OPEC sees oil demand growth unchanged ahead of meeting

OPEC kept its forecast for growth in world oil demand unchanged for 2012 and 2013 on Tuesday, as the cartel's ministers gathered in Vienna for a meeting on output amid economic sanctions on Iran.

World oil demand this year was expected to reach 88.80 million barrels per day (mbpd), up from 88.04 mbpd in 2011, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries said in its monthly report, repeating the same figures as it had given in November.

Next year, global demand is set to grow to 89.57 mbpd, OPEC forecast.

The report comes a day before ministers of the 12-nation cartel meet in Vienna to decide on its oil production ceiling.

OPEC, which pumps 35 percent of the world's oil, said much of its demand growth this year came from Japan, which has turned to oil after shutting down nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

"Japanese oil use in power plants increased from 7.5 percent of total energy use to 19.7 percent. This denotes growth of 300,000 bpd for the country in 2012 and made up 40 percent of annual world oil demand growth," the cartel said.

Massive power outages in India in the summer also helped growth there, even as members of the OECD club of industrialised nations and China saw weak economic growth that pushed down oil demand.

For 2013, OPEC was more optimistic, citing an improving economy in the United States and a potential return to growth in the eurozone, "although this might prove challenging."

As for oil production, Iran -- OPEC's second largest producer last year after Saudi Arabia -- appeared to be feeling the impact of international economic sanctions imposed over its suspected nuclear weapons drive.

In the third quarter of 2012, after an EU oil embargo took effect on July 1, Iranian crude production sank to 2.73 mbpd, from 3.09 mbpd in the second quarter and 3.39 mbpd in the first, OPEC said citing secondary sources.

Between September and November, production was lower still, hovering around 2.68 million barrels per day, according to those sources.

In comparison, Iran produced 3.63 mpbd last year.

Its current output level has dropped the Islamic Republic to fourth place in terms of production, behind Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait, although Tehran insists that its output has increased from the last two years to reach 3.71 mbpd in November.

At their meeting on Wednesday, the OPEC ministers will discuss output and might finally decide on a new head to replace current Secretary-General Abdullah El-Badri, after a previous vote in June was postponed.

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