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A refinery stands near the Corpus Christi Ship Channel on March 11, 2019, in Corpus Christi, Texas.

LOREN ELLIOTT/AFP/Getty Images

Oil producers face an unprecedented challenge to balance supply and demand as factors including the pace and response to COVID-19 vaccines cloud the outlook, an official with International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Wednesday.

“Producers are grappling with huge uncertainty about where this goes from here,” Tim Gould, head of energy supply outlooks and investment, told the Gulf Intelligence forum.

“That’s not just in terms of economic recovery but indicators we wouldn’t necessarily normally be looking at: (such as the) levels of trust in different countries about vaccines.”

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OPEC and allied countries such as Russia agreed this month to cut crude production through March in a bid to match abundant supply with demand which has sagged amid surging virus cases while vaccination programs get underway.

While the pandemic has prompted some energy majors and watchdogs to predict that a peak in the world’s demand for oil has been brought nearer or may have already come and gone in 2019, Gould said the IEA disagreed.

“As things stand, with the pace of change we see on the structural side is not enough in our view to deliver a peak anytime soon.”

“Growth in the economy, recovery in the economy will sooner or later bring oil demand back to 2019 levels. The 2020s in our view are the last decade in which you’re likely to see increasing oil demand,” he added.

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