On the road: long-run oil demand after COVID-19?

Another devastating impact of COVID-19 may still lie ahead: a 1-2Mbpd upwards jolt in global oil demand. This could trigger disastrous under-supply in the oil markets, stifle the economic recovery and distract from energy transition. This 17-page note upgrades our 2022-30 oil demand forecasts by 1-2Mbpd above our pre-COVID forecasts. The increase is from road fuels, reflecting lower mass transit, lower load factors and resultant traffic congestion.


Upgrades to our granular 2020-2050 oil demand models, including headline numbers, are outlined on pages 2-3.

Travel demand that will never come back is described on pages 4-5, including remote work, a shift to online retail and lower business travel. Our forecasts for higher oil demand are not based on a Panglossian recovery of travel habits to pre-COVID levels.

The shift from mass transit to passenger cars is detailed on pages 6-9, covering ground-transportation (buses and train), mid-range air travel, and reverse urbanization enabled by remote working.

Load factors are lightly reduced, requiring more cars to service each passenger-mile of travel, as outlined on page 10.

Higher road traffic dents fuel economy, which we have quantified using real-world data from the City of New York, also drawing on data from prior oil downturns, on pages 11-14.

Implications for oil markets, companies and the energy transition are discussed on pages 15-17.