May 12, 2020 - Energy & Environment

BP boss: Peak oil demand may have just happened

Illustration of oil coming out of a pump in the shape of a question mark

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Add BP CEO Bernard Looney to the list of people who think oil demand may never fully recover after the coronavirus pandemic, even though it's already coming back from the depths of the collapse.

Driving the news: “I don’t think we know how this is going to play out. I certainly don't know,” he told the Financial Times (subscription).

  • “Could it be peak oil? Possibly. Possibly. I would not write that off," he said in the interview, where he notes the proliferation of remote-working technology.

Why it matters: The remarks show how COVID-19 has upended oil markets in a way that's likely to last for a long time.

  • Looney's comments are similar to recent remarks by Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden.

The big picture: An Oxford Institute for Energy Studies analysis sees demand reaching "pre-shock" levels in the fourth quarter of 2021.

  • But they also cite modeling challenges and known unknowns, such as whether there's another wave of lockdowns — a prospect other analysts are weighing too.
  • "It may be hard to comprehend now. But barring a second wave of the pandemic, nearly all pre-COVID demand could return by the second half of 2021," IHS Markit's Roger Diwan said in an email.

Go deeper: Coronavirus leaves experts pondering if the planet already hit peak oil demand

Go deeper