The International Energy Agency has cut its forecast for European gas demand for 2040 by 21 Bcm, the agency said in its latest World Energy Outlook, with the mature northwest European market facing "existential questions."
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In the outlook published Oct. 13, it said European gas demand was now expected to fall to 536 Bcm in 2040, according to its central Stated Policies scenario that takes into account announced policies and targets.
That is down on the 557 Bcm forecast from last year's outlook for 2040, which itself was down from a 2040 prediction of 592 Bcm in the 2018 edition.
The demand outlook for just the EU is even bleaker, with the IEA forecasting a decline in demand to just 329 Bcm by 2040.
"Despite some potential for growth as coal and nuclear capacity is retired, gas does not return to 2019 levels of demand in the EU as renewables take up most of this market share," the IEA said.
It said EU gas demand would also be 8% lower by 2030 than in 2019.
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Further out, the IEA said full implementation of the European Green Deal and rapid progress toward carbon neutrality by 2050 would see demand move lower still, as would increased growth in low-carbon gases that reduce the need for gas.
It said that in some mature markets such as northwest Europe gas is facing "existential questions."
"Although short-term gains are still possible from coal-to-gas switching, the narrative that natural gas is a transition fuel is being seriously scrutinized in the context of pledges to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century," it said.
The rise of biogas and hydrogen has also brought into question the role of gas infrastructure in Europe.
"In the EU, discussions centered on a hydrogen strategy are advancing, with as yet unclear implications for the gas value chain, while state-owned transmission system operators are taking increasingly active steps to ensure that gas infrastructure finds a place in a net-zero landscape," it said.
While demand is set for a sharp decline, domestic EU gas production is seen falling just as quickly.
EU gas production is forecast to plunge from current levels of 71 Bcm to just 23 Bcm in 2040, the IEA said.