Energy and natural resources

A BP-funded consortium of experts from leading universities is examining the complex relationships between natural resources and the supply and use of energy

Our Energy Sustainability Challenge (ESC) programme looks at the potential effects of natural resource scarcities, including land, water, and minerals, on patterns of energy supply and demand. The programme recognises the increasing socio-economic risks and potential business impacts from competing pressures on the natural resources used in the energy sector.

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What is the outlook for natural resources and energy?

To date, 15 universities from around the world have partnered with the ESC. In 2014, participating universities included Cambridge in the UK; Harvard, MIT, Princeton and Yale in the US; and Augsburg in Germany.

The research is underpinned by peer-reviewed scientific data and analysis. Key projects are focused on developing modelling tools that help policy makers and practitioners better understand the complexities around natural resources and energy.

Key findings

The ESC research has found that:
  • Globally, there is enough fresh water, land, and minerals to support expected increases in energy demand from a growing population. However, natural resource constraints vary widely by region.
  • Energy-related water, land and minerals constraints can be managed more sustainably but will require continuing technical advances and careful governance decisions.

Key ESC technologies

Visualising natural resources

The Foreseer™ tool, developed at the University of Cambridge and funded by BP, uses detailed data to create a visualization of natural resource life cycles and their interconnectivity in the context of future demand scenarios, technology improvements and policy choices in a region of interest.

The tool, which helps to inform decisions about managing natural resources by identifying and quantifying the connections among water, land and energy, from source to end use, was applied to Abu Dhabi and China in 2014. 

See foreseer.org for more information.

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The Foreseer modelling tool

Understanding where technology, efficiency and policy can make a difference

Understanding bioenergy

The Integrated Global System Model is a well-respected and widely used suite of global models that bring together the earth’s environmental and economic systems.

Developed by MIT, BP is co-funding its upgrade to improve the representation of biomass in the model. This will help researchers test the future of biomass use under different carbon regimes and technology scenarios and will give policy makers a more strategic understanding of bioenergy and its potential impacts.

See mitei.mit.edu for more information.

The relationship between natural resources and energy

The ESC research highlights the relationship between natural resources and energy production and use.*
  • Atmosphere: Around 57% of greenhouse gas emissions are from fossil fuel use. 28% is from agriculture and land use change.
  • Energy: Approximately 10% of global primary energy use is for the mining and processing of materials.
  • Land: Biofuels use 2% of global cropland.
  • Water: Around 1% of global water withdrawals is for fossil fuel extraction and refining compared to about 70% for agriculture.
  • Materials: About 5% of steel is used in the oil and gas industry.
*Based on world averages in 2010

Related downloads

BP is sharing the findings with academics, government, business and non-governmental organizations. 

Detailed findings from the research as well as an overview of the ESC research, publications, and insights on the interactions between energy and natural resources are available to download using the links on the right.

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