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Tue 24 Jun 2008 09:46 PM

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OPEC uncertain over future oil investment

Projected demand could alter drastically with changes climate policy, global car ownership.

OPEC faces considerable uncertainty over how much to invest in supplying oil, with crude demand seen in the range of 29 million to 38 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2020, a document tabled at EU-OPEC talks on Tuesday showed.

Oil cartel OPEC currently pumps about 32 million bpd, but changes in climate policy, increases in car ownership in developing countries and moves by non-OPEC oil producers could drastically alter consumption patterns.

"The recent policy proposals to address climate change and renewables targets could have substantial impacts upon the amount of oil that would need to be supplied by OPEC," said the document, seen by newswire Reuters and due for formal release next month.

"Scenarios for the call on OPEC crude oil suggest that the range of uncertainty for OPEC oil is considerable," it added. "This translates into an uncertainty gap for upstream investment needs in OPEC member countries of over $300 billion."

OPEC had been meeting with EU ministers in Brussels to look for ways of soothing enflamed oil prices, after which OPEC President Chakib Khelil had reiterated there was no shortage of oil available on markets.

"Our view from a producers' point of view... is that as far as fundamentals are concerned I think we have equilibrium between supply and demand," Khelil told reporters. "In fact right now we have more supply than demand."

Developments in the transport sector hold the key to future demand growth, the report said.

"The potential for increases in vehicle ownership is greatest in developing countries: four billion people currently live in countries with an average of less than one car per 20 people, while this ratio is well over one for every two in many developed countries," it added.

The document warned the gap between supply and demand for middle distillates would grow, unless there was more investment in diesel-oriented projects.

"This evolving gap will likely drive price differentials towards a premium for diesel and could also have an impact on the absolute level of product and crude prices," it said. (Reuters)

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