Estimates are widely varied, so how can we even begin to answer this important question?
No one seems to agree just exactly when POD (peak oil demand) will occur. Let's look at some of the projections by major institutions in this regard. This is just a sampling to indicate the wide discrepancy in views.
OPEC says demand for oil will continue to rise into the early 2040's, then peak and fall off towards the end of that decade. Most oil companies agree with those projections, while BP (British Petroleum) is probably the least bullish of the big oils seeing the mid-2030's as the point of POD, with consumption hitting over 125 million bpd. Currently, we are around 100 MM bpd consumption. Of that consumption, 55% is burned in transportation, 30% of that is used in personal ground transportation, and 25% is in all other forms of transport: aircraft, ships, trains.
The IEA (International Energy Agency) predicts POD in the mid-2030's, but that's just one of its scenarios. It supplies a number of different views depending on conditions, such as the speed with which EVs are adopted, the impact of PHEVs, and ride-sharing services. However, even in its most aggressive scenario, peak ICE does not hit until the mid-2020s, while many others forecast peak ICE will have already occurred. The IEA also predicts that only 30 million EVs will be on the road in 2040.
GS (Goldman Sachs) sees POD in 2024. Its forecast is for demand to grow at 1.2 MMbpd for 2019 and 2020, respectively, 50,000 barrels per day lower than the earlier forecast. This is the general consensus of most analysts, that POD will occur mid-decade.
The most aggressive view I could find regarding the onset of POD was from ARK Invest. Its view is that we are already in POD or very close to it. ARK believes that demand for oil will slow and stall at around 100 MMbpd, then plateau and begin to fall in just a few years. Moreover, ARK asserts that, in 2022, oil production will decline and never recover, with close to 30 million EVs on the road in 2024, 15 years sooner than big oil predicts.
If ARK's view is correct, then we should already be seeing signs of falling production and/or lower prices for products produced from oil.
I think, contrary to what big oil and the preponderance of analysts say, ARK Invest is correct. We are seeing OPEC cutting production in an attempt to shore up the price of oil. The world is currently, and has been for some time, awash in the stuff. Prices have remained stubbornly low and while OPEC has said the world economy can take $100 a barrel oil, they can't seem to get the price up to even $70 a barrel.
Big Oil wants to placate investors who have been fleeing the oil patch in record numbers. Investments in exploration companies have fallen off the table, and various projects for recovering expensive oil have been tabled or abandoned entirely, as the low price of oil makes these investments entirely speculative and likely to lose money.
The above are all signs we are in the period of POD already and things will likely only get worse, at least for the oil companies and their investors, who are none too happy with the market going up leaps and bounds while the oil sector does next to nothing.
OPEC already has plans to discuss lowering oil production again at its next meeting. Why, in the world of increasing demand that it describes, would this be necessary? Finally, saying that other uses for oil — such as increased aviation fuel and petrochemical demand — will replace the fall in demand for gasoline and diesel due to the proliferation of EVs and PHEVs is an argument based on wishful thinking more than it is akin to reality.
One might think that this decline in demand for oil was precipitated by the trade war between the U.S. and China, and while that has certainly been a factor in reducing demand, it's just another paragraph in the story that is the disruption and decline in oil demand and use that we are currently just beginning to experience.
I think, in 2040, demand for oil will be down to around 60 MMbpd, almost half of what it is today.
What do you think?