Natural gas demand and onshore and offshore production data is now available in Offshore Intelligence Monthly, split out by region and country on pages 3, 6-7 and 20-25. Analysing this data, it is apparent that the offshore hydrocarbons cake just keeps on getting bigger.

Since 1993, world combined offshore oil and gas production has increased by 58%, to 43.7m boepd in 2013; and between 2013 and 2023, it is forecast to increase by a further 35%, to 58.9m barrels oil equivalent per day (boepd). While oil is playing its part in this, gas is proving an even more potent rising agent in the offshore mix, of which it is taking an increasing share.

Measuring the Ingredients

As the Graph of the Month shows, growth rates for offshore oil and gas production have moved more or less in line y-o-y, with gas consistently ahead of oil as hitherto undeveloped historical offshore gas discoveries are brought onstream. While offshore gas production grew with a 3.8% CAGR from 1993 to 2013, oil exhibited a 1.4% CAGR. The spread between gas and oil production is forecast to continue 2013-23, with gas and oil production CAGRs of 4.2% and 2.0% respectively. It is thus expected that offshore gas production will almost achieve parity in volume terms with offshore oil by 2023, accounting for over 49% of offshore hydrocarbons output (versus 32% in 1993).

Energy Hunger

The strength of gas in the offshore production mix in part reflects faster historical and anticipated growth in gas demand. Since 2009, oil demand growth has stagnated in OECD countries whereas gas demand growth has remained firm, averaging 3.0% p.a. 2010-13 with a rate of 2.1% projected for 2014. In non-OECD countries, gas demand growth averaged 4.7% over the 2010-13 period, compared to 3.9% for oil demand. Similarly, 2014 demand growth is forecast at 3.7% for gas and 2.7% for oil. As non-OECD countries continue to industrialise, demand growth for natural gas is likely to remain firm.

Let Them Eat Cake

Given this scenario, it is likely shale gas will meet only a portion of future demand. Conventional gas will still have a role in feeding world energy hunger, and the offshore gas element of this increasingly so. In 2013, 30% of world natural gas production was offshore; in 2023 this is forecast to reach 36%. Accordingly, the offshore gas field investment outlook is positive. Offshore field operators are initiating schemes to utilise associated gas at mature oilfields. Moreover, development of offshore gas fields is increasingly perceived as economic. Gas fields account for 51% of fields under development and 48% of undeveloped offshore discoveries.

More so than oil, offshore gas growth is driven by mega-projects. Current examples include nine South Pars phases off Iran, Leviathan off Israel and Shah Deniz II in the Caspian, due onstream in 2015-17, 2017 and 2019. Major LNG projects planned offshore East Africa and Australia, entailing extensive subsea production systems and deployment of the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) vessels (like Shell’s “Prelude”), are also responsible much of the forecast growth in offshore gas. All in all then, gas looks to be quite a tasty slice of the offshore cake. Bon appétit!