Highlights of the 2012 BP Statistical Review

Last week the 2012 BP Statistical Review of World Energy was released. I always look forward to the release, because the data represent the most comprehensive, publicly available database on energy consumption and production statistics. I have now read through this year’s report, picking out what I believe are important trends and data points. In this column I want to highlight several key points, including:

  • The reason for the conflict in numbers between the EIA and BP
  • Barack Obama’s historical position in presiding over increasing U.S. oil production
  • The U.S. becoming more energy independent
  • New global records for oil production and consumption
  • Energy consumption and carbon emissions differential between OECD and developing countries
  • Growth in renewables such as solar, wind, and biofuels

BP’s press release noted the fact that global energy consumption grew by 2.5% in 2011. However, in a trend that I discussed at length in my book Power Plays (last year’s Statistical Review provided data for quite a few graphics for my book), consumption in OECD countries actually fell by 0.8% while growing at a 5.3% clip in developing countries.

A lot of the stories about the report have focused on energy developments in the U.S. For the 3rd year in a row, the U.S. had the strongest growth in oil production of all non-OPEC countries. 81% of US energy demand was supplied by domestic sources in 2012, which is up from the record low of 70% in 2005. At 7.8 million barrels per day (bpd) of production, the U.S. ranked behind only Saudi Arabia (11.1 million bpd) and the Russian Federation (10.3 million bpd).

Astute readers may note that 7.8 million bpd is well above the Energy Information Administration statistics on 2011 oil production for the U.S., which was 5.7 million bpd. That is because the EIA is not counting liquids that were separated from natural gas processing plants (NGLs) while the BP numbers do include that. Because of the large expansion in natural gas fracking, there has likewise been a significant increase in the production of natural gas liquids. Since a large fraction of these liquids do end up in the transportation fuel supply, it is fair to count them as oil production — but important to note the difference in definitions between BP and the EIA.

Regardless, the EIA data also show an oil production increase for the 3rd year in a row. Ironically, since he isn’t considered a friend of the oil industry, President Obama is on track to have the distinction as the first president since Lyndon B. Johnson to preside over 4 straight years of increasing U.S. oil production. (The reasons for that are discussed in detail here).

U.S. oil consumption fell by almost 2% in 2011 after having rebounded in 2010, and is barely above 2009 levels. Combined with the increase in U.S. oil production, the percentage of U.S. oil consumption that is supplied domestically increased to above 40% (41.6%) for the first time since 1998 (42.3%). During the period 2005 through 2007, that percentage had fallen to 33%. So it is correct to say that the U.S. is becoming more energy independent.

Other oil producers in North America showed mixed results. While production in Mexico continued the decline of recent years by falling another 0.8%, production in Canada — fueled by growth in oil sands production — increased by 5%. Over the past decade, oil production in Canada has grown by almost 32%, but production has fallen by 18% in Mexico.

Globally, oil production and consumption both set new all-time records. Consumption grew by 0.7% over 2010, to 88 million barrels per day, while production was up 1.3% to 83.6 million barrels per day. (The discrepancy between consumption and production is because the consumption number includes fuels produced from biomass and coal).

Global carbon dioxide emissions increased by 3%, driven primarily by strong growth of coal consumption in Asia Pacific (up 8.4%). Again, this was another theme from my book; the growth in carbon dioxide emissions is being driven by a “hurricane” of development in developing regions. Global growth in carbon dioxide emissions occurred despite the fact that emissions dropped by nearly 1% in OECD countries, and by 1.8% in the U.S.

To put U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in perspective (and show why I believe this problem is largely beyond U.S. control), if you removed all U.S. emissions from the 2011 tally it would only take emissions back to 2003 levels. If Asia Pacific’s emissions were removed, emissions would be at 1977 levels.

In 2011, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions accounted for 17.7% of the world’s total. The trend over the past decade has been a steady decline from 2000 levels, when the U.S. was responsible for 25% of the world’s total. Some of the decline is because emissions in the U.S. have in fact declined, but some is because global emissions have grown.

Asia Pacific’s emissions reached 45% of the world’s total, which represents a steady increase from their 2000 share which was 32%. The region is on a trend to have 50% of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions by the end of the decade.

On the renewable energy front, strong gains were made in several areas. Solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity was added at a whopping 73%, with triple digit increases in a dozen countries. Actual power produced by the sun increased by 86%, which is more than 50 times greater than the levels in 2000. However, to put that in perspective, 2011 electricity production from solar energy only represented 0.3% of the world’s total electricity consumption.

Wind power capacity increased by 20.5%, and actual power produced by the wind increased by 26%. Wind power accounted for 2% of the world’s total electricity production in 2011. Geothermal capacity increased by only 0.3%, but the actual amount of power generated by geothermal was unreported.

Biofuels grew by 10,000 bpd of oil equivalent (BOE), which amounted to an increase of 0.7% over 2010 data. This slow growth rate was largely influenced by Brazil’s decline of 50,000 BOE, which represented a 15% decline from 2010. Cumulatively, biofuel production was equivalent to 1.5% of total global oil production.

In the next column, I will represent some of these trends graphically.