Global petrostates can forget trillion-dollar oil and gas tax revenues as energy transition bites

Source: press release, 2 June 2021

State income from oil and gas taxing* / Energy transition risks for petrostates (source: Rystad Energy UCube)
State income from oil and gas taxing* / Energy transition risks for petrostates (source: Rystad Energy UCube)

The global government income from oil and gas taxation fell to a multi-year low in 2020 of around USD 560 billion, as production and prices shrunk. Before COVID-19, oil and gas taxes usually exceeded the trillion-dollar mark. Petrostates will miss these former glories, a Rystad Energy report projects, as the accelerating energy transition will cause this source of state income to shrink and never again exceed or meet USD 1 trillion.

2021 will be the last year global oil and gas taxes will approach the trillion-dollar mark, reaching about USD 975 billion according to Rystad Energy estimates, assisted by high oil prices. From 2022, taxes will be limited to the low USD 800 billion range, only ticking up in the early 2030s to about USD 900 billion, before starting their final and uninterrupted decline to as low as USD 580 billion in 2040 and about USD 350 billion in 2050.

“As the energy transition ramps up, countries highly dependent on tax revenue from the upstream industry may have no other option than to diversify their economy to sustain state budgets. This is clearly the rational course for them to follow, but there are inherent challenges in the form of insufficient economic and legal institutions, infrastructure and human capital,” says Espen Erlingsen, head of upstream research at Rystad Energy.

The earlier the energy transition risks are realised the better they can be addressed. Structural changes will be crucial to stabilise petroleum-reliant economies and avoid geopolitical instability as the global energy systems shift onto a sustainable pathway, Erlingsen adds.

Using Saudi Arabia as an example, about half of the government take is at risk towards 2050, while total tax income from oil and gas made up 27% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019.

Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait and Libya – all of which are heavily dependent on tax revenue from the upstream industry – all garnered around 40% of GDP in 2019 from oil and gas tax revenue. In these countries, about 50% of the government take is at risk, meaning that this group is the most exposed to revenue risk as a result of the energy transition.

Rystad Energy’s data and tools enable quantification of energy transition risk for the oil and gas upstream sector in different low-carbon scenarios. The above estimates are produced by Rystad Energy’s base case scenario, called the Mean scenario. To address the possibility of some deviation they also have a low-case and a high-case scenario.

However, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) model has perhaps become the most widely used benchmark, calling for temperature increases well below 2° Celsius. Rystad Energy has also modelled this scenario in its report, and its model suggests that if it materialises, global government income from oil and gas taxes will be much lower than its own Mean Case, with petrostates losing a cumulative further USD 4.8 trillion from today until 2050.

Price risk (which underlies revenue risk) is a central driver of energy transition risk. To understand the revenue risks inherent in the energy transition, it is essential to know which oil prices to expect within each of the key decarbonised demand scenarios.

The price forecasts are formulated from its supply and demand balances projections and Rystad Energy has been a front-runner in warning the market that peak oil demand is closer than ever and at a lower ceiling than previously thought.

Even with production significantly reduced, some new development and new discoveries will be required to meet demand, as 25% of production must come from new developments and 10% from new discoveries in the 2021 to 2050 period. Investment in upstream projects is therefore still needed, even in the most aggressive energy transition scenario considered in this report.

Learn more in Rystad Energy’s UCube.