Energy crisis looms as oil supply growth lags demand – Hess CEO

08 March 2011 18:45  [Source: ICIS news]

An oil well in the USHOUSTON (ICIS)--Investment in oil supply is not keeping pace with the global demand growth of around 1m bbl/day, setting up a shortfall that puts the energy balance in peril, said the head of independent US oil company Hess on Tuesday.

"An energy crisis is coming, likely to be triggered by oil," said John Hess, who serves as the company's CEO and chairman.

"Supply will then have to ration demand and prices will skyrocket - with the likely outcome of bringing the world economy to its knees," Hess told the Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) conference in Houston.

"The $140/bbl oil price of three years ago was not an aberration, it was a warning," Hess contended.

The problem is not one of a lack of oil resources, but a lack of new investment in accessing those deposits, Hess said.

The US in particular needs to maintain existing tax incentives for drilling, and also encourage more upstream activity in the Gulf of Mexico.

On the demand front, oil represents 37% of US energy demand, of which 71% is used for transportation, he noted.

The US should hike the vehicle performance standard to 50 miles/gal, much higher than the 35 miles/gal target set for 2016, Hess said.

That greater efficiency could be achieved through a mix of engine downsizing, using more diesel engines, reducing vehicle mass and pursuing advanced technologies such as hybrid cars.

It would take 15 years to replace the US fleet of 230m cars and light-duty trucks with more economical vehicles, but the change could save 3m bbl/day of oil, for an annual savings of more than $100bn (€72bn) at current oil prices, Hess said.

The US also should focus energy policy on shale gas, because that new source of natural gas has fundamentally changed the economics of power generation, he said.

Natural gas should be prioritised in the US electricity sector, he said. It has lower costs and higher efficiency compared with the cost and timeframe for building coal or nuclear power plants.

Hess also argued that the process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, used in shale gas mining is safe and does not need federal government oversight.

"Most [US] states do a very good job of regulating this activity," he said.

Some members of Congress and some officials in the Obama administration are seeking restrictions on fracking, which opponents say puts chemicals such as benzene into water supplies.

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Stephen Burns
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