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OPEC hikes oil demand forecast despite uncertainties

VIENNA--The Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC) raised its predictions for world oil demand for 2012 and 2013 on Wednesday but was pessimistic, citing major economic uncertainty ahead.

This year, demand was expected to reach 88.81 million barrels per day (mbpd), OPEC said in its monthy report, upping its forecast from 88.74 mbpd last month.

This would represent an increase of 770,000 barrels per day (bpd) compared to 2011, when demand was 88.04 mbpd, according to revised figures.

For 2013, demand was set at 89.60 mbpd, up from the September prediction of 89.55 mbpd.

“Economic uncertainty in the U.S., EU and China is determining the fate of the world's energy use not only for the rest of this year but also throughout next year,” OPEC said.

Slower industrial production, along with high fuel prices, which contributed to lower mileage in the transportation sector, were among the main reasons behind a drop in oil use, especially in Europe, China and North America, it said.

This was counterbalanced this year by increased demand in places like Japan, which is trying to compensate for lost nuclear power, and India, which suffered mass power outages.

For next year, OPEC warned of a “downside risk, especially in the first half of the year” on world demand, due to economic uncertainty.

Risks linked to growth estimates, fuel prices and the weather “could reduce the world oil demand growth forecast by 20 percent next year,” the cartel, which pumps a third of the world's crude, also said.

The countries to watch will be the United States and China, as their level of demand “can change the rhythm of the oil demand pattern” worldwide, it added.

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