the OECD, "demand will soar by more than 150% as economic and social development improve and more people gain access to electricity."

One reason gas demand will intensify is because of efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the report stated.

"As a result, abundant supplies of natural gas will become increasingly competitive as an economic source of electric power as its use results in up to 60% fewer CO2 emissions than coal in generating electricity. Demand for natural gas for power generation is expected to rise by about 85% from 2005 to 2030 when natural gas will provide more than a quarter of the world's electricity needs."

Gas demand "is rising in every region of the world but growth is strongest in non-OECD countries, particularly China where demand in 2030 will be approximately six times what it was in 2005."

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