Adherents of the currently faddish demand side of “Peak Oil” theory (as opposed to the formerly faddish supply side, which was completely blown out of the water in recent years by the shale revolution) received a big dose of bad news over the weekend from OPEC. At a meeting with its non-OPEC oil-exporting partner nations in Algiers, the organization’s new report projects global crude demand to rise at an annual average of 1.4 million barrels of oil per day (bopd) through 2020 and by 1.2 million bopd from 2021 through 2023.
The report does project slower demand growth thereafter, but does not foresee a “peak” in global crude demand anytime before 2040, by which time total demand for crude oil will have risen to almost 112 million bopd. As the Wall Street Journal points out, that is up from OPEC’s forecast last year for 2040 demand of roughly 107.5 million barrels a day.
The “Peak demand” finding by OPEC is right in line with a similar projection from the International Energy Agency earlier this year , but a bit at odds with a statement by Shell Oil Co. CEO Ben Van Beurden in March that demand could peak as early as 2025 if every nation meets its goals set out in the Paris Climate Accords: “It depends on what you want to believe. If you believe that Paris is going to be a success, that somehow the nations of this planet are going to get our act together, are going to be effective in devising and enforcing policies that will decarbonize the energy system, my expectation is then that oil demand will peak in 2025, 2026.” Of course, while this was widely reported as a “prediction” in the energy-related media, Van Beurden went on to clarify that that was not at all the case, characterizing this possibility as “the Goldilocks scenario.”