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OPEC to Keep Grip in 2005 as Supply Lags Demand

The world's dependence on OPEC's oil is expected to increase again next year, supporting cartel efforts to keep prices high as robust demand growth outpaces non-OPEC output, a Reuters survey found on Monday.

Demand growth is likely to climb by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) next year, well in advance of extra non-OPEC supply of just one million bpd, according to a survey of 13 analysts.

"The narrative is that demand is weaker than this year, but non-OPEC supply growth will still not be able to meet it," said Roger Diwan, managing director of the Washington DC-based Petroleum Finance Company.

This means the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which produces about a third of the world's oil, should have little difficult maintaining its grip on markets, keeping inventories low to extend an oil-price rally into a sixth year.

Many analysts now expect the challenge for OPEC to be less one of maintaining a floor for prices than managing to keep up with robust demand growth in the face of limited spare capacity.

"Our view is that OPEC...doesn't have a lot of spare capacity to bring this market down," said Jeff Currie, head of Goldman Sachs' global commodities research.

Demand next year is forecast to rise to about 83 million bpd, up from a mean base of 81.2 million bpd this year, while non-OPEC supply climbs to 50.8 million bpd, the survey found.

Estimates on outright levels differed depending on varied baseline assumptions for this year. The range of demand growth forecasts varied from 1.4 to 2.4 million bpd, while non-OPEC supply growth was pegged between 700,000 bpd and 1.4 million bpd.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) releases its forecasts for 2005 on Tuesday.

PRICES TO STAY HIGH

Demand growth is seen surging 2.3 million bpd in 2004, the fastest in 24 years, according to the IEA's last monthly report. Non-OPEC supplies, however, are rising only by 1.2 million bpd.

"Even though OPEC's market share is not going up as much in 2005 as this year, the upward pressure on prices probably remains," said Deutsche Bank analyst Adam Sieminski.

That is in part because the anticipated surge in non-cartel production that had once been forecast for next year appears to have fizzled.

Some major West African and Caspian oil mega-projects are taking longer than expected, and the outlook for the former Soviet Union (FSU) as a whole now appears bleaker than before, particularly given the threat to major producer YUKOS.

"Going forward, Russia's growth profile is a critical element in a supply side that is looking increasingly challenged in keeping up with demand," said Barclays Capital in a report.

Last week the U.S. Department of Energy downgraded its 2005 supply forecast for the former Soviet Union (FSU), a major engine for non-OPEC growth, by 500,000 bpd to 11.5 million bpd in this month's short-term outlook.

It now expects only 500,000 bpd growth from the region this year. This has in turn pushed its total non-OPEC supply growth forecast for 2005 down to 1.1 million bpd from 1.5 million bpd.

Meeting another year of two-percent-plus demand growth will depend on a continuing economic recovery in the United States and growth from China, which has been the primary engine for this year's surge, analysts say.

"The question is whether continuing robust economic growth is consistent with continuing high oil prices," said Steve Turner, oil analyst with Commerzbank.

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