The report, presented in Brussels on Tuesday (2 February), foresees fossil fuels meeting 80% of the world's energy demand by 2030, mainly due to surging consumption in the developing world.
"Oil still leads, but natural gas moves into second place on very strong growth of 1.8% a year on average, particularly because of its position as a favoured fuel for power generation," says the report, 'Outlook for energy: A view to 2030'.
It says natural gas will be "the fastest-growing" of fossil fuels because it emits fewer pollutants when burned for electricity generation or heating purposes. "By 2030, global demand for natural gas will be more than 55% higher than it was in 2005," ExxonMobil says.
Other energy types such as nuclear and renewables "are expected to grow sharply," the report says, but will only make for a relatively small share of the global energy mix. Wind, solar and biofuels for instance are not expected to make more than 2.5% of global consumption.
In the United States, coal and natural gas appear to be "the lowest-cost" option for future power plants, the report says. However, policies that put a price on carbon dioxide emissions are expected to "sway these economics," it adds.
"At $30 per tonne of CO2, natural gas would become the most economic alternative for new-build power plants," the report says, adding that this is the price level at which it expects carbon prices to evolve in the next ten years.
Assuming CO2 prices double to $60 per tonne, nuclear and natural gas would become "the fuel of choice," said Todd Onderdonk, senior energy advisor at ExxonMobil's Corporate Strategic Planning Department.
"In the US, we would expect a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax, some sort of mechanism to help mitigate CO2 emissions."
Production of so-called "unconventional gas," such as shale gas that is trapped in rock formations, is expected to be "unlocked" in the US, bringing resources to the market "that were not available before".
"We expect that by 2030, 50% of US natural gas will be met by unconventional sources," Onderdonk said, reflecting a "significant upswing in US natural gas production".
This increase in US gas production capacity is expected to free up US-bound production of liquefied natural gas, which could be made available to other regions.