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Early Arrival of “Peak Oil” Anticipated as Oil and Gas Industry Accelerates Energy Transition

  • Demand for oil expected to peak in 2029, a year earlier than expected, due to faster decarbonisation in the transport sector
  • Research of 15 top oil & gas majors finds they are pursuing different energy transition strategies, with USD 16.5bn invested in 2022
  • 13 oil and gas majors are now committed to net zero by 2050 – up from 10 in 2022

New research from global law firm CMS reveals a notable shift in the energy landscape, with the expected peak oil demand now forecasted to arrive in 2029 – a year earlier than previously projected by economic research business Capital Economics in 2020. This acceleration is attributed to the rapid adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles, driving faster decarbonisation in the transport sector.

The research note, titled “Energy Transition 2023: The Evolving Role of O&G Companies in the Energy Transition”, conducted by Capital Economics assessed the energy transition activities of 15 top oil & gas (O&G) majors. The findings underscore the industry’s transformation, with these companies collectively investing USD16.5 billion in their energy transition activities in 2022, equivalent to an average of 7.4% of their total capital expenditures (CAPEX).

Oil and gas giants are pursuing diverse energy transition strategies shaped by their specific geographical and policy contexts, shareholder pressures and existing asset bases. These strategies for progressing the energy transition fall into four main categories:

  • Carbon removal – Offsetting / reducing ongoing emissions to meet emission targets.
  • Low carbon solutions – Displacing fossil fuel energy with less carbon-intensive alternatives, such as low-carbon fuels or electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
  • Renewable generation – Including initiatives like wind farms.
  • Hydrogen – Exploring hydrogen as a “clean fuel”.

Currently, 13 of the 15 assessed companies have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, a significant increase from 9 in 2021. Additionally, 11 companies have joined the “Aiming for Zero Methane Initiative”, supported by members of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI).

Munir Hassan, Head of Head of the CMS Energy & Climate Change Group, said: “While overall spending on renewables and low carbon initiatives averaged 7.4% of capital expenditure in 2022 for the sampled companies, the wide variances between individual companies underscores how the energy transition remains in its early days as a collective strategic priority.

“The companies assessed here face pressures from all sides. But their commitments and initiatives demonstrate that the energy transition is nevertheless now underway and augmenting business as usual, even as the destination for each of them remains unclear.”

Global investment in renewables outpaces fossil fuels

Renewables have taken the lead in global investment, outpacing fossil fuels. Data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) reveals that energy investment totalled US$2.2 trillion in 2021 and nearly US$2.4 trillion in 2022. The share of clean energy investment has been increasing over time and now constitutes the majority – comprising 59.3% in 2021 and 60.2% in 2022.

The proportion of energy investment directed towards renewables rose to 74% in power generation and 27% in energy supply. This compares to 64% and 20%, respectively, in 2017.

Fossil fuels investment remains a large portion of the investment in energy production and supply at 52%, but its share has been shrinking – down from 59% five years ago.

Peak consumption of natural gas to hit in mid-2030s

Peak consumption of natural gas is expected to follow peak oil, projected for the mid-2030s. Natural gas offers an immediate alternative for diverting electricity generation away from the more carbon-intensive use of coal-fired power plants. In addition, natural gas is a relatively clean fuel, which can act as a bridge for electricity generation until investments in wind and solar power, as well as the necessary storage capacities, can be accelerated.

Company strategies are adapting alongside national commitments

Companies are aligning their energy transition pathways more closely with national roadmaps. This alignment highlights the emerging standard for emissions reporting across industries. European oil and gas majors lead in diversifying energy offerings, driven by regional climate commitments and shareholder / public sentiment. US companies have also adapted their strategies in response to shareholder expectations, focusing on low carbon products and services. National oil and gas companies, forming integral components of their countries’ carbon reduction commitments, reflect their nations’ evolving climate goals.

To read the “Energy Transition 2023: The Evolving Role of O&G Companies’ in the Energy Transition” report in full, please visit: https://cms.law/en/int/publication/energy-transition

For further information, please contact:

Darina Gordienko

E: darina.gordienko@cms-cmno.com

T: +38044 391 3377

Notes to editors:

About CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang Ukraine

The Ukrainian team of CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang has been fully operational since the war and provides its services from several locations including in Budapest, Kyiv, and western Ukraine.


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