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Emerging Nations Put Oil and Gas on a 30-Year Growth Trajectory

The North American oil & gas industry has a positive 30-year outlook, but only if certain challenges are addressed. In a recent article in International Policy Digest, I was quoted throughout commenting on some of these challenges, which include tariffs and trade wars, China's energy policy, a rapidly eroding operational skill set and a $35 - $70/bbl price environment for the foreseeable future.

First of all, we're seeing increased energy demand throughout the developed world, and this will continue for at least the next 30 years. One of several driving factors in this demand is China's goal of achieving GDP parity with the US and OECD by 2050. Achieving that will take a lot of energy and, although China has become a leader in alternatives and renewables, the Chinese appetite for oil and gas will need to continue unabated if they are to meet that goal, especially given their shift away from coal and towards LNG as a replacement.

Oil & Gas 30-year outlook

Alternative energy and renewables are gaining strength, but not necessarily at the cost of oil and gas. While demand for renewables will continue to grow, it will not grow fast enough to meet the increased energy demand coming from China and other parts of the developing world. Even with deployment of alternatives in China and other nations, oil and gas will remain essential to those nations' growth targets.

While the push for alternatives will accelerate, geothermal, wind and sun are not, as one might imagine, free. With the growth of these technologies, increasing demand and the technology being deployed to containing reservoir depletion rates, we are still seeing favorable economics in the production of BTUs (kilojoules) through oil and gas, even when considering the exploration, mining, processing and transportation involved.

How this translates to operators in Upstream, is being prepared to break-even on free-cash-flow basis at $35/bbl by looking at efficiencies in the integrated supply chain. Midstream will continue to balance intermodal and pipeline utilization vs. increased capacity. Similarly, refiners will continue to operate at higher-than-nameplate utilization -- when feasible and seek to leverage improved capability in data analytics to continuously manage feedstock acquisition and balance the crack-spreads economics.

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