2018 a ‘golden year for gas’ as global energy demand surges: IEA

Image: Joey Podlubny/JWN

A new report from the International Energy Agency says that a surge in natural gas demand in 2018 drove overall global energy demand to increase at the fastest pace this decade.

The IEA called this “an exceptional performance driven by a robust global economy and stronger heating and cooling needs in some regions.”

Last year can be considered “anther golden year for gas,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

Natural gas emerged as the “fuel of choice,” IEA said, posting the biggest gains and accounting for 45% of the rise in energy consumption. Gas demand growth was especially strong in the United States and China.

Global gas demand expanded at its fastest rate since 2010, with year-on-year growth of 4.6%, the second consecutive year of strong growth, driven by higher demand and substitution from coal, the IEA said. Demand growth was led by the United States. Gas demand in China increased by almost 18%.

Together, China, the United States, and India accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand around the world, the IEA said.

“The United States saw the largest increase in oil and gas demand worldwide. Its gas consumption jumped 10% from the previous year, the fastest increase since the beginning of IEA records in 1971. The annual increase in US demand last year was equivalent to the United Kingdom's current gas consumption.”

Oil demand grew 1.3% worldwide, with the United States again leading the global increase for the first time in 20 years thanks to a strong expansion in petrochemicals, rising industrial production and trucking services.

“Demand for all fuels increased, with fossil fuels meeting nearly 70% of the growth for the second year running. Solar and wind generation grew at double-digit pace, with solar alone increasing by 31%. Still, that was not fast enough to meet higher electricity demand around the world that also drove up coal use,” the IEA said.

“As a result, global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7% to 33 Gigatonnes in 2018. Coal use in power generation alone surpassed 10 Gt, accounting for a third of the total increase. Most of that came from a young fleet of coal power plants in developing Asia. The majority of coal-fired generation capacity today is found in Asia, with 12-year-old plants on average, decades short of average lifetimes of around 50 years.”

Electricity continues to position itself as the “fuel” of the future, the IEA said, with global electricity demand growing by 4% in 2018 to more than 23 000 TWh.

“This rapid growth is pushing electricity towards a 20% share in total final consumption of energy. Increasing power generation was responsible for half of the growth in primary energy demand,” the IEA said.

“Renewables were a major contributor to this power generation expansion, accounting for nearly half of electricity demand growth. China remains the leader in renewables, both for wind and solar, followed by Europe and the United States.”