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Ross McCracken

Ross McCracken

Ross is an energy analyst, writer and consultant who was previously the Managing Editor of Platts Energy Economist

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Is India’s Oil Demand Being Underestimated?

Huge jumps of 8.2% and 9.5% in Indian oil demand in 2015 and 2016 led to growing expectations that India had reached a critical developmental ‘take off’ point. Rising incomes, motorisation, road building and a drive to expand manufacturing in a country of more than 1 billion people would replicate China’s multi-year boom with profound implications for global oil demand.

In the end, Indian oil demand proved relatively disappointing, growing by only 2.9% in 2017 and 4.1% in 2018, and the forecast exuberance was reigned in.

Nonetheless, the evolution of Indian oil demand remains a critical component of future oil demand growth. In its 2018 World Energy Outlook (WEO), the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast that for the period 2017-2040, Indian oil demand will more than double from 4.4 million b/d to 9.1 million b/d, an increase of 4.7 million b/d. This represents 41% of global demand growth over the period. In comparison, China, which accounted for 43% of world oil demand growth from 2000-2017, will see much more modest growth of 3.5 million b/d from 2017-2040.

In the IEA forecast, India would take over as the engine of oil demand, but wouldn’t have quite such a profound impact as China did from 2000-2017.

However, China’s expansion was widely and wildly underestimated. The IEA’s 2002 WEO took an in-depth look at Chinese energy demand and forecast that Chinese oil consumption would rise from 5.0 million b/d to…




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