OPEC Raises Forecast for '06 Oil Demand

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (search) nudged up its forecast for world oil demand growth in 2006 on Wednesday and predicted OPEC supplies would have to offset lower-than-expected output from non-OPEC countries.

OPEC now expects world oil demand to grow by 1.57 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2006, an upward revision of 30,000 bpd and little changed from this year's growth rate.

In its monthly report, OPEC's Vienna secretariat cited a "slightly more optimistic view of the world economy for the coming year,"

World GDP growth is now projected to rise by close to four percent next year with developing countries' economies showing better rates of expansion than previously projected, it said.

The United States will lead demand growth within the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (search), while China will make up about one-fourth of total world oil demand growth in 2006, said OPEC.

It trimmed its forecast for non-OPEC production by 148,000 to 51.5 million bpd and projected demand for OPEC crude at 29.2 million bpd, an upward revision of 170,000 bpd.

OPEC is already pumping one million bpd above its anticipated requirement for 2006.

The report said OPEC produced 30.2 million bpd in July, up 210,000 bpd on June. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and the United Arab Emirates provided most of the increase.

The group has been pumping at 26-year highs to build up world oil inventories ahead of peak winter demand. But the extra crude has failed to dampen oil prices, which have soared as refiners struggle to churn out enough transport fuels.

Non-OPEC supply growth in 2006 is forecast to slow from a six-month delay in start up of the Thunder Horse oilfield in the U.S. Gulf and the loss of some production in India due to the Bombay High oilfield accident, the report said.