News Release

Q1 2020 Oil Demand Fall is Largest in History

Q1 2020 Oil Demand Fall is Largest in History

OPEC output at lowest level in 17 years

March 04, 2020

By Jim Burkhard, Vice President
Dan Evans, Vice President
Das Premasish, Executive Director

IHS Markit now expects that Q1 2020 world oil demand will decline by the largest volume inhistory—even exceeding the declines during the 2009 financial crisis. Owing to the unprecedented stoppage of Chinese economic activity in February and the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outside of China, we estimate that world oil demand in first quarter 2020 will be 3.8 MMb/d lower than a year earlier. This represents a downward revision of 4.5 MMbd from previous estimates prior to COVID-19.

Never before has such a quarterly drop been recorded. The previous largest decline was in 2009, when oil demand fell 3.6 MMb/d in the first quarter. In another milestone event, the U.S. Federal Reserve on Tuesday announced its first rate cut since 2008 that occurred outside a scheduled policy meeting.

“This is a sudden, instant demand shock—and the scale of the decline is unprecedented, said Jim Burkhard, vice president and head of oil markets, IHS Markit

Additional observations from the IHS Markit Crude Oil Market Service:

  • Most of the demand decline is in China, but demand elsewhere, including Europe, Japan, South Korea, the Middle East, and North America, has been revised down.
  • COVID-19 cases outside of China continue to accelerate, which means that the negative demand impact will continue into the second quarter.
  • Demand for all refined products is negatively impacted, but especially for gasoline in China because of the steep decline in road travel as a result of government restrictions and for jet fuel due to flight cancellations within China and the long-haul routes to and from Asia. In China, commercial passenger trips by road, rail, air, and water were down 80 percent in February compared with a year ago.
  • OPEC production is at a 17-year low and could drop even further as oil buyers cut purchases in March and April. But the decline in output is still less than the decline in demand, which means oil inventories are likely to experience a large increase, particularly in China and the Middle East, unless OPEC at its ministerial meeting later this week cuts production in a major way.
  • It now appears likely that oil demand will be less than in 2019, even if there is a recovery in the second half of 2020.

Jeff R. Marn
Director, Public Relations
Phone: 202 463 8213 | Mobile: 202 560 0776

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