The non-combusted use of fuels – predominantly as feedstocks for petrochemicals, bitumen and fertilizers – is an important source of incremental demand for fossil fuels, although less than in the past 20 years as environmental pressures increase.
The non-combusted use of fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) grows at an average rate of 1.1% p.a. in BAU, less than half the rate seen over the past 20 years (2.7% p.a.). This deceleration largely reflects actions to both increase the level of recycling – recycling rates roughly double from current levels to around one third by 2050 – and encourage a shift away from the use of some manufactured products, such as single-use plastics and fertilizers.
These actions are greatly intensified in Rapid and Net Zero, with increased use of chemical recycling and a focus on reducing the demand for some products and increasing the reuse of others. As a result, the growth of non-combusted fuels in Rapid (0.5% p.a.) is half that of BAU, with use gradually declining in the 2040s. In Net Zero, the use of non-combusted fuels peaks around 10-years earlier and by 2050 is around 25% below current levels.
Oil accounts for almost two-thirds of the growth in non-combusted fuels out to 2050 in BAU and around half in Rapid, driven in large part by the production of plastics and fibres. The actions to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics means that the level of oil used in the production of plastics by 2050 is around 3 Mb/d lower in BAU and 6 Mb/d in Rapid relative to an extrapolation of past trends linked to the growth in economic activity and prosperity. These trends are even more pronounced in Net Zero, with oil demand by 2050 2 Mb/d below current levels and 10 Mb/d below an extrapolation of past trends.