World oil demand forecast to suffer biggest drop ever

LONDON (AP) – Global demand for oil will fall this year by the most ever due to the economic lockdowns enforced around the world to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said yesterday.

An estimated drop in demand of 9.3 million barrels a day this year is equivalent to a decade’s worth of growth. The agency, which advises nations on energy use, expects the slide in demand to be the most intense this month. In what it calls a “Black April” for the energy market, demand is forecast to drop to its lowest since 1995.

“We may see it was the worst year in the history of global oil markets,” said Head of the Paris-based IEA Fatih Birol.
The price of crude has fallen by over 60 per cent since the start of the year due to a pricing

war between Saudi Arabia and Russia and then the economic devastation wrought by the virus outbreak. It fell further yesterday, with the United States (US) benchmark hitting a new 18-year low of under USD20 a barrel and raising questions about the efficacy of a global pact reached this week to reduce oversupply.

While the cheaper energy can be helpful for consumers and energy-hungry businesses, it is below the cost of production. That is eating away at the state finances of oil-producing countries, many of whom are relatively poor economies, and pushing companies to bankruptcy. With broad limits on travel and business, many consumers are unable to take advantage of the low prices anyway.

Birol said that this week’s deal by OPEC and other countries to reduce global output by some 9.7 million barrels a day will help stabilise the situation somewhat. On top of those cuts, countries like China, India, South Korea and the US will look to buy more oil to store away in strategic reserves.

And the slide in oil prices is already reducing production in many non-OPEC countries as the cost of pumping crude exceeds the return from selling it on the market. Such declines in the US, Canada, Brazil and Norway amount to a decline of 3.5 million barrels a day.

File photo shows fresh nuts, bolts and fittings ready to be added to the east leg of the pipeline near St Ignace as Enbridge prepares to test the east and west sides of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac in Mackinaw City, Michigan. PHOTO: AP