The non-combusted use of oil, gas and coal, e.g. as feedstocks for petrochemicals, lubricants and bitumen, grows robustly driven by particularly strong growth in plastics.
In the ET scenario, the non-combusted use of fuels grows by 1.7% p.a., accounting for around 10% of the overall growth in energy demand. Oil-based fuels account for around 60% of this growth, followed by natural gas (30%) and coal (10%).
The growth of fuels as a feedstock is slower than in the past, largely reflecting the assumption that regulations governing the use and recycling of plastics tighten materially over the next 20 years, including a doubling of recycling rates to around 30%. This reduces the growth in oil demand by around 3 Mb/d relative to a continuation of past trends. (The impact of a worldwide ban on the use of single-use plastics is considered below).
Despite increasing regulation, the use of oil as a feedstock is the largest source of oil demand growth over the Outlook (7 Mb/d); the contribution of non-combusted use to the growth of gas and coal demand is much smaller. The non-combusted use of oil accounts for around 18% of total liquids consumption by 2040, compared with 7% for natural gas and 3% for coal.
The ET scenario assumes that the regulation of plastics tightens more quickly than in the past. But growing concerns about the use of plastics means that regulation of plastics may tighten by even more.
The alternative ‘Single-use plastics ban’ (SUP ban) scenario considers a case in which the regulation of plastics is tightened more quickly, culminating in a worldwide ban on the use of plastics for packaging and other single uses from 2040 onwards. These single-use plastics accounted for just over a third of plastics produced in 2017.
In this alternative scenario, the growth in liquid fuels used in the non-combusted sector is reduced to just 1 Mb/d – 6 Mb/d lower than in the ET scenario – and the overall growth of liquids demand is limited to 4 Mb/d, compared with 10 Mb/d in the ET scenario.
The scenario does not account for the energy consumed to produce the alternative materials used in place of the single-use plastics, and so represents an upper-bound of the impact on liquid fuels.
Indeed, without further advances in these alternative materials and widespread deployment of efficient collection and reuse systems, such a ban could lead to an increase in overall energy demand and carbon emissions, and raise a number of other environmental concerns, such as increasing food waste.