Introduction - Bob Dudley, group chief executive

Energy in 2015 - slow demand growth amid plentiful supply

Welcome to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. This is the 65th edition of the Statistical Review, an important milestone for a publication that has traced developments in global energy markets since 1951, a year when coal provided more than half of the world’s energy and the price of oil was around $16 (in today’s money). Remarkably, the share of oil in global energy then was almost identical to its share today, at a little over 30%. 

We believe the BP Statistical Review contributes to the world’s understanding of energy markets by providing timely and objective data to help inform discussions, debates and decision-making. Its annual data helps us better interpret the swings and fluctuations that we are living through, and the historical data provide an important context for gauging where we may be heading next. 

This year’s edition records the data for 2015, a year in which significant long-term trends in both the global demand and supply of energy came to the fore. 

On the demand side, we are seeing a gradual deceleration in global energy consumption as the huge boost from globalization and Chinese industrialization slowly subsides. That slowing was compounded last year by continuing weakness in the global economy. As a result, global primary energy consumption grew by just 1.0% in 2015, similar to the rate of growth seen in 2014, but much slower than the average seen over the past decade. Much of this weakness was driven by China, where energy consumption grew at its slowest rate in almost 20 years. Even so, China remained the world’s largest growth market for energy for a 15th consecutive year. 

The supply of energy in recent years has been driven by different factors, notably technological advances that have increased the range and availability of different fuels. The US shale revolution has unlocked huge swathes of oil and gas resources. And rapid technological gains have supported strong growth in renewable energy, led by wind and solar power. These advances meant that, despite the weakness of energy demand, oil, natural gas and renewable energy all recorded solid growth in 2015. Their gain was at the expense of coal, which saw its largest fall on record, taking its share within primary energy to its lowest level since 2005. 

As we know, the contrasting trends in the demand and supply of energy had major effects on energy prices, with oil, gas and coal prices all falling sharply last year. These price declines played a key role in prompting adjustments in energy markets: boosting demand in some markets, most notably oil; curtailing supply and shifting the fuel mix in others. The extent of this adjustment bodes well for the future stability of our industry. 

The combination of slow demand growth and a shift in the fuel mix away from coal towards natural gas and renewable energy had important implications for carbon emissions. In particular, carbon emissions from energy consumption are estimated to have been essentially flat in 2015, the lowest growth in emissions in nearly a quarter of a century, other than in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis. Last year was of course significant for the UN-led COP21 meetings in Paris and the historic agreement to tackle climate change. BP supports those aims and is committed to playing its part in helping to achieve them. The stalling in the growth of carbon emissions in 2015 is a step in the right direction. But it is only a small step: the scale of the challenge remains substantial, requiring major shifts in both energy efficiency and the fuel mix. 

Our industry is living through a period of profound change. But that is nothing new: the past 65 years have seen huge changes to the global energy landscape. Our task as an industry is to take the steps necessary to provide the energy to meet the world’s growing demand and ensure our sector remains resilient to the many factors that may buffet us in the near term. We must continue to invest in energy, in all its forms, to meet future needs. That is no easy task and requires fine judgements - judgements that can be more confidently made when based on the kind of solid data and analysis provided by the Statistical Review. The need for BP’s Statistical Review over the next 65 years is likely to be just as great as in the past. 

Let me conclude by thanking BP’s economics team and all those who helped us prepare this review - in particular those in the governments of many countries around the world who have contributed their official data again this year. Thank you for your continuing cooperation and transparency. 

Bob Dudley 
Group chief executive

June 2016

Related content