Thursday, April 22, 2010

Saudi official sees looming oil demand peak

* Peak in oil demand will come before peak in supply
* Emerging markets demand to peak this decade or early 2020s

* OECD oil demand may decline further

(Adds quote on OECD demand paragraph 10, further details)

By Muriel Boselli and Emma Farge

PARIS, April 22 (Reuters) - Oil use will probably peak in emerging markets by early next decade, a senior adviser to Saudi Arabia's oil minister said on Thursday in a further sign the concept of peak demand has crept into the industry mainstream.

Interest in the view oil demand may soon reach a high point and then fall back has grown following a drop in global oil use last year caused by the economic crisis, as well as efforts to combat climate change and use fuel more efficiently.

"I think that peak demand will come before peak of supply," said Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, advisor to Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, in answer to questions at a conference in Paris.

"The demand in emerging economies will take time to peak but definitely it will peak maybe this decade or early next decade," he said.

Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter. Others that have forecast peak demand include global oil company BP Plc (BP.L), whose Chief Executive Tony Hayward in February said global demand would reach a high point after 2020.

Riyadh, which has a lot to lose from limited demand since its economy depends on oil, last year completed a programme to expand its production capacity and has expressed concern about future consumption patterns.

Muhammed al-Sabban, head of the Saudi delegation to U.N. talks on climate change, said in January the possibility oil demand might peak this decade was a "serious problem" for Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom depends on oil income for nearly 90 percent of state revenue and exports make up 60 percent of its gross domestic product.


Oil consumption could fall even more in countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Al-Muhanna said.

"In the OECD countries the peak is there and it is declining very fast in some countries. We might see further decline as a result of more efficiency and other sources of energy," he said.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), which advises 28 industrialised countries, said in January demand may have already peaked in OCED countries as the recession entrenched a downward trend in oil use.

The IEA has, however, not put a timeframe on when oil demand might peak in emerging markets and forecasts economies such as China and India will drive global increases in demand for the foreseeable future.

A six-year oil price rally that ended in 2008 had led to increased interest in the theory world oil supply may be nearing its peak as easily accessible reserves dwindle.

That issue faded as economic slowdown eroded demand, resulting in abundant supply.

One leading proponent of the peak supply theory stands by his view conventional oil supply has peaked, but has also turned his attention to peak prices and peak demand. [ID:nLDE6310ID]

"We're sort of at peak demand right now," retired petroleum geologist Colin Campbell, who has long been associated with the belief the world's oil supplies are dwindling, told Reuters earlier this month.

Saudi Arabia, holder of the world's largest oil reserves, and BP have previously dismissed the view that there is not enough oil left in the ground.

The kingdom completed a programme to boost its oil production capacity to 12.5 million barrels per day (bpd) last year, coinciding with the global contraction in demand caused by recession.

Riyadh is producing around 8.05 million bpd, leaving it with the potential to boost supply by about 4.5 million bpd. (Writing by Alex Lawler; Editing by Barbara Lewis)

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