Saudi Aramco says oil demand is there to stay in foreseeable future

The market fundamentals are healthy despite fluctuations, Aramco CEO says

Amin Nasser, chief executive officer of Saudi Arabian Oil Co. (Aramco), speaks during the 2018 CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. CERAWeek gathers energy industry leaders, experts, government officials and policymakers, leaders from the technology, financial, and industrial communities to provide new insights and critically-important dialogue on energy markets. Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg
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The economic growth of emerging and developing markets coupled with two billion additional energy consumers by 2050 and new non-combustible uses of oil will continue to drive demand for hydrocarbons, the chief executive of Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer said.

“Oil will maintain its key role in the global energy mix for the foreseeable future, despite the increasing growth of renewables,” Amin Nasser said at the CERAWeek conference on Tuesday in Huston. “The growth of the world’s population requires the continuing development of several types of energy sources simultaneously.”

As the state-controlled oil and gas major prepares to sell a stake to investors in what could be potentially the world's the biggest listing ever, Mr Nasser dismissed misconceptions related to the future of oil, that say there is an impending peak in demand. Such notions contribute to a negative sentiment that does not encourage investment in hydrocarbons which is needed to meet future demand, he said. The market fundamentals, he noted, are healthy, despite fluctuations, and the global oil demand will continue to grow.


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Some energy market research reports have been bearish about the prospects of oil markets beyond the next 20 years as more environmentally friendly vehicles hit the roads across the globe, which could mean oil demand peaks by the 2030s, according to Bank of America and BP, which is not a good prospect for long-term institutional investors.

The energy scenario in 2040 will be the most diversified ever, with renewables becoming the fastest growing source, accounting for 40 per cent of the increase in primary energy, according to a BP a report, which estimated that the production of conventional oil - the region’s mainstay - will decline to 29 million barrels per day by 2040 from approximately 31.7 million bpd last year.

The resulting transition to sustainable energy will be lengthy and complex which alternative sources cannot adequately support, Mr Nasser said.

“It’s particularly encouraging to see expectations of stronger economic growth in the emerging and developing markets because that’s where most oil demand growth is expected to be,” Mr Nasser said. “We see huge potential in producing advanced materials for use in a wide range of high-growth industries like automotive, construction, and housing, as well as in our own industry.”

Tariq Qaqish, the managing director of asset management at Dubai-based financial services firm Menacorp, agrees with Aramco's chief executive on the current prospects of growth. However he said an impending global trade war may change market dynamics.

"He [the Aramco CEO] is right in terms of growth, and the recovery in emerging markets, with China being the biggest oil importer and still growing at a decent pace. But the situation may be clouded now if the trade war erupts following the possible US tariff moves," he said.

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump reiterated his plan to slap double digit tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, warning the European Union it would get hit with a "big tax" for not treating the US well when it comes to trade. The IMF head Christine Lagarde on Wednesday said the economic impact of US import tariffs would be serious if other countries respond with their own barriers. There won't be any winners in a trade war, which could slow global growth and crimp commerce, she warned.

"Everybody is holding their breath at the moment as it will be back to the square one [in terms of economic growth story]. The demand and the growth prospects are there but it’s hard to predict right now," Mr Qaqish added.

The energy industry should remain focused at expanding exploration, offsetting declines in legacy fields, new and continued investment, and creating new game-changing technologies, Mr Nasser said. These are the four key areas where oil and gas industry must continue to invest to ensure that global oil demand continue to be met in the years ahead, he added.