It has been a tough few months for the oil industry, and there’s more pain on the way as the industry struggles with disruptive forces that could completely transform it. Now, according to BloombergNEF, oil and gas companies have one more thing to worry about: peak fuel demand. In an outlook for road fuels published earlier this month, BloombergNEF forecasts that gasoline demand will peak in 2030, with diesel following three years later. As a result, demand for crude oil from the road transport sector is seen peaking in 2031, BloombergNEF said, at 47 million barrels daily. That’s higher than BloombergNEF’s 2019 projection, which saw oil demand from light and heavy-duty vehicles peaking at 45.1 million bpd.
To fully realize the implications of this trend, here is some context. As of 2019, road transport accounted for more than 40 percent of overall global oil demand. What’s more, road transport has accounted for more than half of total oil demand growth over the past two decades. Peak demand for road transport fuels, therefore, is a harbinger of peak oil demand.
The immediate outlook for fuel demand is also not rosy, with the lockdowns and international movement restrictions erasing ten years’ worth of demand growth, according to BloombergNEF. This effect will likely be temporary; as lockdowns ease, demand for fuels begins to recover, even though it remains doubtful whether it will recover fully to pre-pandemic levels.
So, what are the culprits behind this looming slump in fuel demand? First, there is fuel efficiency: a factor that, according to BP, will improve so much that energy consumption in the transport sector will only rise by 20 percent by 2040. BP made that forecast last year, long before the coronavirus. Now, those changes could accelerate.
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