A respected oil-forecasting group predicted that the energy industry may be unable to produce enough oil to meet projected demand by the end of the next decade, in a study that lends support to a small chorus of analysts who warn that a peak in petroleum output is looming in the years ahead, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

In a presentation yesterday, analysts from Washington-based PFC Energy warned that the world won’t be able to produce more than 100 million barrels of oil a day, only some 20% more than current output of about 82 million barrels a day, and well below demand projections for the end of the next decade.

“Even production of 100 million barrels a day can only be sustained for a few years,” said Roger Diwan, a PFC analyst. “Every year since the 1970s, we have been consuming much more oil than we have been discovering.”

The world’s energy appetite has become a hot issue this year as prices have soared on the back of growing demand in China and a series of supply outages, notably in war-torn Iraq . A small number of oil analysts have been predicting a peak in oil production, though they remain in the minority, with most oil companies insisting the industry will be able to meet future demand. Predictions of a peak in oil output often spike during times of oil prices — most notably during the oil shocks of the 1970s — but have so far been proved wrong, as exploration and production technology have enabled oil companies to keep the world sated.

— Bhushan Bahree, staff reporter of The Wall Street Journal, contributed to this article. Dow Jones Newswires 09-09-04 0212ET Copyright (C) 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.