Goldman Sachs warns oil demand could peak by 2024 on fuel efficiency, electric cars

Global oil demand could peak as early as 2024 if there are more efficiency gains in vehicles, greater market penetration by electric cars, lower economic growth and higher fuel prices, Goldman Sachs said in a research note on refining on Monday.

Economic expansion in emerging markets — led by India — may stave off reaching a peak until 2030, although demand growth will still slow over the next decade given improving mileage in cars and trucks and the greater use of electric vehicles, research analysts from the investment bank said.

The global electric fleet, for instance, is expected to grow more than 40-fold to 83 million vehicles by 2030, from 2 million in 2016, the researchers said in the note.

“In our extreme case, we project peak oil demand in 2024,” the Goldman analysts said.

Goldman Sachs projects annual oil demand growth between 2017 and 2022 at 1.2 per cent, slowing to 0.7 per cent by 2025 and to 0.4 per cent in 2030. Oil demand grew by an annual average rate of 1.6 per cent over 2011 to 2016.

Over the period to 2030, the transport sector will contribute less to oil demand growth. Petrochemicals will instead become more central, although with more feedstock coming from outside the refining system, such as from natural gas liquids, refiners’ share in oil demand will fall, they said.

The analysts also said there will likely be a surplus of refined oil products for the next five years due to higher capacity additions and slowing demand growth, implying lower global utilization rates and poorer margins.

“Refinery closures may occur in developed markets, with new capacity opening near demand centers (chiefly in Asia),” they said.

The impending 2020 global sulfur limit set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on high sulfur fuel oil is also expected to reshape the refining industry, the bank’s analysts said.

If fully implemented, the limit will boost diesel demand and widen the sweet-sour crude differential, which is positive for the profitability of complex refineries, they said.

Meanwhile, jet fuel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are gaining market share at the expense of products like fuel oil.

Demand growth for LPG, fastest among all oil products, is being driven by petrochemicals and use in India as a cooking fuel in homes, the analysts said.

The share held by gasoline and diesel in the overall oil demand mix between 2016 and 2030 will stagnate, they said.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

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