Oil demand in the Middle East continued to grow strongly in July, although data for the month is patchy (with only Saudi Arabia and Qatar confirming their submissions in the latest JODI data). Saudi Arabian oil demand reached a record high of 2.504 mb/d in July. However, given the already high base from July last year, the y/y growth slowed to 85 thousand b/d (3.5%), compared to 265 thousand b/d (12%) in June. Direct crude burn fell from a record high of 778 thousand b/d in June to 709 thousand b/d in July, although it still remained slightly higher y/y (0.4%). With Ramadan festivities extending into August, we expect crude burn last month to have climbed back up towards record levels. Indeed, despite higher gas usage in power generation this year, direct crude burn has remained at elevated levels, albeit with growth rates slowing somewhat. As the country undertakes large investments in social and physical infrastructure, we expect the air conditioning market will grow at a healthy pace, although incrementally, with gas likely to bear the bulk of that growth burden.
Meanwhile, Iraq is planning to add significant capacity in power generation, but Baghdad hopes to end all new diesel generation projects by the end of this year. It is gas that will drive electricity generation growth, and from next year, the ministry will start a programme to convert its single cycle gas fired stations to more efficient combined cycle.