Firms are operating against a background of environmental concerns, strict regulations and strong competition from the renewable energy sector. Crude oil has been the cornerstone of the global energy landscape for over a century, fuelling vehicles, powering industry and shaping international trade deals and policies. However, as environmental concerns continue to grow and natural stores are depleted, the future of petroleum is at a crossroads.
Predictions for the Future
Clean energy will increase. Governments around the world are pledging to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and to move to cleaner, greener sources of renewable energy. Increased investment in renewable energy sources and the promotion of electric vehicles increases the likelihood of reaching peak oil demand, the point at which overall consumption of oil based products will plateau or decline.
Technological advancements. Oil firms wishing to retain their global market share must innovate, seeking new extraction techniques and exploring alternative sources to extend the life of the industry. Whilst it is necessary to accept that change is coming, technological advancements could mitigate against a radical reduction in use and value.
Challenges Facing the Petroleum Industry
Environmental concerns. The industry is under significant pressure to reduce its environmental impact as campaign groups continue to lobby about the impact that the industry has on climate change. Every step of the process, from extraction and refinement through to combustion, releases greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, and this is rapidly becoming unsustainable. Every oil spill report adds to the negative press and puts additional pressure on the industry to pursue other avenues.
Volatile pricing. Although crude oil pricing is notoriously volatile, the last few years have seen unprecedented fluctuations due to a combination of factors, including geopolitical tensions, economic conditions and production levels, which compromise long-term planning and can reduce producer and consumer confidence.
Resource depletion. It is no secret that easily accessible oil reserves are becoming depleted and that the long-term sustainability of the industry is under threat. It is necessary to invest in modern technologies which will allow unconventional sources to be exploited, although this investment must be balanced against customer appetite and satisfy environmental concerns.
Strong competition. With governments around the world striving to achieve challenging climate change targets, renewable energy companies have an advantage over oil companies, particularly in sectors such as transportation, where electric vehicles are gaining in popularity.
Regulatory compliance. In order to achieve climate change targets, governments are increasingly tightening the regulations that constrain the way in which oil companies operate, increasing costs and limiting the growth potential of key players in this industry sector. The cost of compliance is high, but failure to comply can have a devastating financial and reputational impact.
In conclusion, we predict that tough times are to come for the oil sector, and it will become increasingly necessary to adapt and innovate. It is essential that trade bodies and other stakeholders collaborate with governments and consumer groups to address concerns, improve ways of working and remain resilient to price volatility and strong competition from the renewable energy sector. Retaining a strong market position is essential to future energy security and economic growth, but this must be balanced against environmental responsibility.